Italian teens put a spin on U.S. styles

December 12, 1990|By Lisa Anderson | Lisa Anderson,Chicago Tribune

MILAN, Italy - On Saturdays, there are more paninari than pigeons in the Piazza del Duomo and there always are thousands of pigeons hanging out in this sprawling plaza in the center of the city.

Some of the paninari come to shop, most come to cruise.

Arm in arm, long hair freshly washed, jeans neatly pressed and sweaters casually flung around necks or knotted at their waists, young girls stroll up and down the piazza on search-and-attract missions. Their targets: battalions of boys who mass on the steps of the cathedral in uniforms of jeans and denim jackets, smoking and surveying the passing parade.

In this very wealthy town, where materialism, however elegantly understated, is gospel, parents are quick to pass on the credo and the paninari are eager believers. Without so much as a quizzical look or the slightest pause, teens will readily rattle off the litany of the must-have list, often complete with brand names.

"Long cardigans with T-shirts. Tennis shoes Reebok or Superga high-top or black ones are best. Jeans Levis 501," says Amelia, 14. "I think the things we want are a mix between the traditional and things that are a bit more avant-garde," she says, knowingly.

And everyone, no matter what their style, must have a backpack and not just any backpack. "Mandarina Duck or Invicta," advises Amelia's friend, Laura, 15, who notes that the more one decorates the pack with Magic Marker designs, pins and badges, the better.

"And everyone wants a 'body,'" adds Amelia, referring to stretch bodysuits that, along with leggings, are moving up on the teen wish list.

Amelia, herself, with her blue oxford cloth shirt, corduroy pants, black tennis shoes, hoop earrings and Shetland sweater, clearly belongs to the traditional preppy contingent. Attracting the offsprings of Milano bene, or "good families," and wannabes, this group is large and, like its parents, adores anything that has either an American preppy feel, such as polo shirts and Timberland boat shoes, or an upper-crusty British accent, such as striped shirts and the ubiquitous Husky jacket, a takeoff on the English hunting jacket in quilted poplin with a corduroy collar in hunter green, navy blue or chocolate brown.

Mario, 19, is Amelia's male counterpart. Outfitted in a well-cut blue blazer, button-down striped shirt, faded jeans, polished penny loafers and Ray-Ban sunglasses, his short hair and well-scrubbed face proclaim, as he puts it, the "classico" look.

For the teen who considers the preppy look too blandly bourgeois to bear, there is the perennial tough chic look, pioneered by James Dean in the 1950s, picked up by the British street trendies in the '60s and '70s and now doing an encore, however tamely, among the rough-look ragazzi (kids) of Milan.

Ramon, 16, advises that leather jackets, in biker black, paired with white T-shirts, worn jeans, white socks and either black high-topped sneakers or the menacingly heavy, bulbous-toed Doc Martens, are the way to go.

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