As someone who comes from a large university, I am used to many different types of people, and in turn, all types of styles. Coming to Florence, I have realized that nothing compares to the confidence and beauty of the Italian style. Whether it be at 8am or 10pm, the Florentine citizens are dressed to the nines, regardless of status or occupation. Both fashion and non-fashion students realize this; it’s kind of a ‘culture shock’. US student Annie Ambraziejus described the locals as “having their own style,” going on to say that they are not too caught up in following the latest trends.
By being constantly surrounded by well-dressed people, my classmates and friends have found that they feel they need to dress up to the standards of the local culture. International students and tourists can easily be spotted just based on their clothing, including such determinants as leggings, yoga pants, sweatpants, t-shirts, and any other casual garments. Fashion student Haley Harrell pointed out, “Italians don’t wear khakis. If you see khakis, you know they are not Italian.” Even when study abroad students dress to the degree of the locals, they can still be recognized due to cultural discrepancies. For most Americans, to dress up implies preppy clothing, especially during the warmer months.
Another aspect constantly noted by my friends and classmates is the strict rules of each season in Italy. For example, it could be a warm day in March, and you would see more winter coats than bare arms on the streets of Florence; this is because March is a technically a late-winter, early-spring month, and therefore, people are meant to continue wearing cold-weather clothing. I remember Professor Ferroni telling my Fashion Consumer Behavior class one day how Italians, change their closets only on the days of season change.
So what is Italian street style? It all begins with the essentials; Italian men and women love their jeans, sunglasses, watches, and belts, four of the most prominent components of the world famous style. I noticed that the average Italian man wears a collared shirt and sweater, dark wash, skinny jeans, a nice belt, and large sunglasses. Italian women, more often than not, can be found wearing dark colors, high heels or flashy sneakers, a nice handbag, and jeans, with, of course, great hair and makeup. Women are not afraid to show off their style as well, sometimes breaking off from the norm and trying more exaggerated clothing or accessories. According to Alex Deschaine, a fashion major, stand-out staples of Italian women’s clothing also include, “florals and patterns, lots of patterns.”
What most often differentiates between each Italian is the type, color, and style of shoe they are wearing. In general, when most of us think Italian, we also think: shoes. As someone who people-watches in her free time, I am always amazed at the spectrum of Italian shoes, often wondering if there is some secret shoe outlet only known to locals.
After being here for three months, I can honestly say I have improved my consciousness of public style. I admit, when I am running late to Italian class, I will throw on a large sweater and open Birkenstocks, but pay for it by feeling out of place in comparison to the well-dressed Italians on the street. Due to cultural expectations, I am kept in check when it comes to my street style, knowing it is one way for me to be apart of the local experience and immerse myself in the culture.
Cassandra Kornhiser attends the University of Massachusetts Amherst where she studies Mathematics as well as Fashion Design and Business Management. Living and studying in Florence has been one of the best times of her life. In her free time, Cassandra enjoys exploring the city through running, eating, and conversing with locals. She hopes to return to Italy next Spring as well to continue her fashion studies.