National Geographic : 1957 Apr
and his shoes polished. One of my neighbors started daily for his office clerk's job in dapper style, brief case in hand, hair slicked. Only after a month did a fellow boarder explain: "Nino has one business suit and two pair of pants, and he spends 20 minutes a morning at his pressing. That brief case? It has his sandwich and a little bottle of wine." The Roman male wishes above all to dress conservatively. His tie must be precisely so, his cuffs exactly right. He wears his snug, short-coated suit with a dignity approaching hauteur, and it is no secret that he cares far more about his appearance than the American or Briton. He shaves with loving care. He may wear a hair net overnight, so that his hair won't be too unruly when he labors at his hair part in the morning. Softly beautiful Roman girls in twos and threes emerge from their homes after strug gling over their "dress" costume; the mate rial may be inexpensive, but the cut will prob ably be superlative. They have also worked long at their dark, magnificent hair. 471 From my friend Salvatore I quickly re ceived a lesson in the importance of the looks of things. Meeting him, I saw his eyes go to my shoes. "They were shined yesterday," I said. "People will know it wasn't today." "Appearances aren't everything." "In Rome they are, practically." By then he had steered me to a shoeshine man on the Piazza Colonna. Every Buyer a Bargainer Like other early-morning Romans, I often passed stalls or wagons along the narrow streets. To the newcomer Italian produce looks uniformly superb, picked at precisely the best moment. Ripe gold oranges, toma toes of a rich redness, apples, and other fruit are tied together with grapevine and displayed with a flair. Once more, style matters. But no matter how good the display looks, purchasers rum mage, pinching, squeezing. "No, no, not those. They aren't worth half the price."