If you’re at least somewhat into menswear, you most certainly know who Gianni Agnelli was.

L’Avvocato, as he was also known (because he had a law degree) was one of the richest and most powerful men in modern Italy history, controlling almost 5% of Italy’s GDP as head of FIAT (and more than a quarter of the companies on the Milan stock exchange).

A Riviera playboy in the early 1950s, he later became one of the world’s most admired businessmen, and he remained the ultimate icon of Italian masculinity.

A menswear touch he’s famously know for is wearing his wristwatch on top of his shirt cuff.

Gianni Agnelli - monday icon on silviutolu.com

Gianni Agnelli / A true menswear icon by Silviu Tolu

Gianni Agnelli: “Oh, I’ve certainly never been short of pleasure. Do you know what real pleasure is? A creative act. A pleasure without creativity is dead boring.”

Between 1945 (when his grandfather, the founder of FIAT passed away) and 1952, having a reputed allowance of $1 milion/year to spend, he threw legendary parties at the 28-room Villa Leopolda on the Cote d’Azur (which was sold in 2008 for 500 million euros), and kept houses in New York and St Moritz as well as Turin, his hometown.

His circle of friends included  Prince Rainier, the young Kennedys and Errol Flynn as well as Rita Hayworth, Anita Ekberg and socialite Pamela Churchill Harriman – who he also dated.

Life magazine described him in 1967 as having “the sculptured bearing of an exquisitely tailored Julius Caesar”.

Gianni Agnelli, L'Avvocato / Icons by Silviu Tolu

“I like beautiful things that are well made. I even believe aesthetics are equivalent to ethics. Something that is beautiful is ethical, and unethical things aren’t beautiful—from tax dodging to doing things in an underhand way.”

From a brilliantly written article by Nick Foulkes on TheRake.com, we find that < A friend of Agnelli’s, Taki Theodoracopulos, looking back on those days, realised that the former had perhaps placed too much importance on style and panache. “Gianni cared immensely about style — things had to be done the right way,” said Theodoracopulos. “His one great fear was lacking style. Everything had to be done stylishly. And that’s a big fear when you think of it, you know, to always get it right, instead of saying ‘Oh, fuck it’ once in a while. He was very concerned with that, which I think is a great burden. He kept you there in awe. He had to keep up the image and mystique.” >

Gianni Agnelli / Icons by Silviu Tolu
Gianni Agnelli skiing in style

“My whole life has consisted of betting on the future.”

Today he would’ve been 97. So this post is also to wish L’Avvocato a Happy birthday and to thank him for inspiring so many in their sartorial (and lifestyle) endeavors.

Gianni Agnelli / ICONS by Silviu Tolu

Gianni Agnelli / ICONS by Silviu Tolu
At the top of his empire, FIAT
Gianni Agnelli / ICONS by Silviu Tolu
Gianni rocking a denim on denim outfit

Check out more Icons here.