Originally Posted by NewYorkRanger
Glad, I'm going to quote you here because what you have to say rings true for me as well, except as an Italian-American. The guido subculture has been something thats been shunned since its inception (the first generations of Italian-Americans who did their best to "Americanize" their immigrant parents customs) and its something I consciously try to avoid when I dress, whether its casual, street wear, or CBD-or as CBD as I get. I like you, however, have realized that there is some importance to this "guido" culture, that as much as they try to disconnect from the old country, ties directly into the lives their ancestors lived and the reasons those men and women LEFT Italy in their own diaspora, and in fact should be embraced by Italian Americans because our culture is also disappearing. In fact, the topic, not necessarily from a sartorial perspective, will be a pet project of mine that a few SFers and the many IA friends I have will be helping me formulate through the sharing of their experiences.
Back to the sartorial, well sort of. My great grandparents came to NY over 120 years ago and when they did they did everything they could to "become American", even if it was at the expense of their own culture. This included dressing American, speaking American, and eating American. They became avid NY Giant fans (baseball) and spent much of their little leisure time at the Polo Grounds faking American accents in the stands. Another aspect of the "change-over" was the disassociation with the Roman Catholic/Latin Church. Although still members on Sunday, much like the conversos and marranos of Spain during the Inquisition, they stayed far away from it during the week. The easiest way they could do that was to adopt a WASP wardrobe. The guidos, who could easily be identified through their accents and clothes, whether its The Situation on Jersey Shore today, or Tony Manero from Saturday Night Fever 35 years ago, were clearly Italian Americans and clearly Catholic. Italians who came here wanted nothing to do with a religion that was viewed as archaic and un-American, and the esiest way to do that in everyday ife was through dress and speech. Even Italian names began to change once in America (my great grandfather went from DonDiego to Bell, and first names became Anglicized). It also probably didn't help the situation that Church officials top to bottom across the South (formerly Kingdom of the Two Sicilies) were implicit in the brutal oppression that Garibaldi and his cronies laid on the people there in the 1860s. But thats for another thread...
Anyway, as we as a society look upon people like Mike The Situation with disgust (A&F paying him NOT to wear their clothes...imagine if they made that same offer to an African American start today) they are holding onto more of their identity, albeit changed over the years, more so than the Italian Americans who know little of where they come from and view their Northern oppressors as heros and icons of their culture (which in my mind is the biggest falsehood in Italian American identity, as most of us hail from the South, where we spoke a different language-I wont even call it a dialect, I argue it was as different as Spanish and Portuguese-and had a very different culture and way of life). That different way of life was a polar opposite to the Protestant American Capitalist work ethic and caused the same type of problems within our subculture that we are now seeing in Greece, another Mediterranean culture with whom Southern Italians have much in common. I'll share with you this last story of my Neapolitan family. The Nunziatas came here in 1900, and during the 20's, 30's and 40's they owned a scrap metal business. When the Second WW started they could have made millions, but instead chose to work and get enough scrap so that they could shut down shop and spend the rest of the day at the beach, or lounging around. At first glance, and most of my own family feels this way, this would seem lazy and undesirable. But if you look deeper, it was just their way of showing what held more value in their lives. Rather than working all day, and making a ton of money for future generations, they valued the time they had on this earth with their family (they were very close) and to them, that was worth more than the dollar bills that could have lined their pockets and bought them expensive wardrobes. Some will say (with their Protestant American Work Ethic branded on their consciousness) that these folks were lazy, entitled bums, just like many are calling the young Greeks today. I argue, that this philosophy, which frustrates a great many Western Capitalist visitors when they go to places like Naples and the Greek Islands (shops closing for the entire month of August, 2 and a half hour lunch breaks, opening at 11, closing at 4), is neither lazy nor entitled, but simply has value placed on other things aside from money and work. Its why the Nunziatas were usually in a pair of trousers and "wife beater" guido undershirts all the time. Because it was the time and people they got to enjoy life with, rather than the "stuff" that we've been brainwashed to "need" by our capitalist system. Most Italian American try to distance themselves from that today, and one way is through how they dress, by consciously avoiding the very style (life and sartorial) that was once the very foundation of who they were, or weren't.