Looks by Brunello Cucinelli at Pitti Uomo in Florence. CreditClara Vannucci for The New York Times
FLORENCE, Italy — In the summer of 1934, the fabled Italian couturier Elsa Schiaparelli weighed in on women in trousers.
“Of course, we don’t want pants,” the straight-shooting designer said, as reported in Time magazine’s Aug. 13 issue. “Men are already ugly enough in them without having women wear them.”
Schiaparelli was correct. Trousers are ugly. Anyone who has visited places where a wrapped garment is the preferred covering for the lower half of the male anatomy can tell you that. Kilts, dhotis, lungi, sarongs, tunics and even the toga have obvious advantages over the two-legged garment that forfeits aesthetics to practicality in almost every case.
Still, despite the best efforts of designers like Virgil Abloh and Dolce & Gabbana to dress men in skirts, we are stuck with trousers, a garment that, if you paid close attention, was a focus of interest among the nearly 40,000 attendants at Pitti Uomo, the twice-yearly men’s wear trade fair that came to a close Monday.
The designer Tommy Hilfiger at his party at the Palazzo Corsini. CreditClara Vannucci for The New York Times
Skinny jeans are dead. We all know that. Khakis are back. The dropped-crotch style adopted early by people like Nick Wooster — the stylist, Instagram fixture and godfather of social media influencers — has been normalized to the extent that even designers like Brunello Cucinelli are coaxing moneyed consumers to try to get comfortable in trousers ample enough below the waist to conceal Depends.
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Clearly, the incontinence crowd is not the Pitti Uomo demographic, where offerings for millennials far outstrip anything for the olds. Stylish young men with plenty of money will find more to suit them from Mr. Cucinelli than in previous seasons. One clear reason is that, while the proportions of his jackets and knitwear have altered little, the new forest-hued corduroy Cucinelli trousers are hemmed high, cuffed deep, worn low on the waist — and almost uniformly have a dropped crotch.
“Trousers must change,” Mr. Cucinelli said at the fair, where his booth, decorated like the interior of a yacht, commanded a premium location in the main pavilion. “You can’t wear last year’s trousers.”
Instagram has something to do with that, Mr. Cucinelli added. Anyone prospecting for style information has only to dip into the visual slipstream. That is not necessarily a good thing, if you were hoping to get more than a season out of a pair of pants.
Tim Coppens, men’s fall 2017. CreditClara Vannucci for The New York Times
Not long ago, Mr. Cucinelli attended a Facebook dinner in California, and to his surprise, found that the sneakers-and-hoodies stereotypes that attach to tech moguls no longer seemed to hold true.
He cited Kevin Systrom, the fashion-fixated co-founder of Instagram, as people often do. Yet Mr. Systrom is a good example of a moneyed consumer with no particular debt to sartorial tradition, men raised wearing casual clothing and for whom the suit format is an invitation to experiment.
While, in some years, everything interesting about men’s clothing took place above the waist, currently the lower half of the body is getting the attention.
“You look at a suit now, and you can see in one second it’s an old suit,” said Giovanni Bianchi, the style director of L.B.M. 1911, a family-owned, Mantova, Italy-based manufacturer of finely cut, unlined blazers.
Tim Coppens, men’s fall 2017.CreditEstrop/Getty Images
Mr. Bianchi was alluding to the tailored precision required to get the shape and proportions of trousers correct. “There are three people in the business who talk this language,” he said, referring to the fine points of trouser tailoring. “And hundreds who don’t care.”
One notable speaker of the lost language of pants is Edoardo Fassino, the creative director of PT Pantaloni Torino, one of the 1,220 exhibitors here. Turning a pair of heavy British woolen trousers inside out one afternoon for this reporter, Mr. Fassino dissected them with the precision of the anatomist in Thomas Eakins’s “The Gross Clinic,” of 1875.
A split waistband with a narrow snake of rubber inside to grip a shirttail; a viscose face lining within the legs; a notch for a belt fastener; a coin compartment hidden within a pocket; and a cotton crotch guard to eliminate chafe are just a few of the 120 elements that go into properly producing a garment that costs $500 and requires three miles of thread to create.
If Mr. Fassino is an example of the specialist working a niche market, Tommy Hilfiger is the essential big-picture man. By choosing to show in Florence, Mr. Hilfiger was bidding once again to reset his label’s image, offering a mixtape that, in an interview, he termed “an edit of the archives — sports mixed with prep mixed with outdoors mixed with tech and varsity.”
Brunello Cucinelli (in jacket and tie) at his dinner at Serre Torrigiani. CreditClara Vannucci for The New York Times
Regardless of the unusually various remix he came up with for a collection that was smart and stylistically taut — and that owed, as Mr. Hilfiger candidly said, a debt to Demna Gvasalia’s work at the influential label Vetements — the silhouettes and proportions were slouchy and relaxed across the board.
Trousers were higher in the waist and wider in the leg than they have been since the precocious hip-hop consumers who once constituted his base took his preppy gear and made it hip by wearing it supersize.
Tokyo is leading the trend for this fuller proportion, and it is probably the Japanese we can also thank for the overall eastward tilt of this influential fair.
Appearing as an officially designated guest designer, the Belgian Tim Coppens held his show at a racetrack on the perimeter of this Renaissance city and filled his runway with androgynous models wearing layered outfits of a kind you can see on half the kids in Tokyo.
The Stefano Ricci dinner at the Pitti Palace. CreditClara Vannucci for The New York Times
If it was not notably original, the show was slickly styled. Perhaps the best combination was a quilted olive drab varsity jacket worn over a T-shirt and royal blue hoodie, with a white piped tunic that read as a dress.
Sure, there were trousers — a pair of khakis. Yet so inessential were they to the effect of the outfit or the overall skew of the show — one in which gender blur was so much a through line that it occurred to this viewer Mr. Coppens has begun his transition to women’s wear — they seemed like an afterthought.
The temptation exists to carp about the designer dragging people to the outskirts of Florence and penning them behind gates in the bitter cold before admitting them to a space with all the singularity of a high school homeroom.
Location experiments are an essential aspect of Pitti Uomo, though, and a few minutes of discomfort pale by comparison with the rich opportunities offered to fortunate fairgoers, one lavish event capping another all week. As if a cocktail party with L’Uomo Vogue on the rooftop of the 15th-century Palazzo Strozzi amid installations by Ai Weiwei were not enough, there was a dinner at Mr. Cucinelli’s invitation in the greenhouse of what was said to be the largest private garden in Europe.
The Swedish shirt maker Eton held a dance party one evening to celebrate a collection the designer Sebastian Dollinger said had been inspired by happy, youthful days of druggie raves. As a sober counterpoint, the anniversary of Stefano Ricci — a staid tailoring house that, while it caters to the oligarch set, was begun 45 years ago by Mr. Ricci on a sewing table in his parents’ dressmaking atelier — was commemorated with a seated dinner of beef cheeks and ravioli timbales cooked by the most starred chef in Florence and served in the refurbished Sala Bianca at the Pitti Palace. Dessert was a deceptively simple chocolate stick served with olive oil and salt flakes.
Entertainment followed: Andrea Bocelli. Having declined to perform at next week’s Inauguration, he suddenly found an opening in his schedule.
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