What makes Italians, Italian? (1/3)

During my time in Florence I wanted to immerse myself in a deeper understanding of Italian culture. I was curious about Italian values, such as fashion, family traditions, religion, and the divide between north and south Italy. Throughout my research I interviewed four Florentines varying in age, gender, and occupation. You’ll find the first of three articles below with my results from research and interviews. 

When interviewing my subjects for this essay series, I stuck to three main topics; fashion, family, and the regional divide between northern and southern Italy. I interviewed four different Italians, all from Florence. The first interview was with an unmarried 40 year-old mother, named Monica, the second was with two young girls, Anna and Carina, both around the age of 27, and the last interviewee was Luca, a local shop owner on my street around the age of 60.

The first topic I inquired about was fashion. To trigger their thought process, I asked questions such as, “How do you view Italian fashion?”, “I have noticed a difference of fashion between age ranges, can you elaborate on this?” or “How do Italians see American fashion?”

Monica explained that Italians are very proud of their fashion. They take pride in what they wear, whether it is an expensive article of clothing or accessory from a famous designer or whether it is a less expensive piece of clothing from H&M. They wear it well making the style more important than where the article of clothing is from. She explained how fashion is spread throughout Italy; first trends start in Milan because it is the main fashion capital and then from there it trickles south to Florence, making Florence the second biggest city for fashion in Italy.

“Florence has an alternative type of fashion. It is more casual, people wear different color high-top Converse, it makes it popular for the young age groups,” said Monica.

However, Monica also explained that there are regional differences in fashion. In Rome it might be more common for women to wear high heels on a daily basis, making them a little more provocative and sensual, while in Southern Italy they might tend to wear more color and vibrance in their wardrobe.

After she explained the basics of Italian fashion and I understood how style is put together, I asked her how Italians saw American fashion. “We don’t think you have too much taste,” she laughed. It is not so much that Americans have bad clothing, she explained, but in the United States there are much nicer materials of clothing for much less money than in Italy. Because of this, young Italians try to imitate American fashion by mixing styles and incorporating the trend of leggings and high-top converse sneakers into their style.

“We (Italians) care more about putting things together to make more of a style, Americans seem to be less capable of constructing a good outfit.”

Monica also pointed out some flaws of Italian fashion; “sometimes the fashion can be too formal, which can sometimes feel too oppressive.” The use of color is not used as often in Italian fashion than in American fashion. Italian fashion is more about subdued and neutral natural colors, this allows them to mix and match more articles of clothing, making it easier to style.

“Especially in the summer, you see American girls wearing colorful sun dresses, Italians would wear just a little black dress,” said my second interviewees, Anna and Carina. My second interview was with the two young women, Anna and Carina. They talked more about their observations of American fashion during the day versus at night.

“Sometimes American students during the day, they wear more sweatpants and sneakers, very casual. But at night, they dress up more, sometimes have lots of make up on, the difference is incredible,” said Carina.

Both Anna and Carina made an excellent observation of pointing out that Americans sometimes dress too much for the occasion. Dressing too casual for attending class or just running out to do an errand. Italians also dress for the occasion, but they might wear the same thing going to work and then meeting friends afterwards at an apperitivo or for dinner. Italian fashion can depend on a lot; what job you have or the occasion you are attending, just like in the US. But usually Italians always want to look presentable and the young Italian generation would never wear what some Americans wear to class.

After talking with Anna and Carina for about 20 minutes on fashion, I tried to describe to them how I could now pin point an American from the crowd, but wasn’t sure what made the American style stand out so much from the Italian style. They both immediately exclaimed, “SHOES!” Italians value what shoes they wear, and think it’s repulsive when people wear flip-flops with socks.

All of these observations about American fashion confirms what I have read in, Xenophobes Guide to the Italians, “Italians are very observant of how other people dress, particularly foreigners who are considered to dress badly.”

Mulberry Ink

A lifestyle blog about travel, food, wanderlust, DIY, photography, and happiness.

One thought on “What makes Italians, Italian? (1/3)

  1. This article made me smile. My mother was born and raised in Florence, and she says the same things. My goodness, we were not allowed to leave the house if we were not dressed properly that included my brothers. We grew up near Chicago.


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