Gianni Agnelli’s style: suits, ties and watches of an Italian icon

Giovanni “Gianni” Agnelli was an important Italian industrialist, Fiat chairman and, according to many at the time, the Italian John Kennedy. He was handsome, rich, a sports enthusiast, loved by women, L’Avvocato was a tabloid favorite, a symbol of Italian elegance and icon of everything one could ever dream of.

While he ruled over the Italian economy and European high society between the 1960s and the 1980s, he was admired as much for his entrepreneurial acumen as he was for his good taste in style. He mastered the art of sprezzatura, making the hard look so easy and marking history with his style trademarks, such as wearing his watch over his cuff and leaving his tie askew.

For those who loved him, for those who would like to boost their daily outfit with a touch of elegance, here is a small guide to Italy’s most famous “Avvocato” and some quick tips to dress like him.

The tailored suit

Gianni Agnelli wearing Solaro and flannel suit
Agnelli wearing a Solaro suit (left) and a grey flannel suit (right)

Mr Agnelli particularly liked formal wear and had hundreds of suits tailored by the best tailors in the world. He opted for su misura (made-to-measure) on situations demanding a more conventional and rigorous dress code, but also on more informal and casual occasions. What are the garments he couldn’t do without? Here they are.

The classic flannel grey suit and its double-breasted jacket with super-wide lapels, a typical winter garment, the single-breasted solaro suit, for summer occasions, and prince of Wales jackets to be worn all year long.

The Style Advisor tip: Grey flannel suit

The button-down shirt

Gianni Agnelli wearing a light-blue dress shirt
Agnelli wearing a light-blue dress shirt with unbuttoned button-down collar

When he was younger, Gianni Agnelli wore classic spread collar shirts and angled cuffs. Yet in the mid-Seventies, he started to be photographed wearing different shirts. White and blue were its favorite shades and he mainly opted for unbuttoned button-down collars. He was indeed the first to bring the recognizable Brooks Brothers shirts to Italy from the USA. He rarely wore stripe, check or bright-in-color shirts.

The Style Advisor tip: Light blue button-down shirt

The accessories

Gianni Agnelli wearing a watch over the shirt cuff
Style trademark: Agnelli wearing a watch over the shirt cuff

One man, thousand shades of style. Sometimes he dressed for vanity, sometimes he had to make an authentic choice, but it was not a mere style choice. Take his hiking boots worn with his elegant suits. Due to an accident he had in the French Riviera, L’Avvocato had to wear uncomfortable braces and orthopedic socks for the whole of his life.

Think of the flat dark or light brown hiking boots which allowed him to reduce discomfort while walking. Even the watch over his shirt cuff, probably his most recognizable style quirk, wasn’t just an eccentric aesthetic choice: the aim was to preserve the quality of his cuff fabric and to save time when checking the time.

The sportswear

Gianni Agnelli wearing a blue button-down shirt with pocket
Agnelli wearing a blue button-down shirt with pocket

He was a sportswear enthusiast, probably because of the people he met in the United States when he was young. He usually spent his weekends in destinations such as Cape Code along with the upper class living there. Those preppy clothes, chinos and polo shirts, persuaded him to develop his own view of the sporty elegant style.

Jeans are typical of the sportier Agnelli. He wore them on board, on the pitch and at the stadium. In the Seventies he started alternating the cuts and the materials: he initially wore slim-fit jeans, popular in the Seventies, then he opted for looser-fit jeans, usually Levi’s 501. He usually paired them with piqué-cotton long-sleeved polo shirts or denim shirts.

The Style Advisor tip: Denim light blue shirt

His style trademarks

Gianni Agnelli wearing a tailored suit paired with a wide tie
Agnelli wearing a tailored suit with wide lapels paired with a wide tie

There’s not much to say, L’Avvocato broke all the rules. The watch over his shirt cuff, the tie outside of his pullover, the sporty boots worn with his formal suit, the wide necktie, popular with the Duke of Windsor: these are all the style details that made Gianni Agnelli a worldwide style icon.

The Style Advisor tip: Regimental green necktie