Pitti Uomo - the epicentre of men's style

Ordinarily, Florence's grand Fortezza da Basso engrosses the senses of all who behold it.

Today, though, it's hard to pay as much attention to the renaissance-built bastion as the spectacularly attired army occupying its midst.

Impeccably dressed gents pose at leisure in epic ensembles as imaginative as they are perfectly tailored.

The Fortezza is playing host to the world's biggest and most stylish menswear event, Pitti Uomo. A staggering number of dandified menswear lovers from around the world have congregated, and there's more preen and pose than at a peacock farm.

The energy is immense and if you focus too intently on one dapper gent and not where you're walking, you're certain to crash into two more.

Just as you think you've seen it all, yet another man appears whose outfit is so curated you can't but help feel that one day it should be exhibited in a museum.

No cats, but plenty of preening

Unlike the fashion week held in London the week prior, or the ones that will proceed it in Milan and Paris, eyes here are not fixed on expressionless catwalk models, but the impeccably dressed gents posing at leisure in epic ensembles as imaginative as they are perfectly tailored.

The lack of catwalks and those who strut them is because Pitti Uomo is a trade show, and there is much business to be done. At this edition, more than 1100 clothing, footwear and accessory brands from around the world have come to court approximately 20,000 buyers representing some of the word's major retailers.

But right here, right now, what matters most is the turning of heads and, even more importantly, camera lenses. Many of the men who come to Pitti don't have any official business to carry out - they're here in some of the best clothes money can buy to look good and have their photo taken by hordes of photographers.

Prepped to be papped

It wasn't always so. The number of long lenses drawing focus both inside and outside the Fortezza da Basso has only taken off in the last five or six years as online interest in Pitti has taken off, especially via fashion blogs and photo-sharing sites such as Instagram.

Prior to that only a few photographers would attend, led by American fashion blogger Scott Schuman (aka The Sartorialist) who would prop himself up near the main entrance and click away. Each year more photographers have joined him, no doubt drawn by his description of Pitti Uomo as "the Super Bowl of men's fashion".

The increase in media interest draws more and more dandies to Pitti each year, like moths to a flame – or perhaps more appropriately, butterflies to a flower. And so the festival continues to go from strength to strength.

Setting the style agenda

But while photographers and poseurs perform an elegant dance outside, the Padiglione Centrale – the areas inside Fortezza da Basso dedicated to classic menswear – hosts more important business as manufacturers jockey to make contacts and woo new clients.

Some of these scenes at first glance could be mistaken for any mid-week office meeting. Look closer, though, and you realise the men thrashing out the next directions in style could themselves just as easily be out the front courting the photographers.

If they weren't so busy negotiating what the dandies will undoubtedly be wearing 12 months hence at this very venue, that is.  

Jeremy Loadman travelled to Florence as a guest of Pitti Uomo and the Italian Trade Commission.

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