The real Gentleman
The word ‘gentleman’ has become ubiquitous within the sartorial sphere. It is thrown around haphazardly by those who occupy the blogosphere and whose lives revolve around having their photos captured as they parade aimlessly around the Fortezza de Basso in Florence twice a year for Pitti Uomo. They proffer much on what it means to be a gentleman and even have the audacity to label themselves as such.
The truth, however, is that much of this ‘wisdom’ - made manifest in hashtags as opposed to actions - falls a long way short of the mark. With that said, what constitutes a true gentleman? Well, as an ancient proverb says, “do not be wise in words, be wise in deeds”.
A true gentleman is someone whose actions speak louder than words - not for the plaudits of their followers, but because it is innate, natural and therefore authentic. Sadly, there are few who fit this bill. Those who do, however, leave a legacy that lasts long after they’ve gone. Enter the inimitable Leo Grasso.
A Man of Rare Sartorial Sensibility
Operating as a commercial agent within the sartorial sphere since the 70’s, over the course of his decades-long career, Leo worked with and represented small brands - whose foundations were forged on artisanal quality and classic style - such as Sozzi, Tie Your Tie, K-Jacket, Stile Latino, Casto, Bensusan and Saint Crispin’s. Most notable though was his tenure as the sales director of Neapolitan stalwarts, Cesare Attolini - through which he would forge his friendship with Michael Jondral. Naturally, he was a man of exceptional taste when it came to clothing.
Michael Jondral recalls the effortlessness with which he paired interesting and unique colours, and his penchant for chalkstripe flannel, Prince of Wales check and tweed. No ensemble was complete without the appropriate accoutrement - most notably a handkerchief in the breast pocket, his folding horn glasses (often comfortably housed in an Hermes leather case that would hang around his neck), and a Zippo lighter affixed to a leather strap and kept in his right pocket.
‘Casual’ consisted of chinos and chukka boots - typically sand coloured and cut from a kudu suede by Saint Crispin’s - and for those occasions that demanded more formal attire, he cold often be seen clad in a chalk stripe suit and monk straps - also made by Saint Crispin’s. Leo exuded elegance - the effortless kind that has become synonymous with Italy.
The kind that restores some legitimacy to the word ‘sprezzatura’ and the nonchalant Italianate approach to dressing it denotes. Clothing, however, does not maketh man. Clothing may be an extension of ones gentlemanly disposition - which it certainly was in the case of Leo - but nothing more. It is manners that maketh man.
A Chivalrous Gentleman
Smoking became and act of culture for Leo, and anytime a lady was present, his lighter - charmingly affixed to a leather strap in his pocket - was always at the ready to light her cigarette. He took pride in chivalry - in opening the door upon entering a room, in ensuring her glass of wine was always near full, and thereafter in regaling her with his charisma.
To quote Michael Jondral himself, “Leo was a man on par with the well known style icons of Hollywood, only he was in real life”.