This past summer, during an exceptionably slow day at work, my friend (and former co-worker) Matt spontaneously summed up the entire current menswear wave with one word: “Italiatrad.” While Matt’s impromptu portmanteau was all we needed to kill a day discussing the marriage of Neapolitan and Ivy, after that day I’d practically forgotten about the word altogether, although I’m pretty sure Matt’s been searching for a “real” definition of the word ever since. This past week though, I found Italiatrad back at the forefront of my mind, as I sat there reading the announcement that Antonio Ciongoli was leaving his role as deputy creative director of Michael Bastian to spearhead the creative direction of Isaia’s resurrected diffusion brand, Eidos.
Beginning with his early days on 13th and Wolf, Antonio’s blend of traddy heritage with Italian influence, made him one of the first people that really got me interested in menswear, and his site remains one of only a handful of blogs that I can revisit cover to cover. And so, the timing of the Eidos announcement, which coincides with the shuttering of Rugby stores worldwide had me feeling a bit nostalgic. It was the fact that Antonio was designing for Rugby (and later Bastian) while simultaneously writing a blog that I found intriguing to begin with. Not only because I used to be a big fan of Rugby (this past month I still ran out and bought as many University Chinos as possible before Rugby ran out of stock) but because reading 13th and Wolf was like getting information, and for that matter inspiration, straight from the source.
So this past week, after the Eidos announcement, it was only right that I found myself digging through the 13th and Wolf archives, reading through the articles that got me interested in words like “unstructured” and “unlined.” After a few hours I naturally segued into The Trad‘s archives (another one of the few blogs that I can read the whole way through), where I stumbled upon this post from nearly two years ago, with John Tinseth paying a visit to the Bastian show room. It was a reminder of when I first discovered Bastian during his neo-prep heyday, uncovering his world of university stripe spread collars, and halfzip-rugby-esque shirts. In Tinseth’s photos both Bastian and Antonio are sporting variations on the look, and so I blame them for putting the old school rugby idea back in my head, which impeled me to throw on my one vintage rugby over an oxford this past weekend.
That emerald and blue-striped rugby was actually one of the first pieces that I bought when I moved to the city a year and a half ago, during what was the peak of my neo-prep obsession. I had picked it up from the first Wooden Sleepers sale at the Atlantic Antic, back when I didn’t know a single soul in this bizarre New York menswear circle. When I bought it, it was a size too big, and had been stripped of all tags, I still have no idea who made it, but thanks to twenty some odd trips to the dryer it now fits pretty close to perfect. Well over another shirt that is. For as nice of a shirt as it is though, I rarely reach for it these days, My allegiance to the style of Bastian S/S 2011 has waned, replaced by a simpler look that can be summed up in the grey Ralph Lauren Purple Label rugby that I now find myself turning to more than anything else in my closet.
It was on a trip home a few months back that my dad tossed that rugby into my room saying “this doesn’t fit me, but it might fit you.” Unfortunately once again it was a touch too big and so I checked the label, and while anyone with half a brain would say I was a damn fool to do so, I took the gamble and decided to run that delicate wool-cashmere blend through the dryer to shrink it down to size. Luckily, I ended up on right side of fate, and that cinch waist solid rugby has become my favorite thing to wear over the past few months. The grey rugby over an oxford look is now my go-to and I’m left once again thinking about Matt and the elusive definition of his made up word. In that RLPL made in Italy rugby, everything comes full circle – a rugged athletic design, turned lux through Italian production, a finer hand, and a neutral color. So, I’d say If you’re looking for the real definition of Italiatrad, it might do you some good to start right there.