In quite a few European cities, including most in Italy I’ve visited, you see small, slightly old-fashioned shops selling underwear and nightwear, often with these little hand-written price cards.
Although charming, the quality in these shops is often not at the superlative level we cover on Permanent Style – though they can be interesting for their range of vests and boxers in rare, old-fashioned designs.
It would be easy to take Schostal in Rome for one of these, given the variety of underclothing and similar price cards. But this beautiful shop operates at a higher level, and just as interestingly, has a long and rich history.
Schostal was founded in Rome in 1870, at a time when the country itself was just being unified. It occupied a bigger, grander space back then, and became something of an institution. It then only just survived WW1, when the Austrian founders were forced to leave the country, and had a similarly narrow escape from Mussolini’s racial laws a few years later.
Amusingly, the story with the latter is that owner Giorgio Bloch managed to convince the authorities that the Austrian name Schostal – despite being traditionally Jewish – actually stood for Societé Commerciale Hongroise Objects Soie Toile Articles Lainage (Hungarian Commercial Company selling Silk, Canvas and Wool Articles). As a result, although the shop had to close for two years during WW2, it didn’t have to transfer ownership like many other Jewish businesses in Italy.
Giorgio’s daughter-in-law and grandson now run the shop – Shirley and Andrew. That’s Shirley talking me through the extensive stock below. She was at pains to point out all the famous people than patronise Schostal, including Richard Gere and Naomi Campbell, Wes Anderson and Harry Styles.
That’s a very effective way to communicate the shop’s status, because although many locals stop by, there are also plenty of tourists. The current shop isn’t as prominent as the original on Via del Corso, but it’s close to the luxury shopping street Via dei Condotti, which runs down from Rome’s famous Spanish Steps.
I feel a Permanent Style reader is more likely to be struck by the quality and range of the clothing, however. Fine over-the-calf socks come in a huge range of colours and cost €25; many of the shirts often have beautiful hand-sewn embroidery; everything is made in Italy.
The shirts, pleasingly, come with a spare set of collars and cuffs, so Schostal can replace them when the originals wear through. This used to be pretty standard among bespoke shirtmakers, who either made a spare set for each shirt or held onto material to do so in the future. I remember talking about it with David Gale when he was at Turnbull & Asser, back when I had my first ever bespoke shirts made.
However, what most attracted myself and Milad (Abedi, photographer) was the pyjamas. Available in linen, voile, cotton twill and fibre mixes, they have a variety of collar designs, many colours, and also styles for men, women and children.
Some of the makes are admittedly quite straightforward, with a simple elasticated waist on the trousers and no fly. But it’s hard to argue with either the variety or the value, with most starting at €102.
The pyjamas also come in either long or short sleeves, and legs. Given it was roasting that day in Rome, Milad and I both liked the idea of pyjamas with both short legs and short sleeves.
I ended up getting the black cotton set shown below, which have been lovely when London has experienced heat waves. I imagine it’ll be the same when the temperature gets to that level later this summer.
There was a bit of a fashion trend at one point to wear sets like these outside – matching short-sleeve shirts and shorts. It’s not something that particularly appeals to me, but even if it did I wouldn’t say a set like this is that suited to the look, no matter how cool it is. The simple make and shape rather give away the fact that they’re pyjamas, rather than outdoor wear.
Schostal also carry knitted garments, with the range originally starting because so much underwear was knitted. Today that includes cotton T-shirts, merino T-shirts, and knitwear with every collar you can think of.
The only downside to this range of clothing is that sometimes a particular style, size and colour is not in stock. This seemed to be the case fairly often with the knitwear, occasionally with the pyjamas, and less so with socks and shirts.
Schostal do have e-commerce but the range is very limited – only two styles of pyjama, for example, with a total of four colours. The family has also deliberately never done wholesale, and you can see it would be hard with the pricing.
As ever with these independent shops, though, the lack of access is part of the charm. Although I’d like another set of pyjamas, I also like the fact that the shop is a destination, waiting for me whenever I manage to get back to Rome. It wouldn’t be the same if there were one in London and New York, or it was carried by Mr Porter.
For anyone that doesn’t know, I published a book with Thames & Hudson a few years ago with guides to similar independent menswear shops – it’s available on Amazon and the PS Shop.
It didn’t include Rome as one of the featured cities, but if we ever publish a second edition I certainly would, given the number of great places I visited. You can see six of them by searching for ‘Rome’ on PS.
I can do a shopping guide on the site too, if people are interested; the guides to other cities live here in the City Shopping Guide section.
I’m generally trying to update them every few years, and did that with Tokyo recently. Next will probably be London and New York.
- Black linen overshirt, Permament Style (restock later this month)
- White knitted cotton T-shirt, Thom Sweeney
- Off-white linen trousers, Ambrosi
- Black Sagan loafers, Baudoin & Lange
- ‘Californian’ sunglasses, Meyrowitz
Schostal is at Via della Fontanella di Borghese, 29