A Sporting Life: Rafael Nadal

A sporting life Rafael Nadal 

 A Sporting Life – taking on the challenge to put together sports and style (not exactly natural bedfellows), and making a plea for outdoor sports

Is is clay-court season! My favourite surface of my favourite sport. And Rafael Nadal has just won the Barcelona Open (after having secured the Monte Carlo trophy the week before), equaling Guillermo Vilas’ record of 49 clay-court titles. I have debated with myself whether I should include active athletes in this series. I ofen feel that, earlier on, like at least a couple of decades ago, the values, sport, people were different (for the better), but the fact is history is still in the making. And I am happy to have witnessed the Nadal and Federer era. Two of the greatest champions tennis has ever had. And although I believe Roger Federer is probably the most natural tennis player of all time (tennis is simply a second nature for him), I have always had a soft spot for Rafael Nadal – ever since that memorable 2005 Roland Garros semifinal against Federer, which led to Nadal’s first French Open title, becoming the second player in history, after Mats Wilander, to win the clay tournament at his first attempt.

Nadal and Mats Wilander are also the only two players in history who have won at least two Grand Slam titles on three different surfaces – hard court, grass, and clay. And by winning the 2014 French Open, the Spaniard became the only male player to win a single Grand Slam tournament nine times. There is no doubt he is the best all time clay tennis player, and one of the best the sport has seen. Nadal has had his ups and down in the last two years, but that only makes him human. He remains a champion.

My admiration for Rafa Nadal, however, goes beyond his incredible achievements on the tennis court. I admire his hard-work and determination, his resilience and mental strength, his fair play, his modesty, kindness, courtesy and shyness, his down-to-earthness (while many sports stars choose to move to glamorous locations like Monaco, Nadal still resides in his native Mallorca), the respect he has for his family and for his uncle Toni (his coach), for his roots, and for his fans. That’s the kind of style I wanted to talk about today.
A sporting life Rafael Nadal 
Related content: A Sporting Life: Björn Borg / A Sporting Life: Nacho Figueras / A Sporting Life: Jean-Claude Killy

photos: 1-Reuters (Rafa winning his 9th Roland Garros title, 2014) / 2-RafaelNadalIFC

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The Italian Job

Giorgia Tordini t-shirt and tailored
Giorgia Tordini t-shirt and tailored 
Italians have a knack for fashion. What is even more important, you experience elegance and style in the streets, especially in cities like Milan. It’s not just the great clothes that they have at their disposal, but especially the good taste and self-assurance. Sure thing, Italian style can often be associated with a fearless approach to print and colour (which, granted, on me or you, would most likely not look good, but which contributes to the distinctive Italian look, and rather falls in the category of individual idiosyncrasies in their case), but there is also simple sophistication carried out with subtlety and the same confidence that has been dangling off the streets of Milan, Florence and Rome, and which has the rest of the world trying to emulate it.

Enter Georgia Tordini, a graduate of the IED design school in Milan, who is a designer and creative consultant currently living in New York City. She is one Italian with classic, but never predictable style, as she herself describes it. She wears neutrals (and very much black) most of the time (she admits that Dries Van Noten’s creations are the only ones that make her want to wear print and colour), and accessories are Giorgia’s brushstrokes – it is what imbues her look with that slightly unexpected quality – but what really draws me to her style is the association of basic and tailored or polished pieces. Plain t-shirts and elegant trousers, or jeans and silk blouses, the low and high strategy that, in my opinion, works better than any other rule of style, Italian or not.
Giorgia Tordini denim and silk

photos:.1-J’ai perdu ma veste / 2-WENN.com / 3-A Love Is Blind

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The Fashion Bible

The Fashion Book 
It was Vogue that said it first. But I should start by saying that The Fashion Book is not the kind of book I would usually write about. Firstly, because it’s the type of publication that just about everyone owns, like an encyclopedia, an obvious title in one’s library, but which would hardly make a conversation topic. And, secondly, because this kind of book often leaves room for much better (I own a couple of those, too). Which is why it got me a long time to finally buy it. And I am glad I finally did. Because there is no substitute for it when it comes to capturing the essence of the history of fashion, and in a very appealing way, through excellent imagery, well chosen and sometimes surprising (good surprising) photographs to relevantly reference each name entry.

The big plus, as far as I am concerned, is that it is much more comprehensive than I had expected, including not only the most popular fashion designers whom everyone knows, but also the more under-the-radar and often overlooked ones (like many American designers, to my absolute approval, and not only the sportswear pioneers, but also those who defied the urban slant usually associated with American design), and a plethora of figures who have shaped the world of fashion and the public’s taste throughout the decades: shoe designers, milliners, tailors, embroiderers and accessory makers, hair-dressers, photographers, editors, models, illustrators (fascinating to find Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dalí among them), style tenets (the obvious names are there, sure, but it goes deeper than that, and Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward – one of Cary Grant’s biggest style influences – are not among the ones usually mentioned) and the biggest costume designers from the Golden Era of Hollywood (it’s about time they received recognition of their profound influence on fashion, especially in relation with the French couturiers, as many of their designs often foreshadowed by seasons the work of the French). The text doesn’t go much into detail, but it’s right on-point and every time I open the book I discover something new.
Note: I got the large version (the photographs are too captivating not to be reasonably sized), not the pocket edition, which I understand is often underrated because of that size detail. There is a newer edition of the title, but the cover made the difference in my case.
collage with photos of the book taken by me; original photos: clockwise from top left: 1-tailor John Stephen, Daily Mail, 1957 / 2-Koto Bolofo for Margaret Howell, Spring-Summer 1992 / 3-book jacket design by Alan Fletcher / 4-movie still from “Gilda”, 1946, photograph by Bob Coburn, Rita Hayworth in a Jean Louis gown

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Classic American Style: The White T-shirt

James Dean white t-shirt 
The whole point of this blog series, from the very beginning, was to showcase figures of classic American style, trying to stay away from the too obvious choices and be open to new faces, to modern women of our time who embody natural beauty and lasting style. It felt much more relevant and interesting an approach. But with men, it’s different. Steve McQueen, James Dean and Paul Newman would look just as relevant today as they looked back then dressed in the way they did. Which was, well, cool, that certain ineffable quality that made them look great seemingly no matter what they wore (a quality that not even the men of today considered the most stylish seem to reach that easily). With a focus on comfort, they looked as if they didn’t give clothes a moment’s thought.
Classic American style the white t-shirt 
I guess I have always have paid at least the same attention to men’s style as I have to women’s. Here is the thing. It is the men’s style that affords me more focus and inspiration when referencing my own personal style and updating my wardrobe. Not necessarily in terms of borrowing the exact pieces a man’s wardrobe consists of (although, who denies the utter attractiveness such pieces exude when combined with feminine details and the balance is just right?), but the idea that looking good doesn’t have to mean standing out. Just wear what makes you feel like yourself – it may very well always be some version of the same, and that’s perfectly fine.

This all is to say that this bunch of handsome and stylish men (I had to include Clint, too) makes the best case for the most fundamental garment of the American style canon: the highly adaptable, much more than utilitarian, plain white t-shirt. It’s usually in the company of the other fundamental American piece, jeans (and who can go wrong with that association?), with maybe different accessorising and a healthy dose of individuality. But you’ve got to give credit to Steve McQueen (right photo, below) for taking the look a little further and wearing the basic white t-shirt with tailored trousers (a detail I noticed in a close-up shot), and his signature chukka suede boots, of course.
Classic American style the white t-shirt

Steve McQueen white t-shirt 
photos: 1-James Dean, Corbis, 1955 / 2-James Dean on the set of “Rebel without A Cause”, Warner Brothers / 3-Paul Newman by Stephanie Chernikowski, Rome, 1965 / 4-Clint Eastwood by Douglas James, 1972 / 5-Steve McQueen on set, Judith Jamison/Barry Feinstein Photography Inc. / 6-Steve McQueen by Cal West, Cycle World magazine, 1964

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Conversations with Great Moviemakers

Conversations with great Moviemakers 
My new favourite activity before going to bed at night (it is an absolute must me-time I afford myself daily when everybody else is asleep) is reading fragments from the interviews conducted by different moderators at the American Film Institute and collected by Gorge Stevens Jr. (who co-founded the institute) in the book Conversations at the American Film Institute with the Great Moviemakers: The Next Generation. There are too many interesting, gripping facts, opinions and behind-the-scene moments to even attempt to select a few to quote here, but I will tell you this: it’s made me appreciate and love the art of making movies even more, although I didn’t think that was possible. Gregory Peck, Peter Bogdanovich, William Friedkin, Sydney Pollack, Sidney Poitier, Jack Lemmon, Charleton Heston, François Truffaut, Arthur Penn, Alan Pakula, Darren Aronofsky, Neil Simon, Paul Schrader, David Lynch, Morgan Freeman, Steven Spielberg, and a few more, all share their wealth of knowledge. These are about the best kind of stories!

photo by me

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