Our men have a long way to go to topple Romans in the style stakes.
HERE'S a New Year's resolution for every Australian male with underwear showing, sporting thongs past retirement age or with toenails resembling Petri dishes get thee to Italy, pronto.
I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the Aussie bloke. Not at all. It's just that among your laid-back carefreeness and charming lack of vanity, you have become, well, slack. Sloppy. Some, a little grubby even.
Now don't get all huffy. You're only being told this because as a competitive sporting nation it's not good to have another country whip our lily-white butts. And the Italians are core-meltdown-five-alarm nuking us when it comes to style.
Yes, there is such a thing as a jeans and T-shirt guy. There's also merit in not buying into the commercial bull defence. But here's where the Italians have it all over us they believe that as well.
Look at the men in Rome and most will be T-shirt and jeans guys too. In summer anyway. And here's the best bit they don't shop a lot and they don't waste money. It's called investment dressing and it goes hand in kid glove with style. An Italian man's wardrobe is as simple as it is elegant and, if chosen well, never needs replacing or updating.
It entails the following: (a) A good watch. It doesn't need to be designer, just quality. Extra marks if heirloom. (b) Jeans. Neat, clean and hemmed. (c) Shirts. Dress white, a staple blue and a quirky colour because they have the confidence to pull it off. (d) A jacket or blazer take a pick of tweed, neutral or a classic leather. (e) A jumper of quality. (f) Shoes casual and dressy. Immaculate. (g) A scarf cotton soft for summer cashmere warm for winter.
That's it, save for T-shirts, always pristine (yes, they actually throw old ones away). Most don't even wear ties. Not so hard is it?
OK, there's the suit thing and, really, every man of a certain age should own one. If you're still renting for funerals and weddings, well, you probably have a lot more pressing problems than clothes.
Peter Holder, publisher and former editor of GQ and Men's Style agrees that Aussie blokes have a long way to go to topple the mighty Romans in the style stakes.
"Look at Berlusconi. The guy was bringing the country to its knees, shagging everything in a skirt, but he still looked respectable, always rocking a great suit," Holder says.
"Even George Clooney is dressing better since he moved to Lake Como. And you wouldn't see Italian footballers turning up to court in boardies and thongs. When you are around men that dress well, it makes you want to too."
But here are the extra bits, the things your girlfriends and wives notice but you may miss as you spot another surf logo hoodie while scratching at a five-day growth.
Italian men smell good. Not in a pine forest meets trough lolly asphyxiating way but shower clean, like they just stepped out of a mineral spring and casually brushed by some ripe lemon trees. They also groom. Yes, that means showering, shaving, etc. But Italians, well, they take it that bit further. They get haircuts, regularly. They trim their nails, often. They moisturise, daily. They annihilate nose hairs before they tickle top lips. They wear deodorant even on cold days.
Even more important, this is what they don't do: (a) Drag their feet. They strut. (b) Scratch. They have the same equipment but just don't appear to have to check it as often. (c) Scrape. Know when stubble can scuff a seduction. (d) Fart in public. They get the joke it's just not funny.
Listen to Holder: "Clothes may well maketh the man, but proper and consistent grooming will seal the deal. No one will care about a man's new Giorgio Armani suit if the shoulders are covered in dandruff."
This is not about telling you to ditch boardies and don cravats. It's just a way of making you notice the efforts your ladies put in and give a bit of quid pro quo.
The reason your girlfriend doesn't have a monobrow or a map of Tassie the shape of the USSR means she has done something about it. She doesn't naturally smell of fresh gardenias or have toenails the colour of ripe raspberries it is all part of being the best she can be. For herself and ultimately you.
She cares. How about you try? If you can't be bothered, there are a hell of a lot of Italian men who will.