This year has seen the publication of some fine and important books. I’ve spent nine years anticipating Jonathan Frantzen’s Freedom, while others, like Proust’s Overcoat by Lorenza Foschini and The General by Jonathan Fenby rather crept up on me. However, the book of the year, in tailoring terms, is undoubtedly Rubinacci and the Story of Neapolitan Tailoring by Nick Foulkes.
As the only Neapolitan tailoring house to successfully export its bespoke services Rubinacci is the foremost tailor from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. As such the book’s principal appeal is that it illustrates the details that make Neapolitan tailoring special. These details – the breast pockets, the stitching, but most importantly the soft shoulders – are clearly captured by the excellent photography.
There’s also a good account of how the Rubinacci family rose to be one of world’s pre-eminent tailoring dynasties (the Cundeys and the Skinners on Savile Row also deserve a mention). But of equal interest is the way that Foulkes explains that there’s no such thing as Italian tailoring, there is Neapolitan tailoring and there is northern Italian tailoring – remember that Northern Italy starts at Rome.
The appeal of Neapolitan jackets is that they are built for the heat, with minimal construction. This makes them easy to wear and comfortable and gives them a relaxed look that is at odds with Savile Row’s traditional military-inspired cut. For bespoke connoisseurs there’s an unbridgeable gap between these two approaches, and the incredible vintage clothes that appear in this book make an eloquent argument in favour of the Neapolitan tailoring tradition.
Rubinacci and the Story of Neapolitan Tailoring by Nicholas Foulkes is available to buy now. www.fetherstonhaugh.com