Real People: A Light Palette for Summer Denim

In the summer swelter of the mid-Atlantic, I try to hang in there with jeans but eventually succumb and put on a pair of shorts. I enjoy the comfort of shorts and even like a lot of styles (fatigue shorts!), but I try to dress to my advantages and pants are more flattering on me, and they keep the mosquitoes at bay.

These shots from Kyle in New York (left, with hat) and Tom in Toronto show that heavily washed denim (a.k.a. dad jeans) and a lighter overall color palette can make for more interesting warm weather wear than the default cotton shorts and a tshirt or polo. Tom’s shirt jacket is an ideal summer layer (at least in Canada) and his vintage Levi’s (Not LVC or big E or anything, just plain old old Levi’s) are an underrated blue the shade of a June sky.  The lower contrast among the pieces suits the season, and there’s nothing left to the mosquitoes.

The jeans Kyle is wearing are more heavily distressed in a way I’d like my raw jeans to get, but they always fall to pieces before they make it. They’re a defense of predistressed denim, or maybe just washing your jeans. Like Tom, he’s wearing several interesting items but only one strong pattern.  Both Kyle and Tom stick with lighter colors that won’t absorb as much light or emit as much heat as darker tones, and so are more likely to be comfortable in direct sunlight, although Kyle relaxes victoriously in the shade of a backyard patio.

The danger with heavily washed jeans of course is the “full dad”—avoid wearing them with shapeless polo shirts and walking shoes, comfy as that might sound. Simple white canvas sneakers like Tom’s chucks are ideal, or suede shoes in the vicinity of tan.

-Pete

Real People: Summer Linen Suit

My friend gdl203 maintains a really nice thread on StyleForum where he reposts his favorite pictures that other members have posted of themselves. It’s a nice way to catch some of the best looks on StyleForum if you don’t have time to follow one of the many “What Are You Wearing Today” threads (where the activity can get quite busy). Gdl203 doesn’t update his thread often, but when he does, it’s always great.

His latest post came three days ago, and it’s of a StyleForum member in Germany named David. David is seen here attending an alumni mixer while wearing a khaki linen suit, blue and white candy stripe shirt, and a solid brown tie. For shoes, he has chestnut colored wingtips, which is a much more summery color than your standard dark browns.

I like how the stripes on his shirt break up the expanse of solid colors on his suit and tie. It adds a bit of variation where a solid blue shirt would have not. I also really appreciate how breathable the suit looks. Not only is it made from a pure linen, but it has three patch pockets. This allows it to do away with any lining that would otherwise be necessary to protect interior bags used for welted pockets. And though it’s hard to judge from a photo, the coat also looks quite soft, suggesting that the canvassing and chest piece inside are relatively thin. Having an unlined jacket with only a thin layer of material allows heat to escape more easily, thus letting the wearer stay as cool as possible. Useful if you, like me, get hot easily.

Of course, what I really like most are the wrinkles. While some people can’t stand how linen rumples and creases, I think the look imparts a certain carefree, natural charm. It suggests that the wearer himself is stylish, not that his clothes are perfect.  

Our pal and sometime contributor Noe Montes just told me about Mexicalo, a new menswear brand based here in LA. Their goal is to re-interpret traditional Mexican and Mexican-American aesthetics for the contemporary world, and their first collection looks really tremendous. Above you can see some short-sleeved shirts, one called “Aztec Neon" in colors inspired by the vibrant colors believed to have decorated the Aztec world. Below is one of my favorite designs from the collection: mariachi pants transformed into shorts, for your casual Vicente Fernández-ish days. And I know that if I were a bad-ass 21st century Chicano, I’d be rocking the Not Conquered tee weekends.

Kent’s White Sneakers v. 2.0

Kent Wang just released version two of his plain white leather sneakers. I bought the first version late last year, but winter weather being what it is, I haven’t been able to wear them until the last month or so.

Kent’s design can be most easily compared to Common Projects’ Achilles, a white low top that has been immensely popular with style enthusiasts for the last five years or so. Like the Achilles, Kent’s is plain and minimalistic, which is a nice break from all the over-designed sneakers we’ve seen in the last two decades or so. The biggest difference between the two, however, is the silhouette. The Achilles is a bit sleeker, the sole comes up a bit higher on the shoe, and the shoe itself comes up a bit higher on the ankle. You can see this difference in the last two photos above. Kent’s second version, however, improves on the first by elongating the toe, so it looks a bit less stubby, and also pushes the sole ever so slightly so that it comes on top of the toe box.

The remaining sizes of Kent’s first version have all been discounted to $65 and the second has been introduced at $95. Not cheap, but in comparison to other white minimalistic sneakers – Saint Laurent Paris ($500), Common Projects ($350), Svensson ($300), and Erik Schedin ($135, once you deduct for VAT) – Kent’s is the most affordable around. Of course, affordability does come at a price. The Achilles, for example, is made from a higher-quality leather and the sole is reinforced with stitching. Still, for $95, these are pretty nice and would look great with jeans and chinos this coming summer.

Available sizes right now include 7, 8, and 9, but sizes 10 and larger will be made available in about six weeks.

White Denim Season
I have one pair of white blue jeans - some 501s not unlike the ones above - and this is the time of year they come out. Despite their weight, they actually wear reasonably cool, and end up being a great option on days when the sun’s out and it feels like summer, but it’s not quite hot outside.
Our friend CBenjamin’s in the picture above, and his outfit has a lot going on. He pulls it off well, but I find that I have good luck pairing my jeans with very simple compliments. Even as simple as a plain navy t-shirt and canvas sneakers. (I avoid white tops; white-on-white is a little too Andrew WK, though Andrew always looks great.)
White jeans also make a nice compliment to a summer blazer. With tan bucks, like CB is wearing, and a pale blue shirt, you have a relaxed look that’s surprisingly pull-off-able.
One note: CB’s white 501s, and mine, are tapered slightly by a tailor. This will cost you about $20, but I find that a trendier, slimmer fit is more appropriate with a jean like this. It helps drive home the point that you’re wearing white denim on purpose.

White Denim Season

I have one pair of white blue jeans - some 501s not unlike the ones above - and this is the time of year they come out. Despite their weight, they actually wear reasonably cool, and end up being a great option on days when the sun’s out and it feels like summer, but it’s not quite hot outside.

Our friend CBenjamin’s in the picture above, and his outfit has a lot going on. He pulls it off well, but I find that I have good luck pairing my jeans with very simple compliments. Even as simple as a plain navy t-shirt and canvas sneakers. (I avoid white tops; white-on-white is a little too Andrew WK, though Andrew always looks great.)

White jeans also make a nice compliment to a summer blazer. With tan bucks, like CB is wearing, and a pale blue shirt, you have a relaxed look that’s surprisingly pull-off-able.

One note: CB’s white 501s, and mine, are tapered slightly by a tailor. This will cost you about $20, but I find that a trendier, slimmer fit is more appropriate with a jean like this. It helps drive home the point that you’re wearing white denim on purpose.

Real People: Derby Day

I love The Thrifty Gent's Derby Day outfit. All thrifted, by the way. Note the horse motif on the tie. If ever there was a day where a ridiculous seersucker costume was appropriate, it's Derby Day. Especially if you're a mild-mannered southern minister, which Thrifty Gent is.

A Shade Lighter

I’m a big believer in dressing seasonally. Consider a simple, basic pairing: a blue oxford cloth button down shirt with a mid-weight navy wool blazer. It’s a classic combination that can be relied on year-round. But in the fall and winter months, this can be switched into a cotton/wool blend flannel shirt and tweed jacket, and then in the spring and summer, changed into a madras shirt and linen sport coat. The OCBD and navy blazer can be always worn (well, depending on the harshness of your climate), but the other pairings will better reflect the moods of their respective seasons.

Dressing seasonally can also mean adjusting your color palettes. For spring and summer, this can be as simple as wearing things just one shade lighter. So instead of a navy sport coat, consider Royal Air Force blue or French blue. Instead of dark brown shoes, consider chestnut or tan. Instead of dark grey suits, consider a more summery dove grey. These can all be the same exact garments, but in being one shade lighter, they’ll automatically feel more in harmony with the season.

Keeping Summer Simple

I don’t love shorts, but I wear them. Why? The truth is that I’m a San Francisco guy living in Los Angeles. My internal thermostat can handle temperatures from about 55 to 80, so when the weatherman says “high of 91” and I don’t have a meeting or a reason to wear something fancy, I reach for a pair of shorts. It’s tough to admit, but it’s true.

When it’s genuinely hot outside, I work hard to keep things simple and lightweight. Above is the kind of outfit I’m talking about. The shirt’s from J. Crew - right now they’re full retail, $89.50 (!), but I didn’t pay more than $30 for any of the linen in my closet. I usually buy them in-store late in the summer, when they’ve been marked down a couple times. When I see some plain white linen that works well for me, and it’s $23 a pop, I buy a few. I’ve got a couple with something going on, and a couple more in white and light blue solid. Perfect for every occasion.

The shorts are by Uniqlo, and they’re $30. These aren’t world beaters, quality-wise, but they’ll get you through a summer or two. Focus on basics - khaki is of course number one, but white’s surprisingly easy to wear when it’s genuinely summer out. Navy blue’s pretty useful, too.

The shoes are plain plimsolls - traditional canvas sneakers. I actually bought this pair a few weeks ago right after posting about them here, they’re Keds. Thirty five bucks out the door (though there are only a couple sizes left now). Plain white and navy are workhorses for summer sneakers. If they get dirty, don’t sweat it. If they get gross and ratty, replace them. Besides Keds, we like to recommend Converse and Superga. Keep those feet fresh with no-show socks like these.

There are other options, of course. I love the madras shorts and shirts from Lands’ End, for example. I’m a big ghurka shorts man, and if it’s really summery and I’m not walking too far, I wear espadrilles. But frankly, with a simple, coordinated outfit like this, you’ll have 99% of the other chumps beat. Heck, just by covering your toes you’ll have 90% beat. And trust me: no one wants to see your toes.

I’ve just lost forty minutes in the photo gallery of the Martin & Osa Johnson Safari Museum. The Johnsons were a Kansas couple who adventured their way through the 1920s and 30s, making some of the first wildlife documentaries on film and photographing both people and animals. Their book was called “I Married Adventure.” Wonderful.

I’ll admit it: I do love a good safari outfit.

Look for Linen Now
While it’s only the middle of April and the weather is still fluctuating between pleasantly warm and miserably wet, you should consider thinking optimistically toward summer’s heat and how to dress for it. 
For my first few professional years I wore regular cotton dress shirts to work — the same ones I wore year-round — and it never occurred to me until last summer that I ought to put an end to it and look for linen dress shirts. 
Derek wrote about linen shirts in the past and where to buy them, but I will say that they’re tougher to find off the rack in exact neck and sleeve sizes — although you can find a decent variety of linen sport shirts off the rack. 
If you’d prefer to not wait for end-of-season sales or your non-average length arms are too short/long for most options, then consider finding a made-to-measure option. And act sooner than later. 
If you’ve used a shirtmaker before and have your measurements dialed in, then turn-around time will be shorter. But if you’re new to the process or using a shirtmaker that requires longer lead time, giving yourself 6-8 weeks to get shirts that fit is what I’d recommend planning. 
I’ve found the cost isn’t much higher than what most retailers would charge. Plus, you’ll get shirts that fit you, the fabrics you want and the details you prefer. But if you wait until summer is already here, you can plan on spending a good amount of it waiting for your shirts to arrive, which isn’t fun. 
For those of you who are worried that linen’s wrinkles will be unsuitable for the office, I’d suggest finding a fabric that blends some cotton into the linen. The shirt will still wear cool, but it’ll resist wrinkling better. 
If you stick to solid colors, most people won’t notice the shirts you’re wearing are linen under your jacket, but you’ll definitely notice you’re not as sweaty. 
One tip I’d give is to add another half inch to your normal sleeve length. As linen wrinkles in the sleeves, the sleeves will ride up. If you want to show some cuff, this extra material helps prevent it. 
-Kiyoshi

Look for Linen Now

While it’s only the middle of April and the weather is still fluctuating between pleasantly warm and miserably wet, you should consider thinking optimistically toward summer’s heat and how to dress for it. 

For my first few professional years I wore regular cotton dress shirts to work — the same ones I wore year-round — and it never occurred to me until last summer that I ought to put an end to it and look for linen dress shirts. 

Derek wrote about linen shirts in the past and where to buy them, but I will say that they’re tougher to find off the rack in exact neck and sleeve sizes — although you can find a decent variety of linen sport shirts off the rack. 

If you’d prefer to not wait for end-of-season sales or your non-average length arms are too short/long for most options, then consider finding a made-to-measure option. And act sooner than later. 

If you’ve used a shirtmaker before and have your measurements dialed in, then turn-around time will be shorter. But if you’re new to the process or using a shirtmaker that requires longer lead time, giving yourself 6-8 weeks to get shirts that fit is what I’d recommend planning. 

I’ve found the cost isn’t much higher than what most retailers would charge. Plus, you’ll get shirts that fit you, the fabrics you want and the details you prefer. But if you wait until summer is already here, you can plan on spending a good amount of it waiting for your shirts to arrive, which isn’t fun. 

For those of you who are worried that linen’s wrinkles will be unsuitable for the office, I’d suggest finding a fabric that blends some cotton into the linen. The shirt will still wear cool, but it’ll resist wrinkling better. 

If you stick to solid colors, most people won’t notice the shirts you’re wearing are linen under your jacket, but you’ll definitely notice you’re not as sweaty. 

One tip I’d give is to add another half inch to your normal sleeve length. As linen wrinkles in the sleeves, the sleeves will ride up. If you want to show some cuff, this extra material helps prevent it. 

-Kiyoshi