The enduring style of the Valstarino
The ‘Valstarino’ jacket, or blouson, has long been a staple of the Italian wardrobe. In recent years, however, it has become increasingly popular and referenced worldwide.
Reasons for this popularity must include the rise of interest in traditional clothing, and the focus on authentic crafts (the Valstarino is still entirely made in Italy).
But just as powerful, I would suggest, is the sheer versatility of the jacket and how well it fits into a modern wardrobe.
The traditional blouson
The Valstarino was created by Valstar in 1935, inspired by the A1 flight jacket issued to American pilots. After the end of the Second World War, soldiers in the US and Europe adapted pieces of military clothing for civilian use - including leather jackets - and the Valstarino became widely worn.
Arguably, this informalising (to coin a phrase) gave birth to most of the casual conventions we have in menswear today. Everything from the T-shirt to the chino came out of this period of conflict. The Valstarino is part of a broader social change.
But there are many styles of leather jacket out there. There is something particular about the Valstarino that has made it popular, and especially with the sartorial man - the type that cares about elegance, carefully considers the cut of his suit, and has a sceptical approach to fashion.
Right in the middle
I’d suggest the particularity of the Valstarino is that it occupies a middle ground between the tailored blazer and more work-oriented leather jackets.
It is buttoned-up, usually, rather than zipped up. This makes it inherently dressy, with a faint echo of blazers and tailoring. And it is an opportunity to use nice, solid horn buttons.
Although available in a range of leathers, the Valstarino is most commonly seen in suede. Fine suede is clearly not a practical, working material and its delicacy suggests that this is a dressier garment.
The lack of extraneous details often found on other leather jackets - epaulets, buckles, mini-pockets and so on - also keep it clean and smart.
Finally, the relatively short cut of the Valstarino echoes some aspects of tailoring.
It is made to sit on the hips, and although it quickly blossoms out at the waist, the jacket’s shortness and ribbing at the bottom serve to elongate the legs. It works particularly well with a higher-rise trouser.
All these elements make the Valstarino uniquely versatile.
It is equally at home with jeans, chinos and flannels. It can be worn with a button-down oxford underneath, a T-shirt or fine knitwear.
It is perhaps the perfect travelling garment - worn with flannels during the day, and swapped for a navy blazer in the evening. Comfortable and relaxed, yet refined.
I doubt our modern gentleman has ever dissected the Valstarino in such a way. He just knows it looks good, is regularly complimented, and has proven damned useful over the years.
This is how it should be, and is what secures the Valstarino’s future among sartorialists the world over.
By Simon Crompton