What are Neapolitan shoulders?
Many people associate suits with British tailoring, but Italy has innovated and improved upon the British style of gentleman's wear in ways that changed the industry. In the 1930s, Mariano Rubinacci, a man born into a wealthy Italian family that were intimately involved in the textile industry in Naples, reinvented the traditional British suit, which was heavily padded, canvased, and reinforced. Neapolitan tailoring took away the padding and all the excesses of the English-style dress, giving the suits a lighter and more comfortable feel.
Mariano Rubinacci was an intelligent man who knew that the hardworking Neapolitan people would want a suit cut in such a way that it provided them with relief from the hot and humid conditions of everyday life. Rubinacci took the risk in having a suit made that gave the wearer freedom of movement, while preserving the desired sartorial look of elegance. His head cutter, Vincenzo Attolini, created a jacket that would pave the way for modern-day formal wear.
In an era where comfort and performance are particularly important in fashion, the Neapolitan shoulder surely embodies this concept. The soft shoulders consist of no padding or occasionally a pleated sleeve head, allowing for a really beautiful and soft drape. There are two styles of Neapolitan shoulders: Spalla Camicia and Con Rollino.
Spalla Camicia - Shirt Shoulder
This method embraces the shirt-making style by inserting the excess fabric into the shoulder, rather than the traditional technique against the sleeve itself. This allows the jacket's fabric to contour to your body, leading to a natural drape from the shoulder.
Con Rollino - With Roll
This method uses a surplus of material and gathers it at the top of the sleeve head, creating a roll. Similar to roping, this method pushes the sleeve head up and can create a raised look, but not nearly as distinct.
The pictures above are of two different cloths. The green one is a smooth wool/silk blend, while the navy-red is a flannel with a heavier cloth. Both are suitable for this type of shoulder. I would recommend this shoulder for most cloths, however, this will largely depend on the thickness of the fabric.
What is Sprezzatura?
The Italians are known for their suave, relaxed demeanor. In the area of fashion, a Neapolitan suit exemplifies the term that the Italian's use called "sprezzatura." This is an effortlessness that people in the United States call "cool." The Neapolitan style is an attitude made real; a quiet confidence that defines what we all love. The shoulders are relaxed and loose for comfort and versatility. Without this sprezzatura, it would no longer be what it was designed to be: a work of timeless beauty without the pretentiousness.