The high temperature today is sixty degrees. A couple days ago that figure was in the forties. A week ago we saw temperatures hit the mid-seventies and for all I know a week from now it could either be thirty-two or a hundred-two. Lately, it seems as if the word “spring,” has been rendered meaningless, acting as little more than a taunting memory of a mythical time of year when the weather is actually enjoyable. Or at the very least reliable.
Now I chose to live in this East Coast climate, so I can’t place the blame anywhere except squarely upon myself. But that doesn’t stop me from begrudging the weather gods on those mercurial mornings that make my favorite season seem so far away. Of course, it’s not spring that I’m referring to here, it’s a far more important time of year: popover season. If you’ve been following my work for Esquire.com, you’ll already well aware that there’s something about April and the changing of the weather that restarts my obsession with the half-placket shirt. While the popover’s origins remain nearly impossible to pin down, the shirt was widely documented throughout the mid-century Ivy heyday as a favorite item for Hollywood’s more sartorial minded figures. Yet the most legendary popover moment belongs not to a star of the silver screen, but to a man whose name is inescapable in the sphere of men’s style – Gianni Agnelli.
In 1962 Jackie Kennedy travelled to Ravello in the South of Italy, for a three-week vacation during which time she was introduced to Agnelli, a young industrialist who just four years later would follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and become the head of Fiat. The trip is most remembered for sparking rumors that still echo today, about a possible Agnelli-Kennedy affair (JFK who was back in DC, even famously sent Jackie a telegram during the time which simply read “More Caroline, less Agnelli”) yet it also helped to immortalize Agnelli as not only a man that could make our President jealous, but as an international style icon.
Jackie and Gianni had a flock of photographers that followed them everywhere on their jaunts throughout the Amalfi Coast, and it was during one of their excursions that Gianni was snapped walking with Jackie along the water, in his now infamous popover. That popover, with it’s pronounced cutaway collar, and three button placket (which Gianni brazenly, yet characteristically, wore entirely unbuttoned), was an Italiatrad masterpiece that instantly became the template for all such shirts to come. Over the years many companies have tried to replicate Agnelli’s popover, to varying degrees of success, but I’ve never been able to figure out who was behind the original. That is until now.
After spending nearly an entire day piecing together through Google translate (they might be able to dress better than the rest of us, but the Italian’s really need to get up to speed when it comes to the internet) I was able to discern that the credit for Agnelli’s popover belongs to a shirtmaker from Ginosa, Italy named Angelo Inglese. There is currently a shirtmaker by the name of Angelo Inglese who is based out of Ginosa, Italy, but based on photos of this Angelo, he is far too young to have made a shirt for Agnelli, therefore I’d have to assume that Agnelli’s shirt was made by his father, who likely had the same name. Fortunately, for us all though, the younger Angelo is not only still making shirts today, but he also produces the exact same model of popover that Agnelli was wearing back in ’62. The website of Angelo’s label, G. Inglese (I assume the “G” stands for Ginosa) contains a wide range of listings for what he calls “polos” in a variety of colors and fabrics, but of course I was instantly drawn to the “Gianni Agnelli polo model,” which is his replica of Agnelli’s shirt.
Much the same way his father outfitted Agnelli, Angelo is widely known for his custom work for politicians across the world. In fact he was just in the news throughout Europe for producing Prince William’s shirt for his wedding, and when you consider the effort put into his work it’s no wonder he’s became a favorite of international elites. Each shirt is entirely handmade, using twenty-four steps, and takes twenty hours from start until finish, packing two generations of an Italian shirting tradition into each stitch. It might seem like an extreme process, but when you consider how legendary just one of these shirts can become, all that work suddenly seems worth it.