Sartoria Panico grey-flannel suit: Review

Wednesday, August 8th 2018
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Apologies to those that had been waiting a while for coverage of this suit. It was finished in the Spring, but Japanese magazine Men’s Precious asked me to wait until it had been shot as part of a feature before publishing.

The photographs here are courtesy of Men’s Precious, and that is the reason for their setting. They aren’t ideal for a full analysis, but I will do that separately and in great depth as part of the Finest Tailors: Style Breakdown series. So it will be covered from all angles.  

These shots are sufficient, I think, to demonstrate the overriding style point of this Panico suit: it is large and it is comfortable.

I was surprised, actually, by how distinctive that style was.

Neapolitan tailors vary less in their styles than the English (there is no equivalent of the 1960s Nutter cut, or the A&S drape) so I wasn’t expecting anything that different in the chest and shoulder. A slightly different lapel line, or a more finely worked fit, but that was about it.

The shoulder of the suit, however, is noticeably extended. You can see that most clearly in the image below, where the end is just dropping off my natural shoulder.

That is in contrast to most Neapolitan tailors, who tend to cut a narrower shoulder to go with their shirt-style sleeve (spalla camicia), arguing it aids freedom of movement.

Of course, any older tailor in Naples will tell you that the style we now think of as Neapolitan is in fact a modern creation. That the previous generation, starting with Attolini, cut something longer, roomier and more similar to the English suits they were inspired by. Just without the structure.

It was the newer tailors who added more double pick-stitching, pushed more ripples to the top of the sleevehead, and cut everything a little tighter and shorter.

The more traditional style can be seen on tailors like Ciardi, or someone like Ciro Zizolfi - arguably the last direct descendant of that style and a recent first-time visitor to London during our pop-up shop. 

Nevertheless, this Panico cut is larger and broader still.

Alongside the extended shoulder there is noticeable drape in the chest, a generous sleeve, and almost no suppression through the small of the back.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that it looks too big.

These are the tiny, subtle points of tailoring, which build up into the larger impact of the suit as a whole - but still are small compared to fashion designs.

The collar still sits snugly on the back of the neck. The side seam still runs smoothly alongside the chest, grazes my natural waist at its narrowest point, and flows out into a slightly closed skirt.

The overall appearance is a controlled, elegant one. But those shoulders and chest give me an impression of strength and breadth you rarely get with Neapolitan tailoring; and the back and sleeve make it extremely comfortable to wear.

In terms of style elsewhere, the lapel is moderate in width, verging on narrow for a Neapolitan maker these days.

It is cut straight, and therefore gives the impression of being concave as it curves into the waist button.

The outbreast pocket is a little low and set a little wide, adding to that sense of breadth in the chest.

Interestingly, the one thing that isn’t really Panico house style is the tailoring through the waist. Most Neapolitans run a front seam into the hip pocket and then out the bottom of it, ending at the bottom of the jacket.

Antonio Panico said he wanted to make this in ‘the English style’, given I am English and a flannel suit is a pretty English too. He therefore only used darts at the waist, ending them at the pocket and having nothing below it.

This is actually a style I’ve never seen from an English tailor - the only variation today is usually whether the seam is in front of the dart or vice versa.

The finish elsewhere is at the top end for a Neapolitan. Still not at an English level, but neat and precise.

The trousers are high waisted, worn with braces, and have two forward-facing pleats.

I rarely have high-waisted trousers as I find braces uncomfortable, and find the look of them when not wearing a jacket a little anachronistic. (More on that here.)

However, I do know how elegant a high-waisted trouser looks with a jacket, given the way it lengthens the legs and prevents any shirt showing above the waistband. That unbroken look is evident in the top picture.

With this suit I asked Panico to make two pairs, one low-waisted and one high-waisted, so I had the choice. I will largely wear the high-waisted ones on occasions when I am less likely to remove my jacket - or the cold means I am wearing knitwear underneath.

I would also, generally, have double pleats when the trousers are high. I find it helps them run from my narrow waist up and over my hip bones and seat.

With the suit, by the way, I am wearing one of my favourite colour combinations (and one that always feels rather Ralph Lauren): grey tie, pink shirt, and purple handkerchief.

The shirt is from Simone Abbarchi, which is lovely except that the right sleeve might be a touch long (see top picture). The wool tie is from Ralph Lauren (it’s a little narrower than I’d like, but I do like the pattern) and the wool/silk handkerchief is from Drake’s (and I wouldn’t change in any way).

The socks are from Bresciani and the shoes are my bespoke imitation-brogues from Cleverley. They’ve suffered a little water damage over the years but otherwise are doing very well.

The flannel is Vitale Barberis Canonico 504.801/6, 340g/12oz from the Original Woollen Flannel bunch.

Photography: Jamie Ferguson for Men’s Precious magazine

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Anonymous

Simon
I think this is the best thing you have ever had made. How much was it in total? When is he coming to London.
This is so bloody smart its unreal, formal, louche, relaxed yet polished all at the same time. Could go around town or lope around country houses in equal comfort. I am seriously thinking of copying you, what other fabrics do you think this could work in?

George

Simon, to follow up on my initial enthusiasm – if he doesn’t come to London who in the UK would be best to go to for something similar to this (v soft shoulder, some drape, high trousers)? Also – can this be translated to a morning suit?? Still waiting on that piece!

Anonymous

Great thanks. Which English tailor would be able to achieve the softest cut if I wanted something like this but English – W&S, A&S?

Nick Inkster

Best looking suit you’ve had in my view, slightly ahead of the Greg Sexton DB but is some respects quite similar. If you had a suit made by Steed, it would not be a million miles from this either.

The coat fits the small of your back really well, and the slightly looser, higher cut trouser balances out the slightly longer shoulder.

I would go to the less formal end of the spectrum with this; imagine it with a descent white button down, canary yellow knit tie and tobacco suede loafers…………

Nick Inkster

Grey Sexton, not Greg………

Anonymous

Nice looking outfit and suit; I’ve been considering getting something similar now that the casual dress is invading our industry too. The one thing thats stopped me is that my trousers suffer badly from thigh rub (even with multiple pairs/not worn on consecutive days etc).

My bespoke trousers (mainly from GB) last a lot longer than my RTW I am worried that the few RTW flannel trousers I’ve bought have lasted a quarter the time that other fabrics do and so bespoke ones will equally die quickly. Is there such thing as hard wearing flannel?

Nick

I have a grey flannel suit made by GB (with one pair of trousers) and have been wearing it weekly for 3.5 years. It still looks great even though I haven’t cleaned or pressed it – got a compliment just today in fact!

Felix Sylvester Eggert

A superb read as usual Simon, and I‘m really liking the suit as a result.

Unfortunately I am missing a conclusion at the end like you normally do with your reviews such as the P. Johnson one for example. As from what I understand, the in depth analysis will be focusing almost solely on the cut and proportions. However, questions such as if the suit can be recommended for the pricing, and if so, for whom especially, are not being answered.

Kelvyn

Hey Simon, thanks for this piece. Been waiting for it for forever!

Appreciate how you’ve picked up the stylistic/aesthetic details (as usual) but would love to hear how you rate it (not in terms of a scale), but how close is it to being one of your favourite suits? How fond are you of it essentially?

Alex

Steven Hitchcock makes my suits with darts in that style. Never asked him to, but I have a very slim build so maybe that has something to do with it. I’ve actually come to prefer it as it looks cleaner.

I believe this is how Anderson & Sheppard always used to cut their suits before side bodies became the norm. Do you have any idea as to why this shift in technique has taken place?

Paul F

One of my favorite suits of yours. A true wonder and it looks so refined and elegant, yet understated. I’m a big fan of Panico and find the gravitas he’s displaying absolutely extraordinary.

O

This looks fantastic – one of your best. Looking forward to some more/clearer photos in the future. For something slightly different, I think it would look great with the black suede shoes you featured a while ago!

Apologies if you have addressed this before, but could you explain the reason tailors run the front dart right to the bottom of the jacket, rather than just to the top of the pocket? It doesn’t look great, so there must be a functional reason for it I suppose.

Bradley

Totall agree with the positive comments. I saw the images and thought – now that is how men should dress and more importantly, how i would like to look!
Great suit Simon

Richard T

Superb looking suit and comparatively good value, by the sound of it. This suit has reminded me just how great a good grey flannel suit can be. I had a wonderful double breasted one many years ago and I’m considering a single brmeasted one for my next commission. I’m not a big fan of pleated trousers in general, preferring flat fronts or single pleats. However, I totally understand why double pleats work best with high waisted trousers. Is your second pair flat fronted or also pleated?

JB

This suits looks marvelous.
Ps. I do hope you will include both pairs of trousers in the Finest Tailors series for comparison.

JB

No that’s clear, I was mainly looking for the visual difference, not so much comments or written comparison.

Anonymous

Which pair of trousers do you use more frequently/prefer for versatility?

DE

Hi Simon, firstly great to see you at the F&M pop up a couple of Saturdays ago – some very nice things on display and well worth the visit. Regarding this post, I agree that this suit looks particularly comfortable – a great combination of the cut and the fabric. I am however intrigued by the sock choice! I nearly always wear plain socks (I sometimes give in to whimsy with my colour selection) and on the odd occasions I wear patterned socks, choose conservative striped, houndstooth or check and very, very rarely a Burlington. Can I ask why you went for a sock with a motif, especially with the relative formality of the rest of your outfit and the setting?

Gohar Raja

Dear Simon

Nice post and a lovely suit from one of the last remaining legends of Italian tailoring.

On a slightly different point, why is it not possible to get the drape cut with the finishing of Chittleborough and Morgan?

Regards

Gohar

David G

If you want drape and outstanding finishing, Edwin is your man.

Robert

Interesting point, this business of seams and darts. I’ve had English suits cut with the dart and seam ending at the hip pocket. But London is now home to several Italian cutters, many of whom learned their trade in Italy, so there’s a lot of cross-fertilisation of styles.

It could also depend on the fabric. With a stiffer fabric, a seam ending at the hip pocket could result in the skirts sticking out, because you’re trying to curve the fabric around the hips, whereas a seam running all the way allows you to force the curve at the exact point where it is needed.

Then again I could be wrong.

Robert

Eugene Maccarrone at Richard Anderson, for one. Among the younger generation, there’s Francesco Vuoto at Henry Herbert.

Gohar Raja

Dear Simon

Don’t you think that more emphasis should be placed on finishing especially when being charged £4000 upwards for a bespoke suit by many houses on Savile Row?

Regards

Gohar

Michael

Hello Simon,

Is there any form of padding in the shoulder to accommodate the extension?

-M

Michael

Outside of the jacket that was made for you by Ettore de Cesare, are there any other notable Neapolitan tailors that exclude the use of pads as standard?

Gohar Raja

Dear David G
Are you referring to Edwin Dubois? I thought Steed were no longer in business. Does the said tailor have his own independent establishment, please reply with his details.
Regards
Gohar

David G

Hi Gohar

Edwin de Boise. Steed are still in business, based in Carlisle, but Edwin see clients in London too. He used to use a Row address, but took over English Cut when they went broke and so now uses the Chiltern Street premises.

Gohar Raja

Dear David

Thank you.

Regards

Gohar

Michael

Gohar,

I don’t think that this is the case.

@Simon, do you have plans of having something commissioned from Steed in the future?

Arthur Martin

Simon

Long time reader but first time poster.

Edwin doesn’t court the kind of puff you would bring him. He is a singular talent who would not seek publicity as his reputation is such that he does not need it.

I agree with David as above. Steed are the benchmark as far as I am concerned.

Arthur Martin

Dear Simon

I gave up on A&S as there was no consistency from one commission to the next.
Edwin and Hitchcock are close but Edwin does collars better.
My first commission was about 90%, all subsequent ones are at 100%.
Have a look at his Instagram to see the quality of his work.

Sorry, but I don’t do puff. Thanks.

Anonymous

Is this the Athenaeum?

Anonymous

Smart

Nigel C

I love this. It has the look of a suit you’ll wear until you wear it out and it will always be just right. Occasionally, you get something that goes beyond what you hoped: The style, the feel, the fit all come together and add up to more. Years ago Timothy Everest made me a blue SB three piece chalk stripe – how many of those were out there? We talked about John Steed in the Avengers as the idea. It was perfect. I still mourn the demise of that suit. I wonder if others have those old favourites. N

Anonynous

A very nice suit. However when I look at the photos I immediately notice your socks. I know patterned socks are currently in vogue but plain grey wool ribbed socks of a shade similar to the trousers would again lengthen the leg line and add to the overall elegance of the suit.. To me patterned contrasting socks are as jarring as that triangle of shirt below a suit’s buttoning point.

Anonymous

Perhaps I am overly sensitive because I am Canadian and our Prime Minister has a tendency to wear brightly coloured “clown” socks and tan shoes no matter what the colour of his suit. Nonetheless still one of the most elegant suits you have posted.

Phil

I love this. I may well emulate you on this one. This suit has real presence, the high-waisted trousers are superb. I immediately thought of Cary Grant

Ian F

There is an illuminating explanation by Steven Hitchcock of the differences between the side body and chest dart in coat making at http://thesavilerowtailor.co.uk/2014/11/17/diffrents-steven-hitchcock-suit-one-andersson-sheppard/

Matt S

This is such a beautiful suit! I especially like the trousers.

The English throughout the history have used numerous different darting styles. This one, with the front and side darts ending at the pockets, is older than what is commonly seen. The English used to extend the front dart to the bottom, just like the Neapolitans do. I’ve seen that on many English suits from the 1960s and 1970s. Then the English, like many of the northern Italian tailors and just about all ready-to-wear, started using the side body method. Some English also will omit the front dart and sidebody for large patterns so they aren’t broken up. Just about every basic cutting style originated in England, whether or not they still use them.

Robert

Then there’s single or twin vents, which may force you into different cutting styles.

Matt S

I’ve never seen vents to affect the cutting style. I’ve seen examples of all vent styles on all sorts of cutting styles. Though I don’t think a single vent would work with a one-piece back. What cutting styles have you seen not work with a certain vent style?

Gonzague

I seem to be the only one not to like this suit: the lapel is too narrow vs the rest of the suit, esp vs the large sleeves and trousers. Despite the padding extension the sleevehead looks « weak » depending in the picture (either low, saggy, or too small vs the sleeves…).
Overall it looks to me as if you lost 20kg since you commissioned the suit. Is there a new trend for looser suits (I read that somewhere)?
The only possible advantage I see is that the sleeves and pants being so large, the woollen flannel may not bag so much as the knees and elbows.
I like the cloth but am struggling to understand how a reader commented both this and the E Sexton DB are favorites, as they look so different.

William M

Much as I love the material and the trousers like Gonzague this coat does not float my boat. There is much to like but the overall effect of bigness strikes me each time I look at the photos.

Anonymous

“overall effect of bigness strikes me each time I look at the photos.”. This sums up my view on the suit. Lovely as it is, it looks over sized.

Matt S

Were you guys not around in the 1990s? This is not an oversized suit by any means.

Anonymous

I think “large” suits were largely an American thing.

Gonzague

May one have an opinion different from yours without being considered wrong?

David

‘Bespoke nirvana’ would not be too strong a descriptor!
Elegant and louche, Cary Grant would have loved it.
This suit shows exactly why it is worth having something made, specifically for you by a true artisan.
The shoulders, drape , lapel width and three button style are perfect for your stature and the high, pleated trousers are superb. I suspect – but it would be interesting to see – that the alternate flat fronted pair won’t look anywhere near as good.
This is really a suit for our times because it is both relaxed and informal whilst capable of looking at home on just about any occasion. In a normal person’s wardrobe it would get worn to death.
In terms of accessorising this, Personally, I’d have gone for a white Oxford shirt with a longer collar, possibly a button down , accompanied by a wider silk navy polka dot Lord Piana tie with a larger knot. The shoes should definitely have been tobacco suede loafers.
This would have heightened the louche effect whereas the pink cutaway with the RL tie doesn’t do it justice and is too traditional.
If I were to have this suit made, for my stature, I’d go with a two button jacket with a wider lapel. Normal rise trousers with one pleat and side fasteners but this style looks great on you and shows that Panico has really thought about your height and build.

John

Hi Simon,
This is a lovely suit indeed! At first sight, I wouldn’t have depicted it as Napolitan.
Two features that strike me are: its length, which I find a tad longer than usually applied to Italian suits; and then, the design of the breast pocket: its slantiness is squarely unusual!
I’m looking forward to your breakdown of Panico’s style.
John

ajbjasus

I glimpsed at this yesterday, and it really reminded me of the Fred Astaire Hollywood era – I’ve never understood why hardly anyone manages to pull off that look these days, but you have.

Entirely unsurprised by the slew of positive comments, they certainly bear out my initial impresion. Well done !

ajbjasus

It’s the flow of the jacket too.

I like that in my shirts too – a bit of drape in the chest and under the arms and then fitted in the waist – it’s really hard to get RTW, and even Luca doesn’t seem to like doing it !

Despite your reference to braces it look as though the pants have belt loops> I know it goes against convention, but I find a belt moderates to look of higher waisted pants.

Dan

This is really, really fantastic. Probably the best suit I’ve seen you commission, to my taste at least. It has reinforced my commitment to purchasing a flannel suit for this autumn/winter!

Leon Klaver

H Simon, Can you show some pictures of the back of the jacket?

Oskar

Superb pairing of suit and setting. Each very, very grown up but still fresh beyond the obvious maturity. Not the most technically smart comment, I‘m afraid. Good stuff!

Theodore Vogel

Hello Mr Crompton,
I was wondering are there any Neapolitan Houses that are inspired by A&S English Drape?

Sam

Suave, sexy, swooping swag! I always wear high-waisted pleated trousers and I like roomy fits, so naturally I like this.

I’m awaiting completion of my first suit (in ‘MTM+’ or ‘semi bespoke’), not dissimilar in specs: flannel and roomy fit, but with unstructured shoulders and very open quarters. Hope it comes out even half as nice as this.

John

Worsted wool aside, which fabric, out of all you know, could display the same overall appearance as the flannel used in this suit? Heavy hopsack or rather Serge?
As found as I am equally of flannel, I nonetheless enjoy diverse fabrics in my wardrobe too.
Thanks in advance for your reply.
John

David

Hi Simon,

What would be your fabrics advice for an heavy flannel suit (+400/500 gr)?

Daniel

Hi Simon, I’m preparing to place my first commisions for bespoke winter suits, and I’m having trouble understanding what fabric weight corresponds to what temperature. What temperature would this 340g flannel be suitable for?

thanks,
Daniel

David

“I am wearing one of my favourite colour combinations … grey tie, pink shirt.” I think that is the first time I have seen you wear or recommend a pink shirt. I rather like them in moderation, so appreciate the belated validation.

Federico

Simon, when you talk about high rise trousers, is the waistband reaching just below the belly button or just above?

Patrick

Hi Simon

Is it normally required to have turn ups for pleated trousers?

Can one have a normal hem with pleated trousers?

Steve

Simon

Sound idea to have 2 trouser styles made.

Out of interest , where were the photos taken? , the back ground looks the same as the backdrop for the Pasanato cavalry twill suit, look a very elegant place., and well chosen for these articles.

Robert

Travellers Club in London looks wonderful. Great space! You appear very much at ease in that library. Is the atmosphere in person as striking as it is in photographs?

Stephen Pini

Simon,

This is an excellent looking suit. It makes you look strong but at the same time appears to be very comfortable; shape and room, quite the achievement.

I’m curious on your opinion of this vs Ciardi. Both are roughly the same price (Panico being c. €400 more) but do you feel there is more value in the Panico, just from reading your comments?

Stephen

FIDELIO

Hi Simon,
What color are the buttons you picked for this suit? Having a similar flannel suit being made and was thinking to get mid brown (like your Sexton I believe) but perhaps grey horn would be more versatile (to be able to wear black shoes)?
Thank you,

FIDELIO

Thank you. And may I ask what color are the trouser’s side adjuster buckles?

Christian

Great suit.

For what I have seen now on your page, for me the most interesting Italian tailors in terms of style are Panico, Dalcuore and Eduardo de Simone.

Alec

Hi Simon
I’m considering having a jacket made with a traditional Neapolitan silhouette and have been looking into Panico, Ciardi and Zizolfi. The pitctures you’ve included for Ciardi and Zizolfi (front, back, profile) give a very helpful impression of the differences in their house cut. It’s a bit more difficult with the Panico shots because they are more stylised. Would you be able to give some impressions of how Panico compares to the other two? Thanks!

Romain

Hi Simon, thank you for this. When may we expect the detailed style breakdown post? The suit looks fantastic in these pictures, and I am very curious to see it in a more “technical” light.

Vince

Hi Simon. This question might have been answered elsewhere, so apologies in advance. In terms of quality and your personal preference in style, who would you choose? Panico or Dalcuore?

Chris

This is really fantastic.
I can’t put my finger on why- possibly the trousers? There’s magic in what has occurred here.

A C Smith

If this is a Neapolitan tailor’s take on an English-style suit, may they flourish! Bella! Presumably, Signor Panico’s £3,200 is chargeable even when he works in London, and is also appreciably less than the inimitable A & S would charge for the ‘real thing’?

Simon K

Great suit and very versatile.
I wonder if you can comment on how you decided on the gorge. I think it is relatively low which to me can look tired but doesn’t here. Is it a house style? Are there any common rules of thumb on the relationship for example between gorge and cloth?