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The Everyman's Guide To Mastering The Art Of Sprezzatura

Learn more about the art of effortless carelessness
by Dyan Sheryl Carolino | Oct 26, 2016
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Ever wonder how celebrities like John Lloyd Cruz, Erwan Heussaff, and Vhong Navarro always look so stylish? Whether it’s on TV or in the pages of fashion magazines, these men are increasingly becoming style icons—and they owe it to the art sprezzatura.

What is sprezzatura? It loosely translates to a calculated nonchalance, a restrained elegance. The dictionary defines it as “studied carelessness”, or “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or say appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.”

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In other words, sprezzatura is the ability to dress with style, without looking like you put in any conscious effort. 

The Origins of Sprezzatura

In the 16th century, Italian Baldassare Castiglione wrote The Book of the Courtier. It’s a guidebook for distinguished gentlemen, where he suggests that apart from getting your art on, it’s also important to make your art look effortless.

The art of sprezzatura made its way to fashion, and now, to Philippine fashion.

So how do you apply the sprezzatura philosophy into your own wardrobe?

Learn the basic style rules—and then break them.

Following the rules of fashion is good, but soemtimes, rules are meant to be broken.

Once you learn the rules, start breaking and bending them according to your taste. After achieving sartorial perfection, that’s when you should try sartorial nonchalance or sprezzatura, because if you never bend the rules you will never look original. 

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Remember that the details matter

Paying attention to even the smallest details can go a long way in helping you achieve this savvy way of dressing. Start by wearing accessories in unexpected ways. Twist your tie knot or start wearing a thin scarf around your neck at the office, for instance. Or wear a tie over a sweater, or a watch on top of a cuff.

If you’re going to a formal event, dress appropriately but change up the details. For instance, go for a patterned pocket square, a crooked bow tie, or a bracelet below your watch. And rather than having a perfectly pressed and folded pocket square, just shove it in. You can even go sockless every now and then.

Looking slightly undone is the best way to add that little touch to the overall look without being too obvious. And as long as the rest of the look is impeccable, having one element that’s slightly off will elevate the entire effect.

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Combine the luxe and shabby; mix textures, patterns, and colors

If there’s one thing sprezzatura pros understand, it’s that mixing matters. So pair vintage pieces with branded items. Play around with hand-me-downs, like your grandfather’s watch or tie bar.

Instead of just wearing a shirt with a suit, play with texture, and wear a cashmere blazer over a soft cotton jersey shirt.

You can also combine two or more colors, but it doesn’t mean you should look like a parrot. The trick here is to simply combine subtle tones and washed out, soft shades. Go for a baby pink blazer over a soft blue shirt and cream chinos, for instance.

Try unique footwear styles

Loafers are the ultimate shoe to get the sprezzatura look. Go for tasseled shoes, the European cousin of penny loafers. Make sure to invest in high quality loafers, however, as this will instantly elevate your look, especially when paired with a bare ankle.

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Of course, you can try other types of footwear, but if you’re wearing brogues or desert booths, leave the laces out. If you’re wearing a suit, try trainers. The key here is to experiment with styles that you wouldn’t usually see with the outfit you already have on.

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Don’t overdo it.

The beauty with sprezzatura is that there are no rules, no do’s and don’ts as long as it looks good. Don’t overdo it, though. If you start to play around with your wardrobe too much, you’ll only look silly. And who wants to go out looking like a clown?

Just be confident

Notice some of the local and international celebrities who pull off sprezzatura. They have one thing in common: confidence. When you see them on TV or fashion spreads, it’s not just their clothes that people see, it's their aura of confidence that makes them stand out.

So who among our local celebs have mastered the art of sprezzatura?

The Philippines’ king of sprezzatura, Vhong Navarro, is especially known for his style of studied carelessness. Here he wears an unbuttoned baseball shirt over a white basic long-sleeved shirt—but what really contributes to the sprezzatura quality of this outfit is the odd combination of Chewbacca socks and cross-patterned sneakers.

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This man of style has a bit of sprezzatura going on in his wardrobe. Here he pulls off a John Lloyd Classic: sockless on a full suit. But it’s the stripes on the right side of his suit that makes this outfit a bit sloppy—and he’s obviously still pulling it off.

Erwan Heussaff’s staples are basic tops and black pants, and he has a knack for pulling off suits and moccasins. But here, he tries a bit of sprezzatura with a patterned short-sleeve button-down, pairing it with jeans that look like they've just come from the drier. He tops it all off with a pair of brown lace-up shoes and patterned socks.

The art of effortless dressing isn’t just for celebrities. With the right attitude, you can summon a little sprezzatura, too.

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