The Man’s Guide To Staying Stylish In Summer
How to remain cool in the heat this season.
Summertime. Is the living of it actually all that easy? Not always – unless you have the kind of lifestyle where wearing jersey shorts and a T-shirt all the live-long day is completely acceptable. For most of us, alas, this isn’t the case, and so we inevitably end up wrestling with two seemingly incompatible elements: style and heat. Yes, it’s nice to feel a bit of vitamin D thrumming through your veins, but the rashes and sweat patches? Not so much. Thankfully, there are more than a few hacks, clothing-wise, that will help you to survive the next few months as the temperatures continue to rise. Before you get all hot and bothered, here they are.
01. Switch up your fabrics
If you’re looking to wear tailoring in hot weather, the right fabrics are absolutely essential. This might seem a little obvious. Clearly, cotton is going to keep you cooler than wool and fleece. Linen, also, is an oft-proposed antidote to the heat of summer. But there are more nuances to fabric selection than that. In fact, there’s probably a whole other article in that (and here it is). For now, let’s just say that what’s important about a good summer fabric is not just its fibre, but its weight, weave and composition. Very tightly woven fabrics such as twill or poplin won’t keep you as cool as open-weave or knitted fabrics (ones that, when you hold them up to the light, you can see through). Given this, as well as looking out for particular fibres, we would advise you to consider some of the following fabrics.
VoileA gauzy, open-weave fabric typically woven from cotton or silk, often with other man-made fibres mixed in. It’s not only cool and breathable, but has a pleasingly liquid aesthetic to it, so works particularly well for this summer’s trending piece, the oversized camp-collar shirt.
SeersuckerA (usually) cotton fabric in which the fibres are woven in alternating stripes of density. The crinkled effect this gives the fabric means it doesn’t lie completely flat on the skin, which allows for greater air circulation and, ultimately, coolness.
HopsackThis is a relatively coarse-textured, open-weave fabric with a basket-like feel. It’s particularly good for summer suits because it’s cool and breathable like pure linen, but a lot more wrinkle resistant.
02. Think volume
Another way to ensure your clothing comes with its own air-conditioning system is to look at pieces that create volume around the body. This doesn’t mean just wearing everything two sizes too big, although, yes (sigh), this look is currently what you might call “on trend”. Instead, look for pleats. These allow for easy movement and keep fabric away from your skin at the crucial points, while retaining the overall cut and shape of the garment. The normal places you might find pleats are at the waistband of trousers (one pleat either side is usually enough, though Neopolitan tailor Rubinacci prefers two), or on the back of shirts. In the latter department, though, not all pleats are equal. If you’re really looking for extra coolness and are not so concerned about looking trim and smart, you should look for a shirt with a single, central pleat down the back, commonly referred to as a box pleat (see this example from J.Crew). A side pleat shirt (such as this one from Mr P.) typically has a pleat at each shoulder, which allows for extra ease of movement, but retains a perhaps more flattering and slim-fitting shape. If you prefer the latter fit, but could do with that little bit more breathing room, look for a shirt with additional pleats, either double side pleats, or, as with this one by Junya Watanabe, a combination of single side pleats and a box pleat.
03. Employ layers
The first instinct, when it’s hot, is often to wear less. This most definitely makes sense if you’re going to spend all day outside, but aside from when you’re on holiday, who ever gets to do that? The reality is that, in high summer, you’re likely to be moving from baking exteriors to chilly, air-conditioned environments. The only way to cope with this is to dress in layers and always carry some sort of bag (see below). To avoid overheating, these layers should be very light. Look to brands such as Sunspel and James Perse, which work with very fine cottons and linens, for your base layers (T-shirts and shirts). Light cardigans in linen yarns, such as this one from Altea, can be useful for throwing on in the evening when it gets slightly cooler. If you need some outerwear for during the day, shell blazers and jackets can be particularly useful, because they’re not only light, but can easily be packed away when needed. A hero product in this department is the ultra-light LT shell blazer from Arc’teryx Veilance, which is owned by roughly half the MR PORTER office and always causes a lot of embarrassing “twinsies!” comments at company parties.
04. Pare it back
A lot of the joy in menswear is in the details – linings, trimmings, extra stitching, pockets and such like. But in summer, you want as few of them in your garments as possible, as they’ll only weigh you down and leave you hot and bothered. Tailoring is typically full of such touches, so be sure to seek out examples that are deliberately unstructured, that is, stripped of extraneous padding and canvasing. Italian brands such as Barena, Altea and Aspesi are particularly good at this kind of thing. The same logic also applies to all sorts of garments in summer. When it comes to shirts, you might want to replace your trusty button-down with a collarless granddad variety to give your neck a bit more room to breathe. With trousers, opting for a style with external patch pockets, such as these from Officine Generale, means you will have less extra fabric next to your skin. With fewer interior and exterior details, even rather heavy fabrics can take on a summery cast, a case in point being this suede jacket we’ve produced for our in-house label Mr P., which comes completely unlined for a veritably throw-on-able quality.
05. Pick colours wisely
We’ve recently opined on the various things to take into consideration when choosing what colours to wear. But wait, there’s one more thing. It’s not entirely pleasant, unfortunately, but there’s not much we can do about it. In high temperatures you are likely to sweat and some shades – typically light blue, greys and darker pastels – show up those dark circles more clearly than others. So, if you have to wear a tight-fitting shirt in summer for a wedding, say, or formal occasion, it’s probably better to opt for one in white or, even better, a dense print or pattern, both of which are far less conspicuous when it comes to perspiration. Black is very forgiving, but also very heat-absorbing, so you should probably – no, in fact, always – give that a swerve. Alas, there’s nothing that style can do about pungent body odour.
06. Get a bag
If you’re wearing a lot of layers, as we suggest above, the only sensible thing to do is also carry around a bag, so you can easily take them off and stow them away. You don’t need to adhere entirely to MR PORTER’s dogmatic summer style commandments to feel the benefits of this particular accessory. The truth is that, because summer garments tend to be made of lighter materials, their pockets, if they have any, are not particularly wonderful for storing heavy or knobbly objects such as your keys, wallet and mobile phone. Stuffing these pieces with all your worldly goods is not only unsightly, but runs the risk of stretching and warping your well-picked wardrobe. So why do it? The easiest bag to cart such things around in is a tote, especially one with extra internal pockets, such as this one from Herschel Supply Co, but we know that not every man is a tote man. Backpacks can be handy, but are less useful in summer than they are in winter. When you wear them for too long, they can make your back overheat and result in nasty, rashy side effects. Our top recommendation for this summer? We’re aware it’s something of a fleeting trend, but the belt bag is actually the perfect size for such everyday items, and, hung loosely over the shoulder, as opposed to round the waist, which is now considered horribly uncool, causes very little hassle. Try this one from KAPITAL, which has a fun, folksy feel to it, thanks to its gourd-like shape.
07. Choose the right shoes
We know finding good shoes in summer is difficult. This is why we’ve created a capsule collection focused solely on this sub-category. If you’re looking for more general, and less salesy, advice in this direction, let us lay down just a few more pointers. First, though rubber soles may be good for many purposes, they’re comparatively non-breathable. So, in summer, we’d recommend a shoe with a natural-fibre sole. In winter, a leather sole is generally reserved for smart, formal styles, but in summer, so long as you’re not trawling through a jungle or across a field, you can get away with them on most occasions. If you’re addicted to Derbies for most of the year, we would strongly advise you to invest in a pair of loafers, which can also be smart, but are far kinder to hot feet. For weekends, rope-soled espadrilles or the many, sneaker-like variants thereof are the way to go. Sandals are also rather refreshing, but we’re aware they’re not suitable for a spectacularly wide range of occasions. If you need a bit of extra ventilation but can’t quite convince yourself to take the plunge, we’d suggest looking at styles that are rendered in perforated leather, such as these from Common Projects, or the various high-tech and knit sneaker designs available from Nike, adidas and APL Athletic Propulsion Labs.
Illustrations by Mr Nick Hardcastle