Page 1

How to Look Like an Italiano

A Guide By: Jessica Pellegrini


Table of Contents Introduction 5 Ignore the Weather 6 Go to America, Buy Tshirts 7 Smoke 8 Sneakers, Sneakers, and More Sneakers 9 Don’t you Dare go to a Gym 10 Bedazzle your sweats 11 Cuffed, Drop-Crotch, Cargo Pants 12 Shave Your Head til It’s Trendy 13 Stop and Sit 14 Dress like a Person Who’s Way Cooler Than You Are 15 ---------------------------------------------













Introduction ! As a American study abroad student in Florence, Italy, I’ve noticed that Italians have a way of presenting themselves that is much different from us Americans. I feel if you go to America, you’ll see trends but it’s not as if everyone is wearing the same things. Or perhaps it is, and I just haven’t picked up on it. Being in a foreign culture, I feel everyone does wear the same things. Dressing like an Italian is not hard to do once you’ve studied these differences. Some of the trends are bizarre, some I’d wear myself. Either way, Italians stick out. You can always tell walking down the street who is not an American studying abroad. Why are there these differences? Why do they all wear baggy pants? What do they have against shorts? Why don’t we dress like Italians in America? These are the questions I seek to answer. In order to better understand, I’ve compiled a list of the 10 easiest ways to look like an Italian.


Step 1: Ignore the Weather !

The first step to looking Italian is to ignore the forecast entirely. When I arrived in Florence in August, you would not know it was 97 degrees outside if you simply looked at people’s clothing choices. Most young Italians are wearing pants. I don’t know about you, but I delay pants-wearing as long as possible. I was warned that Italians don’t wear shorts like we do. That is in fact true. They like to dress as if it’s much, much colder than it actually is. ! One morning, on my way to class, it was a cool 70 degrees. The high for that day was in the 90s but looking around you’d think it was November. People had on jackets and scarves and genuinely looked cold on their way to work and school. MaybeItalians are just used to warmer temperatures. Maybe they just don’t care how hot it is outside. Either way, there’s no need for the winter wear. There’s also little air conditioning in Italy, so I’m not quite sure how they manage to beat the heat. Often in America, it’s hard to find pants in stores during the summer months. It seems as if everyone is wearing shorts. Nope, not in Italy. They dress for the season, not the weather. If it’s “fall time”, they will dress like it. Even though it’s still warm in November. The weather is generally pretty mild, and I’m not understanding why everyone wears big coats and scarves. I’m really curious to see what they’re going to wear in the winter...


Step Two: Go to America, buy T-shirts !

Italians seem to loooove American t-shirts. Walking around you will see just as many Hollister, Abercrombie, and American Eagle logos as in any American middle school. But that’s the thing, these logo bearing shirts are not reserved for the 13 year olds here. Instead, everyone wears them; from the little kids to the grown men. Wearing an American t-shirt says “I went to America, to buy this shirt.” This implies that you had the means to take an American vacation, pretty impressive. We even studied this phenomenon in my fashion class. My teacher explained how Abercrombie is such a big deal and when she goes to the states she always stocks on shirts for her son. I once went into a vintage store in Bologna, and they were selling Abercrombie t-shirts at hefty. Back home, you can buy these for a couple dollars on the sale racks. Most kids stop wearing them around the age of 15 when they realize their clothes do not need giant eagles on them. It’s frequently just a phase in middle school and a desperate attempt to fit in with everyone (we’ve all been there). ! The Italians see it differently and love their logos. I’ve actually noticed that Italians do try to emulate Americans and their style. They often wear American brands. My theory is that they secretly love Americans and want to be just like us. They make fun of us as a way to mask this jealousy. Then, they buy all the American products they can so they can be just like us.


Step 3: Smoke !

I don’t know what happened to the Italian health education system, but they must have completely cut out the part where kids learn that smoking will kill you. I learned that in 5th grade when my teacher showed me two pig lungs. One was black and supposed to show us what smoker’s lungs looked like. As a 10 year old, this was pretty terrifying. Then every year after that we learned over and over that smoking is not something you want to do. Most kids I knew never touched cigarettes. If you did, it was frowned upon. Even among adults this was the case. Smoking is not allowed in most public places now and many people have quit. Turn on the TV, and you will probably see an anti-smoking ad or something about a product to help you quit. America as whole is trying to cut smoking out. ! Italians however, do not care one bit. They all smoke, and they assume you do too. I have been asked for an “accendino” about 50 times walking down the street. You can literally smoke anywhere, and no one seems to mind. I don’t know how they stay semi-healthy. Do they get lung cancer? Is there something in their Italian genes? Americans seem to constantly be affected by health issues related to smoking. I just don’t understand how they do it and seem to maintain a relatively good level of health.


Step 4: Sneakers, Sneakers, and more Sneakers !

It seems that Italians wear sneakers all day every day. The Italian wardrobe as a whole is much more casual and relaxed than its American counterpart. The key to this is sneakers. Italians wear them during the day, out at night, to work, to school; nothing’s off limits. Frequently, they choose converse, another American brand. This further confirms my theory that Italians really do like us an want to be us. Currently, there is an ad at the Santa Maria Novella train station for converse that says “Shoes are boring, wear sneakers.” My first thought was that this was directed tourists wanting to buy a piece of “Italian” style. Then, someone proposed the idea that maybe this ad was directed at Italians. They would see it and believe this is what the Americans are wearing and thus they must have them. After all, the ad is in English. ! Regardless of who this ad was made for, it’s working. Everyone in Italy and their mother is wearing sneakers. Another popular style is Superga. These casual sneakers remind me of Keds and come in a rainbow of different colors. I have to admit, I ordered a pair off their website before I came here and am pretty glad I did. I wear them nearly everyday; they’re comfortable and simple and I get why Italians love them. The box even said “the people’s shoes of Italy.” So, I’m guessing they’re a pretty big deal and they help me blend in effortlessly with the Italians.


Step 5: Don’t You Dare Work Out !

Somehow the Italians were blessed with incredible super genes that prevents them from ever gaining weight despite their carb-loaded diet. Since moving here, I eat pasta daily. Sometimes, it’s twice a day with a piece of pizza thrown in there too. I figured my body would explode from all these carbs, so I’ve been making sure to work out to prevent this. Usually, I go for runs around the city, which has proven to be difficult. Dodging people, cars, and bikes is not easy to do while you’re trying to run. The multitude of tourists strolling around the city is a problem. So is the fact that the streets of Italy are literally a maze. Above all, you get the weirdest looks. People look you up and down as you run pas them sipping a cappuccino in a café. I can almost feel them saying “Why on earth would you want to do that?” All of my workout attire is also very very brightly colored so that doesn’t help with the blending in. ! I rarely ever see anyone else out running. By the time I make it down to the Arno, I might see one other person running, and usually it’s a fellow American student trying to work off the carbs. In America, everyone works out. We’re told we have to do this every single day. The number of fitness related ads on TV and in magazines is astounding. Also, the overall concept of body size and image is a big deal in America. Here, anything goes. Well not really, since everyone seems to be relatively trim and lean. I don’t think I’ve seen a single obese person since I’ve arrived. It still amazes me to this day. I guess their food is just overall less and more natural. I can’t figure out their secret.



Step 6: Bedazzle your sweats !

In America, sweatpants are generally regarded as the ultimate of lazy attire. Specifically the baggy, grey ones, that everyone owns a pair of. You usually cannot wear these out in public without people thinking you just got out of bed and didn’t have the energy to change. Also, most Americans love to throw them on on their laziest of days. ! ! Some days, I wake up around 8:45 with a 9am class quickly approaching. I really don’t want to get out of bed and I really don’t want to get dressed. I look to my closet and grab my trusty sweats. They fail me on those days when I generally just don’t care. ! Here, sweatpants are perfectly acceptable attire. This is because most Italian sweatpants are much more than the average pair of sweats. You can buy them with rhinestones, patterns, sparkles, rips, paint splatters, and the list goes on. They’re more than just lounge-wear. They are a wardrobe essential. People wear them with nice tops and jackets and of course with their trendy sneakers. I have to give props to the Italians for finding a way to be comfy and look trendy. That seems to be the general idea of Italian style. It’s a combination of cool, relaxed, and effortless.


Step 7: Cuffed, Drop-Crotch, Cargo Pants !

^^ That is probably not what these pants are actually called but this is my only way of describing them. These pants are worn by every Italian, man or woman, old or young. I find them to be pretty unappealing. I remember when I first got to Italy, I saw everyone around me wearing these. After going shopping a few times, I also started to see them in the stores. One time, I even referred to them as “Italian pants”. That’s because I’ve never seen anything like them before in America. Usually, they are somewhat fitted, but a little baggy. The most common are made to look like cargo pants, but I’ve seen denim ones too. The crotch of the pants are sewn about 6-10 inches below the norm so they look like they could accommodate a diaper or something. Then the legs taper in and have an elastic cuff around the ankle. Pretty weird right? ! ! I don’t think I could ever pull these pants off. Somehow, the Italians seem to make them not look entirely too weird. After living here some time, I’ve grown used to seeing these everywhere. However, I still refuse to invest in a pair.


Step 8: Shave Your Head ‘til It’s Trendy !

Italians seem to have less hair on their heads than any one. American boys tend to have the long, messy, “Bieber hair”, if you will; whereas Italian boys usually have half their head shaved. The most common of these styles is usually an inch of hair on the top of your head and basically bald everywhere else. Sometimes they grow out top longer and it nicely. I’m not a big fan of this hair style at all, but it seems to be everywhere. Sometimes they shave lines in the sides of their hair and sometimes they shave half of their head. Regardless, it seems the key to a great Italian haircut is a razor. ! ! This is true for girls too. I’ve seen many girls here with parts of their long hair shaved. At home I knew this to be called an “undercut” and it was usually reserved for the trendiest of celebrities. I remember Rihanna pulled it off nicely, but after all, she’s Rihanna. Here, it’s relatively normal for anyone to have half their head shaven. I wish I could pull this look off but I definitely am not nearly edgy enough. I guess it’s easy to maintain and pretty stress-free. Italians like simplicity, that’s for sure.


Step 9: Stop and Sit ! One thing I’ve noticed is

that Italians love to stop and sit. They’ll sit anywhere. Usually it’s in a café or on church steps but they’ll sit anywhere. It seems like they just take breaks from their day and spend some time relaxing. The American lifestyle is very fast-paced and this allows little time for sitting. Most people are always in a rush and always doing something. I’ve grown very used to the slow, European lifestyle. Often, people take a solid 2 hours just to eat lunch and I don’t see a problem with that. Why not eat great food, really enjoy it, and also enjoy the company you’re with? Or even just enjoy having some time to your self? This is almost unheard of in America. People take the quickest lunch breaks possible and then go right back to work. This can’t be healthy or enjoyable, so why don’t we start actually enjoying our time more? ! Sometimes on the way home from class, I’ll stop and sit on the steps of the San Lorenzo church. I usually sit there for some time just staring at people and watching what their doing. Just taking a little break in my day is nice. Also, Florence is a beautiful city so you might as well enjoy the view. I’m sure I’ll stick with this habit when I move back to America. I’ve grown used to the lazy lifestyle; it’s easy to do. Overall, I’d say I’m enjoying life more and the key to that is taking your time.


Step 10 : Dress like a Person Who’s Way Cooler Than You Are !

The true secret to dressing like an Italiano is confidence. The Italians have a way about them that is just effortlessly cool and trendy. They don’t seem to try hard but they always look put-together. They look as if they are ready to go to class but also ready to go out afterwards without having to change in between. I’ve also heard that Europeans in general have less clothes than Americans do so they must choose their garments wisely. I must say, they’re doing a pretty good job. It’s rare you see an Italian teenager looking sloppy and unkept. The average American college student probably wears sweats to class 50% of the time. We just don’t seem to care. ! ! This is not the way with Italians. They do care. They value looking good and take the time each day to do so and honestly, it’s working out pretty well for them. Most people envy the cool, European look. It’s definitely true that they have this certain je ne sais quoi. You see them, you want to be them. That’s how it goes. ! ! After living here, I can say without a doubt that I do want to be them. I envy their look and their easygoing lifestyle. Europe has so much to offer, but I think the best part about it is their passion for life. They believe in living passionately but simply. After all, it’s the little things that matter, right?


How to Look Like an Italiano  
How to Look Like an Italiano  

Honors Writing for College Final Project - Fall 2013 Scuola Lorenzo de'Medici Florence, Italy