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