All about Salvatore Piccolo shirts and why they best exemplify the Neapolitan tailoring style

In an exclusive interview with italist, we had the privilege of conversing with Salvatore Piccolo, emblem of the Neapolitan shirt and jacket tailoring style. From Naples, Salvatore offers us an enlightening overview of male elegance, tracing a path that crosses the simplicity and sophistication of dressing, distilling the essence of an elegance which, while evolving, remains faithful to the principles of undisputed class and unmistakable style.

salvatore piccolo interview with italist

Good evening Salvatore, it is a real pleasure to have the opportunity to talk with you about Neapolitan tailoring, a topic that has already captured the attention of our readers thanks to previous articles on masters such as Kiton and Isaia. For those less familiar, could you enlighten us on how you perceive elegance in the field of formal men’s clothing and tailoring in Naples?

Men’s fashion, as we know, is in a constant state of evolution, especially in recent decades. For me, masculine elegance translates into simplicity. An elegant man is one who expresses good taste even through simple clothing. Elegance is not the exclusive prerogative of those who wear tailored suits and ties every day. Nowadays, there are fewer and fewer opportunities to dress formally but you can also be elegant by wearing a simple white shirt, a polo shirt or even a t-shirt.

Today there are very elegant men both when they wear a blue blazer, a nice shirt with a nice pair of shoes. You can also express class by wearing even more sporty footwear such as a New Balance, with trousers and cotton chinos but with the right volume.

salvatore piccolo shirts at italist

Contemporary elegance in fact lies in the ability to combine colors, proportions and wearability in a current style. So please stay away from those too tight trousers that you see too often and which for me are horrible.

What makes Neapolitan tailoring unique compared to other sartorial traditions? And why do you like it that way?

Neapolitan tailoring stands out for its uniqueness and softness compared to the rigid English tailoring or that of northern Italy (which is closer to the Anglo-Saxon world). The traditional Anglo-Saxon tailoring style requires very rigid shoulder pads and interiors to create a rather boxy jacket, perfect in fit. In Naples, however, we have always created garments with a more relaxed fit, using soft fabrics and delicate workmanship, such as our deconstructed jackets (Neapolitan NDR) with the ‘mappina’ sleeve, a workmanship that is closer to shirt-making than to jacket-making.

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In Neapolitan tailoring, lighter interiors are used, the jacket is less perfect in terms of visibility of the garment but it is softer and much lighter. A product that envelops your body: inside the garment you are comfortable, you can move comfortably while with the English ones you are stiff and perhaps to drive or sit at the desk you are forced to take off your jacket. This philosophy has contributed to making Neapolitan tailoring famous, proposing a sober way of dressing an elegant garment, made with light fabrics and suitable for the climate and lifestyle of the Mediterranean.

salvatore piccolo shirts sleeve

In fact, the differential element of the choice, workmanship and colors of the fabrics is added to a quality which is in any case sartorial and handmade. In fact, even the colors are very different from English tailoring in which extremely heavy fabrics with dark colors such as grey, black, blue, brown and “woodland” colors in general were used.

Neapolitan tailoring has always used more pastel and brighter colors which are much more in tune with our way of living everyday life: sun, sea, and a bit of southern air.

What are some ways to tell a high-quality shirt from a low-quality one?

A Neapolitan shirt is characterized by the use of traditional tailoring techniques, such as the “7 steps by hand,” a unique process of its kind and still practiced exclusively in Naples today.

salvatore piccolo sport neapolitan shirt collar

The seven traditional hand steps of Napoli shirt making represent a set of tailoring techniques that highlight craftsmanship and excellence in the production of high-quality shirts. These steps are:

  1. Fabric cutting: The fabric is cut by hand with precision to ensure that the parts of the shirt line up perfectly, especially where the fabric designs need to meet, such as in stripes or checks.
  2. Shoulder stitching: The shoulders of the shirt are hand-sewn to ensure a perfect fit and comfort, allowing the garment to better adapt to the shape of the body.
  3. Collar assembly: The collar is probably one of the most important elements of a shirt and is assembled and sewn by hand to achieve a perfect shape and a high quality finish.
  4. Cuff application: Cuffs are hand sewn to the sleeve, allowing greater control over the finish and fit.
  5. Attaching the buttons: The buttons, often made of mother-of-pearl or other precious materials, are sewn by hand, ensuring that they are fixed solidly and with the right thread tension.
  6. Making the buttonholes: The buttonholes are handmade with great care, ensuring they are the right size for the buttons and have a clean, refined appearance.
  7. Final finishes: This step includes a series of manual finishes that can vary from shirt to shirt, such as checking for unnecessary threads, ironing and applying any final details that require special attention.

salvatore piccolo sport neapolitan shirt button placket

These steps are the heart of high-end Neapolitan shirt making and represent a legacy of artisanal methods that stand out for quality and attention to detail, in addition to the choice of lighter fabrics, helping to create unique and high-value garments.

Focusing on men’s shirts, can you tell us the 10 main things that make Salvatore Piccolo shirts different from the others? What details are unique in your products?

In addition to the details I mentioned, what makes Salvatore Piccolo shirts unique compared to the rest of the Neapolitan shirt factories is the use of a canvas “collar” of the shirt without internal stickers.

In practice, the inside of the neck and the fabric are separated a bit like the tailored jacket which has the canvas inside the chests without being glued. An ancient artisan technique that was once used all over the world but which today is the distinctive trademark of only a very few shirt factories such as Charvet in Paris or Turnbull and Asser in London. In Italy only we do it for Salvatore Piccolo shirts.

Furthermore, I pay particular attention to the fit, for example our “very high armhole” allows you to have movements in raising your arm or moving your arms without the shirt moving away from the body and therefore remaining nicely placed inside the trousers. Finally, a distinctive detail of Salvatore Piccolo shirts is a dart positioned at elbow height, which I only adopted, allowing the sleeve to naturally follow the movement of the arm. See the photo below.

elbow dart on salvatore piccolo shirts

The movement of people’s arms is in fact only slightly curved forwards while the sleeves of the shirts are made of a single piece and are necessarily a straight cylinder. The pleat allows you to recover that space in the curve of the arm, giving the sleeves more width and a shape more similar to the natural position of the arm, giving a width of fabric that guarantees greater comfort in bending the arm. I make this pence exclusively in the world.

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Tell us a little about the process of making a Salvatore Piccolo shirts. How many steps are involved and how many components are used?

The working process is very important for our shirts. We are a small company, with two lines: the tailor-made part also called “Bespoke”, as well as the ready-to-go portion that we distribute in some highly selected stores around the world (including italist!).

It is important to specify that we apply the same working process for the two lines. We produce very few items per year (between 12,000 and 13,000) and we can allow ourselves the luxury of producing them all in the same way using the same techniques for both cutting and processing.

hand made neapolitan shirt at italist

The cutting is done manually, we do not use computers or automatic systems but only scissors and real craftsmen. Only hand cutting allows us to obtain very high levels especially on checked shirts, only in this way can we make all the checks coincide on all points of the shirts.

After that the processing is still done with linear machines so the workmanship is very artisanal.

The only difference is that for the tailor-made ones we always make the seven steps by hand while for some of the more sporty and checked ready to wear line they are made with only four steps by hand.

Which fabrics do you prefer for your shirts and why?

My idea of ​​a product has always been to mix two worlds: the world of Neapolitan tailoring, therefore of handmade workmanship, therefore extremely traditional with a concept of a modern, contemporary, innovative product. Usually all the historic Neapolitan shirt factories made an extremely classic tailored product while the concept of combining these two worlds to make a modern “modern” shirt that was also sporty did not exist.

We use all the top fabrics that exist in the world with a predilection for Italian companies, famous names such as Carlo Riva considered the best fabric in the world and Gruppo Albini. We also use the best of European tradition such as Thomas Mason, David & John Anderson. The latter are famous because they produce all the fabrics with old “182S” looms. They are valuable pieces but smaller and to produce a shirt you need more fabric instead of 1.7m, 1.8m, or 2m as normally, 2.8-3m is needed.

salvatore piccolo shirts on italist

I’ve never been satisfied with the choice that the various fabric companies offered me and much of Salvatore Piccolo’s fame is due to the fact that I have always used exclusive fabrics, produced by and for me. In fact, by “exclusive” we do not mean color variations on bases of existing fabrics but rather on fabrics that did not exist before: we create from fabrics, to bases, to finishes, up to paintings.

I managed to get exclusives by creating a relationship of creative exchange and consultancy with producers over the years. The products created with and for me are exclusive but in subsequent seasons they also go on the market for other brands.

However, the pinnacle of Salvatore Piccolo research is represented by Japanese selvedge fabrics. The Japanese were very good at buying all the old ones on international markets after the war. We are talking about the 1960s and 1970s when these famous selvedge products, also known as “selvedge cotton”, typical of American denim, were produced.

“Mo” (Neapolitan slang expression to say “now”) all these old looms exist only in Japan and therefore only they continue to make these fabrics with these original authentic processes typical of the early twentieth century.

I have always bought these fabrics, we have an immense archive with all the variations: from Chambray to white, off-white, striped fabrics which however have a slightly vintage/heritage flavor. My shirt has also become famous in the world for this type of product because it is extremely Neapolitan tailoring but with this heritage, non-artificial, authentic flavor typical of a shirt from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

blue salvatore piccolo shirts

Why is a Salvatore Piccolo shirt worth its price?

The value of our shirts comes not only from the quality of the workmanship and materials but also from the research, the tailored fit and the attention to detail, fully justifying the price.

Ours is an economical price for what the product is, truly.

In-depth analysis: In general, how do Salvatore Piccolo shirts fit?

Salvatore Piccolo shirts are characterized by a comfortable fit, guaranteed by the high armhole. Thanks to the dart on the elbow, the sleeve follows the movement of the arm, making it a shirt that fits very well.

Bespoke is a different matter, where the product changes based on the customer’s fit. Tailor-made for us is only a shirt like my mother made at home and how it has always been made for many years. The process is even more complex: we create a model specifically for the customer’s body by producing a test “drape” with the customer’s physical characteristics.

napoli shirt by salvatore piccolo

We create a precise model: a customer can have a longer arm, a shorter arm; or a conformation curved forwards or backwards; one shoulder lower than the other. We then cut a model with the customer’s measurements to let him try it and from that test we then hope to be able to create his model or we repeat the process until we find the perfect fit.

Furthermore, for all made-to-measure shirts the fabrics are soaked in the washing machine before being cut. This process requires additional steps, greatly increasing the value and cost of the shirt.

And if you can, briefly explain the traditional measurement system for men’s shirts, which differs slightly from the typical Small, Medium, Large, etc.

The fit between regular standard sizes and SMLXL standard sizes is as follows. The regular standard size is mainly based on the neck measurement expressed in centimeters and equivalent inches so 15/38 means 15 inch or 38 cm, 15.30/39 means 39 cm and 15 and a half inches and so on. This is a more precise system of measurements because for each change in size there is a 1 cm difference on the neck but also 4cm on the bust (2cm per front side and 2 cm per back side).


mens classic dress shirt size chart conversion

However, when the SMLXL scale is used there is a double leap in size compared to tradition, therefore a size S is equivalent to a 38, while the M corresponds directly to a 40 and not to a 39, which means a difference on the bust of 8cm. As a result, the S might be too tight and the M a little flowy. When I buy a shirt for myself I always choose a M, and not S because I prefer it slightly looser and more comfortable.

Usually the SMLXL measurement is used for sportier shirts where there is no need for a perfect fit.

For those with an athletic build, do you recommend a size up?

Our tailoring approach allows you to adapt the shirt to the shape of your body, ensuring a perfect fit without the need to opt for a size up, maintaining comfort and style.

We ourselves use the SMLXL measurer only for the sportiest shirts, for work jackets, and overshells, in short wherever there is a need for a little more tolerance or comfort compared to size precision.

classic white napoli shirt at italist

How can Salvatore Piccolo shirts be worn in both classic and casual contexts?

My shirts are designed to be versatile, suitable for both formal settings with a blazer and more casual occasions with jeans or chinos, reflecting a balance between traditional tailoring and a modern lifestyle.

Within my collections there are various influences in addition to the Neapolitan territorial one: the American vintage, the Anglo-Saxon style and lately a strong influence also from the Japanese world. We sell a lot in Japan and I go there at least twice a year and it’s natural to be influenced by it. The Japanese one is a style similar to ours but much more precise in terms of volumes. In my collections there is a bit of international influence but we always start from what is my world, my base, my tradition, therefore the tradition of Neapolitan tailoring.

salvatore piccolo on italist

Bonus question: Since we get asked pretty regularly, what are your top 3 recommended restaurants for anyone visiting Naples this year?

I recommend the culinary variety of Naples, in fact if we deal with the food part there is too much to tell and recommend in Naples, so I will only say three names:

Trattoria Da Dora for those looking for traditional fish cuisine, a historic Neapolitan restaurant in the center of Naples in the Chiaia area. A full-fledged trattoria in an alleyway, not in a nice place aesthetically but typical of the city.

Da Cicciotto in Marechiaro for a dinner with a breathtaking view, a place where in addition to eating well there is the possibility of having a view of one of the most beautiful panoramas in the world. A place overlooking the sea, in the evening it is spectacular and you can see Capri from the front with a full moon. One of the places that lasts for life.

The Caracol restaurant for a Michelin-starred gastronomic experience, not in the city but near Naples, considered one of the most beautiful and romantic restaurants in the world: a beautiful terrace on a cliff overlooking the spectacular sea.

And for the pizza?

There are many, many “modern” ones that now (Neapolitan version of “ora/now”) make a gourmet pizza so there is an infinite world. But I go for the classic and therefore I say: Di Matteo, Da Michele, and Trianon for the real Neapolitan pizza.

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About the Author

Alex English is the Head of Content Marketing at, building on a lifelong passion for fashion and luxury. After publishing a lifestyle blog for nearly ten years and obtaining an MBA in Milan at SDA Bocconi, one of Europe’s top business schools, he joined the italist team in 2019. His work since then has focused on upper-funnel messaging, brand storytelling, establishing italist as a thought leader in the space, and enriching the customer experience on the platform. Find him on LinkedIn.