Celebrity stylist Ilaria Urbinati on men’s fashion essentials

With a stacked list of superstar clients including Ryan Reynolds, Rami Malek, Bradley Cooper and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, stylist Ilaria Urbinati is a true maestro of men’s fashion.

“When I started out, there were a lot more rules to menswear. People were not paying attention to men’s clothes; they didn’t care or notice,” Urbinati, who got her start as a fashion consultant on Showtime’s “The L Word,” told Page Six Style.

“But these days, there are no rules. The game has changed so much.”

For proof, look no further than Chris Evans’ Prince Charming-inspired look at the 2019 Oscars, or Donald Glover’s brown velvet Gucci suit at the 2017 Golden Globes. Both Urbinati-styled outfits turned heads — and made headlines.

Donald Glover at the 2017 Golden Globes
“This was the very first time I dressed [Donald Glover],” Urbinati said of this brown velvet Gucci moment from the 2017 Golden Globes. “He came in — we had just met — and there was a rack full of clothes. I said, ‘That’s the one you should wear.’ He said, ‘I completely agree.’ And he put it on, and then it kind of ‘broke the internet,’ as the kids say.”
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“With menswear, there are more parameters. Trying to work my way out of the box is fun for me,” the wardrobe whiz said, adding that one of her favorite parts of the job is breaking clients out of their comfort zones “just enough that they’re evolving their style.”

“Men are really surprised when they try on something new that they didn’t think would work — and then it does!” she added.

The Rock at the "Jumanji: The Next Level" premiere
“It’s fun to play with people’s idea of his image,” Urbinati said of her work with The Rock, seen here in Dolce & Gabbana at the “Jumanji: The Next Level” premiere in 2019. “We started playing with color — he’s worn chartreuse, he’s worn pink, he’s worn powder blue — and he still looks very masculine and very cool.”
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Of course, the fashion pro knows that most guys don’t spend their days posing on red carpets, nor are they able to keep a personal dresser on their payroll. That’s partly what inspired her to launch Leo, her men’s lifestyle website, which celebrated its first anniversary this month.

“I felt that the men’s space was lacking a one-stop shop,” she explained of the site, a passion project she started early in the pandemic.

Leo homepage
A look at Leo’s homepage.

“You can come here and read about style, but also read about football, a new book or film or podcast, get a cooking recipe or a cocktail recipe, or read about cigars or cars,” she continued. “The rule with Leo is: If it’s something that would appeal to men, it goes.”

Urbinati’s star clients make frequent cameos on Leo, too; The Rock reveals his favorite tequila recipe, for instance, while Joel Kinnaman discusses his love of jiu jitsu and Casey Affleck shares his guide to Boston.

Ilaria Urbinati surrounded by shoes
“I really love and kind of geek out over menswear in a way that I just don’t with women’s clothes,” Urbinati told us.
The Washington Post via Getty Images

Of course, there’s also a hefty helping of fashion and shopping advice, straight from the stylist herself — who often spotlights trends she’s “geeking out” about, from sweater vests to chunky-soled derby shoes to vintage Missoni cardigans.

But for those not yet ready to invest in the “slightly bohemian old man aesthetic” this season (her words), why not start with the basics? Below, get the scoop on — and shop! — the five easy sartorial staples every man should own, according to Urbinati.

1. A knit polo

“Ideally one with long sleeves, because you can wear by itself and it looks super professional, but it also looks great under a suit or a leather bomber. I think that button-ups are something that kind of went away during the pandemic; they’re very uncomfortable for most guys. But a knit polo will be the hardest-working item in their closet.”

John Smedley polo shirt

John Smedley Payton Merino Wool Polo Shirt ($235)

Cos polo shirt

Cos Relaxed-Fit Knitted Polo Shirt ($89)

Todd Snyder polo shirt

Todd Snyder Merino Full Placket Polo Shirt ($248)

2. A slim belt

“A good, slim belt with a slim buckle is really hard to find. Even for me, when I go to stores, it’s almost always big buckles, big wide belts. But I think if you put a slim belt —  especially if you can get one in a cool color, like a blue or green — on with a trouser and a sweater, you’re dressed.”

Anderson's belt

Anderson’s Black Leather Belt ($165)

Officine Creative Strip Belt

Officine Creative Strip Belt ($150)

Reiss Leather Belt

Reiss Leather Belt ($120)

3. Trousers

“Burn your skinny jeans! I prefer a pleated, slightly slouchy trouser — and it can still be tapered. Even if it’s a chino, if it’s got trouser pockets on it, it’s automatically a more elevated look than a five-pocket chino, which just looks like a jean.”

COS pants

Cos Relaxed-Fit Tapered Chinos ($125)

Ami Paris pants

Ami Paris Slim-Fit Tailored Trousers ($410)

Reiss pants

Reiss Brighton Pleat Front Trousers ($245)

4. White low-top sneakers

“I love a simple, clean white sneaker. You can wear it with a peacoat in the winter and that looks awesome; you can wear it in the summer with shorts and it looks awesome. You can even wear it with a suit to a beach wedding.”

Axel Arigato White Clean 90 Sneakers

Axel Arigato White Clean 90 Sneakers ($225)

Greats Royale Sneakers

Greats Royale Sneakers ($180)

Common Projects White & Navy Retro Low Sneakers

Common Projects White & Navy Retro Low Sneakers ($465)

5. Espadrilles

“A leather sandal on a guy makes me want to jump out a window. Nobody wants to see your toes!”

Castaner espadrilles

Castañer Navy Suede Pablo Espadrilles ($170)

Scarosso Diego Espadrilles

Scarosso Diego Espadrilles ($157)

Brunello Cucinelli
Suede Espadrilles

Brunello Cucinelli Suede Espadrilles ($695)