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Seersucker is an American classic, but it carries a lot of baggage. A few years ago, as a joke, Missouri state senator Ryan McKenna added something to the end of an education bill that would ban people from wearing seersucker suits. His ad-hoc, handwritten amendment read: “Any person living in this state aged 8 and under may wear seersucker suits at their leisure. Any person over the age of 8 living in this state may not wear seersucker suits because adults look ridiculous in seersucker suits.”
McKenna later withdrew the amendment (he never intended it to be serious). But the fact remains, seersucker can conjure up old-timey ideas of Southern gentility. Men chomping on fat cigars and cucumber sandwiches, swilling their mint juleps while attending lawn parties. It’s an association that appeals to certain people for the same reason it repels others.
Yet, few fabrics feel as comfortable on a sweltering day. If you want to wear seersucker this summer, but in a modern way, try tonal colors. Proper Cloth has seersucker suits, sport coats, and shirt jackets in tonal greens and blues, which add a textural element to a summer outfit without going full Southern prep. They also have lightweight seersucker shirts in staple colors such as white, blue, and tan. Darker shirt colors such as navy can also visually help anchor a tailored jacket when you’re not wearing a tie.
Men’s style has been confined to simple lines and sober colors since the days of Regency England, but the summer shirt remains one of the last places where you can still wear a bit of pattern and color. In the 1960s, shortly after Hawaii attained US statehood, mainland Americans wore Aloha shirts for the freedom they represented: a warm island life far away from cold factory work and steel offices, where you could be serenaded by ocean waves and fall asleep on the beach. Somewhere along the way, the dream got corrupted. Colorful, printed shirts, particularly those in oversized, short-sleeved form, have become the style signature of guys with outsized personalities: golfing uncles, Guy Fieri, and Smashmouth fans.
In the last few years, the summer print has come back in earnest. Printed shirts can add visual interest to a simple outfit when it’s too hot for layering. When you’re confined to a simple button-up and some airy trousers, it helps to wear a more interesting print. But to avoid looking like a walking vacation postcard, choose something that doesn’t look like it came from Tommy Bahama. Wolf vs. Goat’s new summer shirts are made in Italy using Italian-woven cotton. They feature a more modern take on the classical tropical leaf print and can be worn with everything from shorts to jeans to tailored trousers. In a pinch, you can even pair them with a sport coat.
Readers might also want to check out the discounted shorts in Wolf vs. Goat’s sale section. Marked down to $45 (from an original price of $200), these were made in Italy using Belgium linen. They’re airy and comfortable, feature a modest 7″ inseam, and are built with a trouser construction for a slightly cleaner look. Pair them with those tropical print shirts and sockless loafers, or wear them with t-shirts and simple sneakers such as Sperry’s Cloud CVOs. They will keep you feeling comfortable this summer when temps reach 90-degree highs.
Over the last thirty years, suspenders have gone much in the way of hats. Once common in men’s wardrobes, they’ve become something of a relic of the past. Part of that has to do with how trousers have become increasingly low rise, thanks to designers such as Hedi Slimane and Alexander McQueen. But as men are rediscovering the virtues of higher-rise pants — which elongate the leg-line — suspenders make sense again (as they only really work with such silhouettes).
Why wear suspenders? For one, they’re more comfortable than organ-squeezing tourniquets. Since your waist expands when you sit, and return to its smaller circumference when you stand, belts are only comfortable in one of these positions. Suspenders, on the other hand, allow you to have a little extra room at the waistband to accommodate for these changes. Plus, they’re better at holding up your pants. Belted trousers tend to slip down throughout the day, which requires you to adjust them continually. With suspenders, you can set the desired length, put them on, and never bother with them again.
Chipp Neckwear has the most affordable ones around, at least if you’re looking for something well-made and produced in the USA. The price is $45.50, which –- much like the price of their grenadine ties -– is lower than their competitors. They offer 20 solid colors and three stripes, the choice of black or brown leather kips, as well as gold or silver-colored adjusters.
You don’t usually think of socks when you think of summer staples, but if you wear tailored clothing, Dapper Classics’ cotton socks are much more comfortable than the wool socks you probably (hopefully) already have in your wardrobe. Made in North Carolina at a third-generation, family-owned mill, these socks straddle the line between breathability and opacity. If you make socks too breathable, they become sheer; too thick, and they’re suffocating. Dapper Classics’ socks are surprisingly comfortable on a hot and humid summer day but look conservative enough for a tailored outfit.
The company has a few notable designs. The first is your most basic, solid navy cotton over-the-calf sock, a true staple in any tailored wardrobe. Navy socks look more attractive than black but are conservative enough to be worn with trousers in any color. You should have at least five pairs of these in cotton or wool to get you through a workweek. Once you have those, consider conservative, tasteful patterns such as the pin dots pictured above. For some reason, Dapper Classics’ patterned socks hold up better in the wash than any brand I’ve tried. I once interviewed Dapper Classics founder Fred Rich about why this is, and he gave me a technical answer that flew over my head. All I know is that my patterned socks from storied brands such as Marcoliani and Bresciani fuzz up in the wash. My Dapper Classics’ patterned socks, on the other hand, look nearly brand new, despite years of wear.
Once you have some navy socks in solid colors and conservative patterns, pick up some socks to match your trousers. Tan socks go with tan trousers, grey socks with grey trousers, and so forth. Pairing socks in this way will help elongate your leg line and keep the focus of your outfit up top, where it should be. Dapper Classics’ has cotton socks in staple colors such as tan, grey, and brown, which should work for any wardrobe.
Almost every important American fashion innovation has moved international dress towards casualwear — the lounge suit for boardrooms; the two-piece suit for daywear; patchwork madras, seersucker, and the button-down collar; belted trousers and jeans; Rugged Ivy and the rebel look; and the tradition of repurposing sportswear as everyday attire. In terms of footwear, nothing is more American than slip-on shoes. Whether made as a penny or tassel loafer, camp moc or boat shoe, slip-ons convey the comfort and ease that has always been a hallmark of classic American style.
Rowing Blazers has a huge range of slip-on shoes this season. Today, they dropped a new collaboration with Sperry. They’ve remade the Cloud Authentic with shock-absorbing lug soles and 100% certified rPET materials (a type of recycled plastic taken from discarded soda bottles and food containers). They come in colorful colors such as cherry red, sunshine yellow, and ocean blue — a perfect complement to Rowing Blazers’ loud preppy aesthetic. They also have Cloud CVOs made from cotton canvas decorated with their Warm & Wonderful sheep motifs; Artemis’ velvet slippers; and quieter, more discrete Sperry boat shoes that have been a staple of American prep for generations. The great thing about these shoes is that they get better with age. During the heyday of Ivy, college students used to take such great pride in their well-worn shoes, some were known to put fake duct tape around the edges to affect the “patina.”
In the last ten years, fashion prices have outpaced inflation, with menswear leading the way. If you’re looking to build a quality wardrobe on a budget nowadays, your best bet is to shop second-hand. Our sponsor LuxeSwap has been selling quality, second-hand clothing for over a decade. Matthew, the company’s founder, has been scouring thrift stores and estate sales forever, throwing his finds up on eBay with auctions starting at $9.99. Nowadays, he primarily works with discerning shoppers around the world, who send him their gently used clothes for consignment on eBay.
Scour his eBay list now and you can find Edward Green dress shoes, Margiela five-zip leather jackets, Sid Mashburn suits, Inis Meain knitwear, and scores of Ring Jacket tailoring. This grey Sage de Cret overcoat can be worn with jeans and a thick sweater if you want the benefits of tailoring without looking overly dressed up, while the olive field jacket would work with the same items for a more casual look. As ever, you can find the best of the best in LuxeSwap’s auctions by doing a search for “#1 Menswear.” New 10-day auctions go up every Thursday and end the next Sunday.