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  • Words by Mr Mansel Fletcher, Features Editor, MR PORTER

Any fool can look sharp in a suit. However, as politicians the world over discover every summer, dressing down successfully is far harder than dressing up. In 1971 President Richard Nixon, keen to co-opt some of the late President John F Kennedy's youthful appeal, posed for some photographs on the San Clemente shore in California. The result was that he was widely mocked for wearing suit trousers and dress shoes on the beach. In the end his awkward appearance contrasted so unfavourably with JFK's exemplary off-duty style that the stunt did nothing but accentuate the differences between the two men.

The reason for this is that relaxation is the key to the success of any holiday, and so the ideal vacation wardrobe should look and feel relaxed. Aside from underwear nothing that a man sports in the workplace deserves a space in your suitcase. Because we spend our days in an air-conditioned office we need to be reminded of what works on holiday, so we've dug out these old photographs to conjure up a mood of off-duty elegance. The images remind us that it's vital to get the fabric and fit of clothes right. Substantial natural fabrics (we're talking cotton and linen here) are the key, not only because they "breathe" but also because they wear well and can be thrown into the washing machine when dirty. It's hard to be relaxed around sun cream, sand and melting ice creams if everything you're wearing has to be dry-cleaned.

As far as fit goes we believe that slightly looser clothes work best in the heat. They allow the air to circulate, and the way that they feel is conducive to relaxation. So save your slimmest trousers and close-fitting shirts for the city, and take a leaf out of Mr Gregory Peck's book and wear clothes that can move with the breeze. Colour is the final part of this puzzle, and strong light provides a great opportunity to wear brighter colours than usual. Whether that means a lavender-coloured pair of J.Crew's Stanton shorts, or a Burberry Prorsum shirt with a bold print, is down to taste. But either way the summer is the time to turn up the brightness, although if you have very pale skin it's best to wait until you've caught a tan before going for the boldest shades of orange, red and yellow. Click through the gallery, above, to see seven men whose off-duty style was exemplary.