Wardrobe: It Started in Naples

In the 1930s, a middle-aged Italian tailor named Vincenzo Attolini made an indelible mark on the international men’s fashion scene. While working for the legendary tailor Gennaro Rubinacci, Attolini designed a completely revolutionary men’s suit jacket featuring a slimmer fit, higher armholes, and a boat-shaped breast pocket. The new coat was more comfortable than the stiff English Savile Row silhouettes that the Italians were duplicating at the time. The design also had a more natural fit and held its shape longer, which is why that jacket became the prototype for what is today known as the Neapolitan style.

 

Before the start of World War II, Attolini established his own 550-square-foot signature shop at 12 Via Vetriera in the heart of Naples. It was here that he taught his sons—Claudio, Tullio, and Cesare—his distinctive art of tailoring and began courting the nobility of Italy. But the Neapolitan look didn’t truly gain international attention until Clark Gable and Vittorio De Sica sported Attolini suits for the 1960 film, It Started in Naples.

“The secret comes from the shape of the pockets,” says Cesare’s youngest son, Giuseppe Attolini. “The chest pocket has a slightly wedged shape that molds to the body. And there is no construction in the shoulder, so it wears like a shirt. The idea is to minimize the construction, but still give the jacket shape.”

Over the years, Kiton, Borrelli, Sartoria Panico, and other Italian tailors have perfected the art of Neapolitan suit making. Still, Vincenzo’s grandsons—Massimiliano, Vincenzo, and Giuseppe—understand the value of having bragging rights to the original design, which is why they recently reopened their grandfather’s long-neglected shop.

To recapture the essence of the original atelier, the three brothers had to convince their father and his tailor brothers to practice side by side once again—they had not worked together since 1971, when the shop was shuttered. Working in true bespoke fashion, the trio is capable of producing only two or three suits a week at a cost starting at about $5,000 each.

The new Attolini shop—with its simple antique furnishings and small staircase leading to a sewing room—is a throwback to another era. Customers even remark that they can still detect the faintly fragrant scent of old wool that has lingered for more than 70 years.

“The shop has the feeling of a very small, very private salon where a man can expect undivided attention,” says Fabrizio Capigatti, Attolini’s U.S. sales agent, who notes that furnishings such as shirts, ties, and shoes are not on display. “Here, you start with the hand-tailored suit—Neapolitan-style, of course,” he says. “Then, if the customer wants ties and shirts, he can have them custom made. But there is no salesman, no window displays. Everything is the same as the original.”

There has been one obvious change, however. Instead of the stiff wool fabrics used in vintage Attolini clothing, the modern suits are made of lighter, technically advanced cloths such as Super 150 and Super 180 wools from the best mills in England, Scotland, and Italy. The tailoring methods, though, are exactly as they were when Vincenzo was at the needle—which explains why it takes 20 minutes just to sew on the label.

Attolini, Via Vetriera, 12, Naples, Italy, +81.426.826

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