When I was in Portugal, I thought that the jacket-on-the-shoulders look was a national fad specific to the area. I called it the Portuguese Drape. Now that I see that it is very common in Italy as well, I’ll have to call it the Euro-Drape. This is look that is created when a man leaves his jacket or sweater open but on his shoulders, with his arms outside of the sleeves.
I can only think of two ways this fad might have originated.
The origin that most people would think was more probable would have the weather man to blame. Sometimes people wear the wrong things because the weather man on TV is wrong. After watching a weather forecast, a person sometimes leaves the house with a sweater thinking it will be cold out during the day. That person doesn’t know what to do with the sweater when it ends up feeling like the Sonoran Desert outside. In a state of panic and hysteria, the person drapes the open sweater on the shoulders and avoids inevitable sweaty arms by refusing to insert them in the sleeves. That person walks down the street like that, other people stare, and eventually it catches on.
The other origin of the fad, and this hypothesis feels more accurate to me, would be that the first person to do the Euro-Drape has the forearms of Popeye the sailor man. The circumference of the man’s forearms were simply too large for the standard sleeves of a European sweater. In a state of panic and hysteria, the man with large forearms draped the open sweater on his shoulders, refusing to insert his arms in his sleeves in fear that his brand new, brand name sweater would be destroyed. That person walks down the street like that, other people stare, and eventually it catches on.
The reason why the Euro-Drape will always remain continental is the fact that American intellectuals and American Popeyes already have a solution to their sweater problems. That solution is to cross-tie the sleeves of the sweater around the neck method. In the U.S., the Euro-Drape doesn’t have a chance.
If it isn’t a sweater that is draped, it is the suit jacket/sports coat. The American solution to that is raised-arm, two finger hook that hangs the suit jackets by two fingers up by the shoulders. It looks as though someone has hung a coat on the fingers of a man who was providing quotations around his speech. As you already know, this method is a favorite among most middle-aged American men, including some usually modest men I know here and there. Without these solutions, we would, without a doubt, be seeing the Euro-Drape from sea to shining sea—and that is what I believe.