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The Smart Man’s Guide To Summer Trousers

From the fit to the fabric you should be wearing, we’ve done the legwork so you don’t have to

On the face of it, the concept of “summer trousers” is oxymoronic. Summer, surely, is synonymous with shorts. Though we’ve recently proved that there’s a grown-up way to wear the schoolboy essential (see here for our investigation), we acknowledge shorts aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, nor are they suitable for every eventuality the season throws at you. The last time we checked, for example, the majority of workplaces still frowned upon shorts in the office, even when the air conditioning is on the blink. We’re also well aware that there are varying degrees of summer. What the MR PORTER team based in London consider a balmy day pales in comparison to the scorching temperatures our LA colleagues are accustomed to. Which is why we’ve put together this handy guide to make picking the perfect pair of summer trousers just a bit easier. As is the case with most menswear, it all comes down to two fundamentals: fit and fabric. Let’s get started.

THE FABRIC

It’s conventionally held that white jeans are tougher to pull off than their indigo counterparts. Though it’s true that they demand more thought (and a cautious approach to eating spaghetti), they’re still much easier to wear than you’ve been led to believe. Plus, they’re innately summery. To get it right, just follow a few simple guidelines and you’ll be there faster than you can say “I’m spending summer in the Hamptons.” A straight-leg or slim-leg pair such as these from Polo Ralph Lauren works best (skinny white jeans are markedly less forgiving) and, if you’re new to the game, steer clear of top-to-toe white – that includes your sneakers.

A dead ringer for denim, chambray is thinner and lighter than its true-blue twin – the facsimile fabric is created through weaving two different-toned yarns, one white weft, one coloured warp, to create the illusion. Frescobol Carioca, a seasoned specialist in all things summery, gets extra points for making this drawstring pair out of Tencel, a brand of Lyocell which, aside from its lightweight and breathable credentials, is a sustainable alternative to synthetics. Wear them just as you would your trusty pair of jeans.

The mention of “stretch” in relation to fabric may bring to mind unpleasant thoughts of skin-tight spandex-like garments, or substandard denim. On the contrary, the presence of flexible fibres – usually elastane or similar – in small quantities should be considered desirable, since it helps trousers hold their shape longer and makes your clothing easier to move in. This is especially advantageous in summer when your activity levels are likely to increase slightly above the “sitting inside and bingeing Game Of Thrones” winter baseline. Which explains why stretch-cotton, for example, is the material most commonly used to make chinos, one of the hardest working items in a man’s wardrobe, and a summer staple.

In 1965, The Rolling Stones inadvertently gave us some styling advice (don’t worry, it has nothing to do with shaggy bowl haircuts) that remains just as relevant today as it did way back then: “Sitting on the beach every day, yeah/ I’m real, real sharp, yes, I am/ I got a Corvette and a seersucker suit,” Sir Mick Jagger sang. And, odds are, you’d be smug, too, if you had these things your disposal. There’s a scientific explanation for why seersucker – a puckered, self-striped fabric – is better than most at keeping you cool in the summer sun that involves the even dispersion of heat and the creation of tiny air pockets that restrict the fabric’s contact with your skin. But The Rolling Stones got to the bottom of another reason we’re still so enamoured with the lightweight fabric long after Mr Gregory Peck donned a three-piece suit made of the stuff in To Kill A Mockingbird – it looks really good, in the effortless sort of way everyone’s aiming for this time of year.

Linen, as a cooler, more breathable alternative to wool, is often proposed as a substitute fabric for smarter trousers during summertime. If you’re diligent about getting them professionally pressed and are careful to remain standing at all times, there’s no reason you can’t wear them to the office. Realistically however, linen is notorious for its tendency to crease, a characteristic we think adds to its charm when worn in casual contexts but may make it unsuitable for formal social engagements. Instead, reserve pairs such as these from French brand Hartford for long weekend lunches or your summer holiday – they’re likely to rumple in transit, but that’ll only enhance their appearance when worn poolside.

Summer usually brings with it an endless flurry of wedding invitations where the designated dress code can vary from beach-ready to safari style (see here for our advice in each respective scenario). The chances are, though, most of the nuptials you’re summoned to attend during these months will still require something smarter. This isn’t really the time or place to think outside the box – unless, of course, it’s your big day, in which case you can do whatever you damn well please. In any other situation, a neatly-pressed pair of suit trousers – like these from Savile Row-based tailor Richard James – and a matching jacket are likely your best bet. Aside from their undeniably summery sky-blue colour, the fabric is what sets them apart – a type of basket-weave which uses two-warp and two-weft threads rather than the usual one, ensuring a looser, more open structure that’s considerably cooler than your more run-of-the-mill woven fabrics.

THE FIT

Even if you’re not actively seeking them out, chances are a good deal of the trousers already hanging in your wardrobe are slightly cropped. Flashing a little ankle has become the new standard since everyone realised those swampy pools of fabric that settled on top of their shoes weren’t doing anybody any favours. “Full breaks”, as they’re known in the trade, have the unfortunate tendency to make your legs look shorter, while slightly cropped trousers will give the illusion of height as well as offering a little respite for your legs in warmer weather. This checked pair from our in-house line Mr P. has the advantage of being smart enough for work, too. If your office is comfortable with you flashing a bit of ankle, we suggest investing in some no-show socks to go with them.

It used to be that donning pleated trousers denoted your membership of a certain milieu. Nowadays, though, you don’t have to be a gentleman of a certain age nor an attendee of the Pitti trade shows to pull off a pair. This is welcome news for those of us who struggle in the heat of high summer, as those extra folds of fabric afford a breeziness and comfort lacking in more fitted styles. That’s not all, though. The presence of pleats lends the rest of your outfit an unstudied and understated elegance. Rubinacci’s Manny trousers are a favourite among experienced pleat proponents since they extend further through the leg and so elongate rather than exaggerate your frame.

he rise of the workwear trend has certainly played a part in the return of wider-legged trousers to our wardrobes. Or perhaps everyone just got tired of having to squeeze their legs into stretch-denim. Whatever the rationale, the roomier cut is a breezy treat come summertime. But go too baggy and you’ll look like you’ve run away to join the circus. Cleverly, this terracotta-toned pair from Story Mfg. is fitted with an internal drawstring which fastens at the back of the waistband to temper the fit accordingly.

If, even after reading the previous paragraph, you’re still experiencing trepidation about going too wide in the leg, have no fear. Instead of instinctively reaching for your tried-and-tested skinnies, we’d advise trying a tapered pair. The fit offers everything that’s familiar about slimmer silhouettes, but with a generous amount of room through the waist, thigh and seat. The whole effect is to streamline and flatter while offering some much-needed breathing room in warmer weather – it’s the best of both worlds. If you’re itching to try out one of this season’s most summery trends, opt for this pastel-pink pair from Officine Generale.

Isn’t it funny how quickly the peculiar becomes commonplace? It wasn’t too long ago that we were trying to persuade our mates that a drawstring waistband, once solely reserved for sweatpants and pyjamas, was an entirely appropriate fixture on proper trousers, too. How times have changed. The rise of the the drawstring trouser has coincided with a more comprehensive evaluation of workplace dress codes, to the extent that today, there’s a good chance that you’d get away with wearing a pair as relaxed as this linen Loro Piana example at the office. For those whose officewear conventions sway towards the conservative, you’ll find them just as suitable for long weekend lunches.

We know, cargo trousers aren’t technically a “fit”, per se. But our business is style and, as such, it is our responsibility to inform you that the once-reviled, multi-pocketed cargo pants are back. The craze for all things 1990s is responsible for their return – particularly those of the camouflage variety such as this Carhartt WIP pair – but the style’s practical merits (ie, its multitude of pockets) shouldn’t be overlooked. And if you still find yourself in need of a little extra storage on-the-move, you could always double down on the 1990s look with a belt bag.