I'm severely into menswear. Whether it's the residue of my tomboy youth or the fact that it now dominates my day job, a perfectly cut suit on a man can captivate my attention for longer than I'd venture to admit. Or, maybe I'm just some kind of new-age style pervert. Take your pick.
Through the tinker toy that is the internet, you may have recently been exposed to some of the hundreds of circulating photographs of dapper males walking through soft European sunlight, puffing cigars, checking their iPhones, and sitting on crumbling walls. Florence's biannual Pitti Uomo is the event of my dreams.
A three-day fashion showcase, Pitti unravels its metaphorical red carpet to the most trendy and influential in the game at the start and middle of each year, drawing tens of thousands of enthusiasts, bloggers, buyers, retailers and manufacturers to Italy's idyllic region of Florence, Tuscany. Conceptually, Pitti is not dissimilar to other trade shows such as (capsule) or Agenda. Observed, however, collections shown are catered much more towards those with a more traditional, gentlemanly preference, and the caliber of the attendees is through the roof. The thing about Pitti Uomo is that it is well and truly a destination - judged by the thousands present as worth the expenditure in travel and accommodation.
The menswear showcase is not where 'Pitti' begins or ends however, albeit perhaps now being the biggest drawcard. Pitti Uomo is but one of four clothing branches under the Pitti Immagine umbrella (they've since expanded into food, fragrances and accessories). The successive shows trace their heritage back to the 1950s, when Florencean locals realised its untapped power as both a thriving tourist destination and fabric production hub exporting to the world: in 1951, Florence held its first, hugely successful catwalk show. The events became more regular and delved beyond womenswear into menswear and childrenswear as time passed. Crowds became too much for the original showing-place of Sala Bianca, and the event was relocated within Palazzo Pitti to the Fortezza de Basso, "A Renaissance era military complex." Demand continued to burgeon, and the modern incarnation of Pitti now also utilises Stazione Leopolda, a refurbished train station. Pitti can (and does) claim considerable credit for the quality associated to the now sought-after 'Made in Italy' stamp.
Beyond the bare bones of historic facts, Pitti Uomo has exploded into a style and culture phenomenon. Its popularity owes significantly to the rising influence of street style bloggers, who regularly make the pilgrimage. More than a few in-the-know highlight the significance many attendees attach to being tagged in the crowd as a 'Pitti man', showing up on the likes of Hypebeast and Highsnobiety's 'style round-ups' of the event. I'd go so far as to propose that being photographed and posted online as the pinnacle of current style entices more than a few to the showcase. It's known as Pitti's ubiquitous, glory-inducing opportunity, and has brought about the practice dubbed 'peacocking', where each man's goal is to be more dapper than the fellow sitting next to him.
The spectators all pay to see something, though, and that something is the plethora of high-end offerings from fashion houses across the world. British, French, Spanish, and Japanese designers are among the locals on display, themselves competing for the eye of retail buyers and trend influencers such as the omni-present men's style heavyweights Nick Wooster and duo Art Comes First.
Pitti Uomo is a merry-go-round of mutual benefits, with bloggers, buyers, designers, retailers, and enthusiasts each offering to and taking from the other in an unspoken exchange. I'd argue the world is winning in its own way, too; as the wise prophet Yeezy once said, we've got to raise the taste-level.