The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Campus Couture Spotlight – Professor Larry Pitilli

Professor Pitilli on his eclectic style, taking inspiration from the likes of Bowie and pro wrestlers and how fashion feeds his “creative soul.”
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Professor Larry Pitilli in his Thursday Boots, Levi’s and custom blazer in the Fashion Institute Office. Torch Photo/ Anna Mcfillin

Professor Larry Pitilli strolled into The Fashion Institute office on a Monday afternoon dressed in Thursday boots, Levi Strauss classic skinny jeans, a rust colored button down paired with a printed tie, and a custom, cheri wool, tan blazer with orange and navy accents. To top it all off, a vintage Rolex from the 1950s. 

Pitilli is a tenured speech professor and a St. John’s alumnus. When he was a student at SJU, Pitilli said, “Like everyone else, I chose the wrong major.” Initially studying business and then pivoting to a major in speech pathology, Pitilli worked with stroke patients and taught special education, eventually leading him back to St. John’s to take on the role of a professor. 

His true passion: Music.

As an educator, Pitilli conducted research on pop culture with a focus in music and now teaches classes about it. He grew up playing the piano, taking an interest in classical music. From there, his love for music only deepened. 

“I played in some rock and roll bands, wrote some music and even wrote for some off-Broadway theater,” he told the Torch. He also has been playing with the St. John’s Orchestra for the past few years.

“Music, pop culture and fashion have a lot in common,” Pitilli said. Reflecting on David Bowie’s influence in not only music but fashion, Pitilli says, “All of the personas that David Bowie had and all of the costumes he wore, he is the quintessential example to me of what you can do [with music and fashion].” 

Pitilli spoke about the idea that clothes have a particular effect on our moods and represent how we carry ourselves. For a star like Bowie to express himself creatively through different personas, Pitilli relates that to the different styles he rocks. He describes his own style as “eclectic.”

“Everything about me is eclectic. A mass of contradictions,” Pitilli said.

With an appreciation of fashion, Pitilli’s most notable — and somewhat surprising — fashion inspiration came from pro wrestler Buddy Rogers, who was a WWE champion in the 60s. 

“He was a tough, arrogant guy. I remember he was always dressed in nice suits,” Pitilli said. “I was watching an interview with him after a match and he said, ‘They say that clothes make the man but in my case the man makes the clothes.’ It’s a two way street.”

Pitilli prepares his extravagant outfits for each week on Sundays, with help from his Amazon Alexa. “I ask Alexa about the weather. If I am dying to wear an outfit and it is raining, I will use the wide brim umbrella and make it work,” he said.

“Putting together outfits feeds my creative soul. There is gratification in knowing you were able put something special together,” he said. When he is not at work, he lounges in ripped jeans, a graphic tee and his Skechers.

Growing up in New York City, Pitilli’s father sold frankfurters while his mother worked in a factory. “They saved and did well for themselves. We made it work. I always had patches on my pants and was able to make things last,” Pitilli said. 

His oldest piece in his closet is an Australian lamb’s wool button-down vest that was bought by his father in 1952 in Jackson Heights. “I know how to do survival sewing to upkeep it,” he said. 

In the spirit of sustainability, Pitilli is a vegetarian and doesn’t indulge in leather products. “I will make an exception for shoes and belts,” he noted. When he is not teaching, he enjoys spending time with his five children and grandson, cooking and taking care of his garden; but that isn’t all he does outside of school. 

Pitilli attends physical therapy every Wednesday morning for his wrist before coming to campus. Back in September, he saw his skateboard fly out from underneath him. “It was an amateur’s mistake. I got on from the back instead of the middle and I went flying,” he continued. “I don’t do the fancy tricks, but I own a longboard and I take a cruise every now and then.”

With glowing reviews on the website Rate My Professor, Pitilli stands out not only with his fashion sense, but with his personality and teaching style. One student wrote, “Pitilli is the greatest professor to ever walk St. John’s campus,” while another wrote, “Just give this man an award!” 

Pitilli is aware of these kinds of reviews and expressed his deep gratitude for his students. 

“I am always very thankful. It does make me feel good, like I am doing something right.”

What he loves most about his job?  

“I am able to work with my brains and my soul on a daily basis,” he said.

 

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