Secrets of Sprezzatura: The Messed-Up Shirt Collar

Do your outfits look stiff and contrived? What you need is a dash of sprezzatura — deliberately calculated nonchalance — to give yourself a more devil-may-care, deshabille appearance. Here’s a quick fix in three easy steps:

1) When you launder an oxford-cloth buttondown, keep the collar buttoned. As the shirt gets knocked around in the wash, then flutters in the autumn wind as it hangs on the clothesline, the back of the collar will inevitably come out of alignment.

2) Remove dry shirt from clothesline. Don’t iron it. Don’t fix the collar.

3) Put the shirt on and continue through your day as normal, completely oblivious — or at least feigning to be — of your messed-up shirt collar.

Image courtesy of the 1988 film “Mystic Pizza,” in which a married Yalie architect seduces his babysitter with wine, Mozart, and  disheveled shirt collar. — CC

25 Comments on "Secrets of Sprezzatura: The Messed-Up Shirt Collar"

  1. No comment

  2. I hate sprezzatura. Purposefully leaving buttons undone, shirt collars messed up, etc. is just stupid. Why not just walk around with your fly down? If you’re really just absentminded that’s one thing but planning to look this way is just ridiculous.

  3. I was under the impression that sprezzatura conveys nonchalant grace, not nonchalant ineptitude.

  4. With Annabeth Gish in the scene, I never noticed, but if that’s what it takes…

  5. Just looked her up, as I never paid attention to that actress, and I don’t recognize her from anything else.

    But I see she was in “Shag.” I should watch that again; might be good for a post. Very Southern trad.

  6. As one (the only?) of the handful of authentic preppies here, let me say that we always wear our clothes in a careless, nonchalant, casual way. Unless work requires it, we’re never neat, at least not until we’re middle-aged, when dressing like our teenage sons finally gets old.

    Unshined shoes. Salt-stained boat shoes with white athletic tape keeping the sole from flapping. Unbuttoned collars. Stapling your French cuffs. The crotch of your wide-wale courderoys floating around somewhere near your knees. Bungee cord working as a belt. Sweaters with four-inch holes in the elbows.

    That’s preppy, folks. (Sometimes) Expensive clothes worn in a way to suggest we spend our nights in a cardboard box under a bridge.

    It’s not looking like you stepped out of an advertisement. A 16-year old head to toe in Brooks/JPress clothes that are neat and pressed indicates he attends the finest private school in Modesto, not Groton.

  7. We have you cornered Cash! Put down the OPH, step away from your G&T and lay face down on the ground!

  8. “16 year old head to toe in Brooks/Press clothes neat and pressed”?
    Is that not a spot on psychological profile of “Richard” anyway?
    Many photos available at his blog.
    What a human dartboard. Amazing.

    He demonstrates and exhibits every quality of self centered arrogance
    coupled with insecurity and yet, you’re the one who is off balance in
    criticizing him,so he concludes.

    Thanks to some eccentric fellow doofballs who help him along
    with “positive” comments at his blog he remains deluded.

    Keep up the good work here at IVY STYLE.

    How WASP 101 garners any positive response from anyone is
    a backwards miracle.

  9. Chuck, that would be “lie” face down on the ground.

    Jinx, normally I wouldn’t approve a comment of someone speaking ill of someone else, but in Richard’s case I’ll make an exception because, well, he’s an exceptional guy.

  10. elder prep | May 27, 2019 at 1:23 pm |

    Chuck, I too, noticed a whiff of the OPH in Cash’s post. Regardless, I don’t care for the unkempt look in the preppy world. That appearance (look?) should have ended when emerging from prep school. The correct prep appearance for the prep retired cohort is clearly defined on pp. 192-193 of the OPH.

  11. Roger Sack | June 11, 2019 at 9:03 pm |

    I thought that the frayed shirt collar, cracked shoes, grand dad’s
    ancient chesterfield, etc denoted old (WASP) money not necessarily
    nonchalance. At least that was the case fifty plus years ago at Cornell

  12. Dan Christensen | June 12, 2019 at 1:28 am |

    @ Cash:

    That may be preppy, but it’s not ivy or trad.

  13. Jack Hopkins | June 12, 2019 at 10:20 am |

    The Japanese have a term “wabi-sabi” to describe the beauty in imperfection. I like this better as it is natural & not practiced as sprezzatura appears to be.

  14. Carmelo Pugliatti | June 12, 2019 at 10:40 am |

    The original sprezzatura is dress up with nonchalant grace,not dress as a mess.

  15. Old School Tie | June 12, 2019 at 12:09 pm |

    Ah, sprezz. Once, at medical school, in order to get onside with a older female clinician who was teaching us I tucked the tip of my shirt collar behind my tie. I told my friend to watch her maternal instinct come forth. She duly straightened the offending collar and I became one of her favorite students. Once, quite recently, I was at a function and an Italian was there being sprezzed to the max, or maybe Pitti Uomo’d to the max. Anyway, double monks, hand painted and burnished with one strap (on purpose in my opinion) undone. I accidentally (on purpose) stepped on his foot. My 30-year-old harder than stainless steel Church’s Lancasters made short work of his shoe, I can tell you. Sprezz, pffff!.

  16. whiskeydent | June 12, 2019 at 12:15 pm |

    This is a total frat move.

  17. Henry Contestwinner | June 12, 2019 at 2:12 pm |

    Back when I had babysitters work for me, I always made sure my shirt collar was neat. If my collar were disheveled, I had to fend them off with a bat.

  18. Charlottesville | June 12, 2019 at 3:02 pm |

    Henry – Good to hear from you. I have no doubt that you are always sheveled and kempt. I, on the other hand, try as I might in the mornings, still exhibit the occasional off-center tie, rumpled coat, or drooping sock by the end of the day, but now I know to call it sprezz and hold my head high as I wend my weary way toward the evening cocktail.

  19. Sprezzatura taken too far leads to Sprezzatourettes: a Tourette’s syndrome form of OCD.

  20. Let’s remember there was a time when a creased, rolling OCBD collar was deemed not only acceptable but proper.

    And appropriate when matched with — a suit.

  21. Charlottesville | June 13, 2019 at 12:00 pm |

    S.E. – Good point! I am wearing a rolling, unlined collar, “must-iron” OCBD with a suit today, and it is bound to become a bit creased as the day progresses. Also, I discovered on opening an e-mail this morning from J. Press that this is National Seersucker Day, which I am pleased to commemorate in a gray and white version from that very shop.

  22. Henry Contestwinner | June 13, 2019 at 11:03 pm |

    Thank you, Charlottesville!

    Having read Ivy-Style for most of its existence, I find that I am less prissy than I was before, and while I strive for being sheveled and kempt, I don’t always hit that mark—and that’s OK.

    Case in point: today’s knit tie knot was a bit cockeyed. I doubt anyone noticed, and I’m sure no one cared.

  23. Capt. Phineas Maxson | June 13, 2019 at 11:18 pm |

    Cash you just described my husband. Could you, perhaps, be an Allerton descendant with a mother who says “bawth” as well?

  24. Vern Trotter | June 16, 2019 at 10:19 pm |

    I believe my disheveled state was in the 1960s when I stopped wearing Brooks garters and because they had not started to carry socks with elastic. I was in a constant “Pull up your socks frame of mind.”

  25. JymPaulmor | May 27, 2021 at 8:56 am |

    Trying too hard to achieve sprezzatura seems to defeat the purpose. “Studied nonchalance” sounds to me like an oxymoron. But then again, I went to a public high school, so what do I know.

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