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The Art of Neapolitan Tailoring

Neapolitan tailoring is all about stylish nonchalance and comfort, and the idea of a Neapolitan cut is it should be like a second skin – elegant and flexible. This is perhaps best encapsulated by the Italian word sprezzatura, defined as a studied carelessness. Although the art of tailoring in the ancient city of Naples stretches back hundreds of years, the signature designs and characteristics of a Neapolitan suit remain timeless. 

Neapolitan tailoring dates back to the 14th century with the founding of Confraternita dell’arte dei Giubbonai e Cositori (the Brotherhood of the Jacket Makers and of the Tailors,) Italy's oldest tailoring association. These tailors were among the first in the country to make ready-to-wear men’s garments. By the 1800s, these garments were catching the eyes of kings and noblemen across Europe who were drawn to the suits’ elegant aesthetic and slimming shape. These suits were also made from a lightweight and breathable fabric called fresco, meaning fresh, that ensured that the wearer could stay comfortable in southern Italy’s heat. 

Fast-forward to the early 20th century, and Vincenzo Attolini, the head cutter of Naples’ iconic tailoring shop “London House,” officially creates the look we now know today as the Neapolitan Cut. It’s breathable and soft, with a flattering rounded shoulder that can only be constructed by hand. Attolini described the Neapolitan suit as “ a second skin, the suit as pleasure, the suit as a lifestyle.”

The signature characteristics of a Neapolitan jacket include no lining or minimal lining made of silk for freedom of movement; a barchetta, or boat-shaped chest pocket; tre buttoni su due (three-roll-two front closure button stance); two pignata hand pockets that curve at the bottom; defined double backstitch on the lapels; extended dart on the jacket front; short, tapered sleeves; and a high notch near the front shoulders that make the wearer look more slender. Neapolitan suit pants are high-waisted and have no break, meaning the pants don’t touch the wearer’s shoes. This results in a clean and modern look in which the wearer can also show off their shoes.

Because of its timeless look, a Neapolitan suit can be dressed up or down, for a casual aperitivo with friends or for a business meeting or wedding. Usually constructed out of breathable fabrics such as linen, cotton, and wool, its cooling and flexible no-lining design ensures that the wearer can stay comfortable in both the warmer and cooler months of the year.

Asia London Palomba

Asia London Palomba is a trilingual freelance journalist from Rome, Italy. In the past, her work on culture, travel, and history has been published in The Boston Globe, Atlas Obscura, The Christian Science Monitor, and Grub Street, New York Magazine's food section. In her free time, Asia enjoys traveling home to Italy to spend time with family and friends, drinking Hugo Spritzes, and making her nonna's homemade cavatelli.