“Please excuse me if I will speak in English but my Italian is very tiny.” So shoe designer extraordinaire Christian Louboutin kicked off the Bike Polo tournament named after him in Florence. From early morning on Tuesday, June 13th, eight teams of three players from around the world battled for the win in the Piazza S. Maria Novella, in front of an iconic Florentine church.
Born in 1999 in Seattle, Washington, Bike Polo shares more with hockey than with its distant cousin, traditional Polo. Yes, there is a ball, and of course goals — here the nets have little, light bells attached to them and each time a goal was scored I felt like a kitten had run onto the field — but clubs are replaced by mallets, ponies by bikes, and the feel of it is a lot more X-games on the hard court than posh green grasses and mint juleps. Or whatever people are drinking now at Polo games.
So while a certain American designer has long claimed the Polo player swinging a club atop his pony, Louboutin is bringing his own brand of glamorous street style meets shoe artistry to the Bike Polo court. And guess what, it’s quite a winning combination. It actually took me more than fifteen minutes to realize that the players, looking tough in their team t-shirts and shorts ensembles, were wearing Louboutin’s latest collection of mens shoes. To play the sport! And boy do those sneakers — I feel sacrilegious using that word for Monsieur Louboutin’s creations but there, I’ve done it! —- hold up. Through game after game, clash after clash, legs twisting around the opposing team player’s bike and long into the midday heat of Florence, they held up in glamour and might.
The result was a special kind of magic for me. The loud, rhythmic music, the sun, the players in all their unfussy, manly style, wearing those beautiful creations that put all other men’s shoes to shame, Florence in the background working its own kind of iconic beauty — each of those a fashion moment in itself, but altogether, a very cool example of how glamour unites. It soothes our sense of aesthetics and allows us to come closer to our fellow humans. Because when we are happier, we act better and we think more positively of others. And shoes, personally, make me happier.
Of course, Louboutin is no stranger himself to coolness and sports, and somehow uniting the world in style. He designed the official uniform for the 2016 Cuban Olympic team and to stay in shape, he flies trapeze. He even had bars installed inside his Parisian home. And since 2011, he’s been designing a menswear line that, if one looks at how men are wearing shoes today, appears wildly successful. I’ve seen his men’s creations worn in the Arab Gulf countries, throughout the US and on the streets of Italy.
But while my morning started and ended with Louboutin, including a sneak peak of his upcoming collection and the tournament in the Piazza along with yes, even Christian Louboutin pizzas, right between all the sports fun was the serious business of fashion. The opening ceremony of this edition of Pitti Uomo brought together on the podium the iconic Andrea Cavicchi, President of the Centro di Firenze per la Moda Italiana, Florence Mayor Dario Nardella and a newer face, the new President of Pitti Immagine Claudio Marenzi, who replaces outgoing President Gaetano Marzotto.
To Mayor Nardella belong the famous last words here, a wise phrase from Lorenzo il Magnifico, probably the best known member of the Medici family — the ruling family in Florence during the Renaissance. “Dica pur chi mal dir vuole, noi faremo e voi direte,” which roughly translates to “those who wish to speak ill of us, go ahead; we’ll do while you’ll talk.” And yes, in a world where we find it easier to pull someone down to make ourselves feel better, instead of using the same energy to lift ourselves up to a little more successful level, I think those words should be written in stone.