The vestigial organs

history of formal clothing

The word “elegance” comes from the Latin “eligere”, to select. Not by chance the true gentleman is often a connoisseur, meaning “someone able to choose”. Integral to choose is to know. Knowing what you are wearing and when to wear it can help the aspiring gentleman not only to succeed (or to fail, depending on the cases) in seducing a lady, but also in developing more self confidence, that is the basis of elegance. The modern jacket traces its roots in the historic French marsina, named after the Belgian Count Jean Marsin. It featured a long tail and as of the end of the XVIII century has been simplified, becoming more and more similar to the actual one. There was a long row of buttonholes on the left side and buttons on the other side. It could be completely buttoned from the top to the bottom, but due to the transition from the countryside to the city, it started to feature less and less buttons, untill it reached the modern shape, with two or three buttons or just one, for the fomal jackets. Not everyone knows that – just like in the human body- also in a gentleman’s wardrobe there are vestigial organs who don’t have any practical function, apart from being there for a tradition that leaves its Darwinian footsteps even now. An example is that extension of the collar, sewn underneath the melton. Once it featured a button on the right side and a buttonhole on the left side, in order to keep the neck warm by lifting the lapels. Another example is the cacophonous and less known “cran”. Famous in Naples with the funny name “sgarzillo”, is the angle between the collar of the jacket and the lapel: it is normally less wide than 90°, creating a “fish mouth” shape, very common both for off-the-peg and sartorial jackets. Sciamát, the renowned tailor’s shop from Bitonto has registered a 90°-wide cran, giving a typical signature to its innovative jackets. In the upcoming article we will see how many kinds of lapels can a jacket have and what is the best width to pick for oneself . Stay tuned!

Written by Fabio Attanasio – author of the blog