Style icon: Gianni Agnelli, the king of “sprezzatura”


Businessman, cultural and style icon, and ladies’ man. Intelligent, educated, and with a cutting sense of humour, but also with aesthetic mannerisms and some strange habits (such as only watching the first half when his beloved Juventus was playing). A man who was hard to classify, like all truly charismatic figures.


What is sure is that some of his outfit choices made him one of the most iconic examples of “sprezzatura”, an old term, in use in Italy since the 16th century, and first mentioned in Castiglione’s “The Book of the Courtier”. But what does it mean? It is that studied nonchalance, the typical ostentatious cool of people with a strong personality and lots of self-confidence, but with a distracted air. And that’s how certain “fashion mistakes” become characteristic of an approach to life: a loose tie knot, unbuttoned cuffs under a jacket, pairing formal items with more casual ones.


Gianni Agnelli became famous while he was alive for some of his outfits that have entered Italian fashion history. Some examples? The wristwatch worn over his jacket; shirts – strictly white or light blue – with button-down collars  left unbuttoned, but also suede boots with elegant suits. And on the subject of ties, the “Avvocato” had a preference for wide ties, sometimes with the back part worn longer than the front. He was a born nonconformist, the first to wear a down gilet over a dinner suit. There was also the casual Agnelli style: a polo shirt – almost always with long sleeves, over classic jeans, a style he became familiar with during his time in the US, where he first encountered WASP fashion, the typical wear of society Americans who preferred classy outfits but always with a sober, comfy style.


And what is left of Agnelli’s affectations? Certainly the awareness that being bold doesn’t mean choosing to swim against the tide; it means having charisma. Just like the Avvocato, an icon of style and leadership who is still current today.

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