There he was, top left of the weekend’s Financial Times. It took me a while to work out why he looked so different. It was the normal Lapo Elkann, unkempt (frankly straggly) blond hair and toothy grin. But he looked, well, he looked good. Then I realised why. He was dressed like his grandfather (Gianni Agnelli). In fact, to be fair to Italians at large, he was dressed in the same way as all good Italians: in grey and blue.
There’s nothing like great-looking conservatives to drive you to distraction. It’s horrible, having to rebel against something that’s so chic. But young Italian men do do it, forced into poor Americana or silly proportions – whether big trousers, small shirts or ridiculously oversized glasses. They rebel and they look terrible.
Lapo long suffered the same problem. Indeed his family looked so good, Mr Agnelli universally revered as an icon to top all icons, that his rebellion was even worse. Pink hats, silly checks, glasses that swallowed his face; green trainers, mauve shirts and that awful brown suit. He wore it with a green shirt. And a green tie. Like Michael Douglas in A Perfect Murder but without the style consultant.
But in this particular picture, no more than a thumbnail really and highlighting an interview in the House & Home section, he wore a grey worsted suit, blue shirt and navy tie. With an uncharacteristically restrained white handkerchief. I know it’s not very exciting and I know it’s not very original. But it looks really good. Particularly in this age when few people wear a tie and fewer wear a handkerchief. If you wear both and get it just right, the effect is mesmerising. Such resonance, spoken so quietly. Like music on the breeze.
Of course, there was nothing in the article about clothes. Just a lot of puff about how he has fused modern and traditional sensibilities in his flat, despite the room behind him looking just like one occupied by a tasteless oik with a weakness for boys toys. No one else other than me had probably noticed the exact combination Lapo was wearing, nor wanted for more discussion on the issue inside the newspaper. They probably felt a little of its resonance though.
If there is a lesson from all this it is to wear grey and blue as a default – grey suit with blue shirt and navy tie, navy suit with white shirt and grey tie. If it feels too dull add some variety in the texture. Then experiment outwards. With stripes, perhaps, with purple even. Who knows, even coloured socks. But resist the urge to rebel against everything your grandfather wore. It looked good.