I don’t love dressing for summer. The clothes are often less interesting; there are fewer opportunities for layering. The hard truth of it is — unless you’re as handsome as George Clooney — you probably don’t look that great in just a button-up and some trousers alone.
Summer style, like any other part of the year, benefits from having some kind of jacket. If you can get away with it, a casual suit or sport coat can be a wonderful thing this time of year. Mohair and tropical wool are great for suits, linen for sport coats, and almost anything relatively light- to mid-weight works for trousers (you don’t trap that much heat in your legs anyway). The keys to summer tailoring is all in the materials and construction. You want something that’s cool wearing and breathable, with structure to match. That means half lining, soft construction, and lightweight, open-weave materials. We’ve have a short guide to summer tailoring if you need a refresher.
For a more casual look, you can try loosely cut safari jackets and military field coats (the M-65 is nice, although I mostly wear the M-43 or M-51 nowadays. The collar looks good worn up). I still wear midweight raw denim on days below 85 degrees, but anything above calls for something lighter and more comfortable — chinos, tropical wool trousers, linen trousers, and if you’re daring, maybe even shorts.
Many of those strategies take big commitments though. Maybe it means investing in better, more comfortable tailoring; perhaps it’s thinking your way through how to build a casual wardrobe. It may even mean wearing shorts (scary, I know). So here are three small things I think can improve almost any summer wardrobe.
(photo via British GQ)
Have a Few Printed Shirts
We’re generally big on understatement here at Put This On. When you’re first building a wardrobe, it’s good to stay close to simple classics — white and light blue shirts, navy sport coats, grey pants.
But for summer, if you can’t wear anything more than a button-up and some trousers, a more unusually patterned shirt can make stylish difference. Light-blue button-ups with grey trousers can be a bit too business casual on their own. Something such as an Aloha cotton shirt can lend a bit more personality.
There’s a real risk here of looking corny, but if you look through enough photos of styles that inspire you, you can eventually sort the good prints from the bad. Avoid things that look too touristy, too ’80s, too much like the “fun uncle” who can’t stop telling bad jokes.
You can wear printed shirts with jeans, chinos, or tropical wool trousers. In certain cases, you can even use them to dress down a casual suit or sport coat (I wouldn’t do the collar over the lapels thing, but some guys pull it off). Unique collar styles, such as a camp collar, are always a nice touch. I also like these sorts of shirts to be looser and more comfortable fitting — it just goes with the style.
Some nice printed shirts this season: Two Palms is great for a budget friendly option. J. Crew is always worth a look. I also like the ones this season from Theory, Wings + Horns, Bryceland’s Co., Gitman Vintage, Engineered Garments, Chimala, August Fifteenth, Double Rainbouu, SK Manor Hill, Luker, and Tony Shirtmakers. And I bought this sail print from Gitman Vintage last month. It’s a little sheer, but you can wear it with an undershirt.
Experiment with Cuts
Again, dressing for the dead of summer requires knowing how you can get away with just shirts and pants. And if you can’t layer, you can always wear more interesting cuts. Tops can be a little looser and rounded, maybe with a dropped shoulder seam or lowered chest pocket for a low-slung look. Or you can try looser trousers, which are coming back into vogue. These take a bit of a trained eye to pull off, but they can be a great way to experiment with your wardrobe without spending a lot on outerwear or shoes.
Some things I’ve found helpful while experimenting with looser trousers:
- Start with the general direction of your wardrobe. A pair of looser cut fatigues can be a great entry point into wider trousers if you rely on workwear. They don’t come with the frumpy connotations of baggy khakis and they stay closer to the garment’s military roots. A modest pair of classically cut trousers can be good with classically styled wardrobes, while fuller cut pants can be good if your wardrobe is a bit more fashion forward (your other clothes will make it obvious these aren’t just ill fitting pants).
- Taper below the knee to add shape. The hardest part of wearing looser trousers is just getting over how they can look shapeless compared to slim-fit cuts. To ease your way into the look, you can always have a tailor taper the trousers below the knee. Don’t go too strong unless you want a carrot cut, but a little taper goes a long way towards making a looser style feel natural.
- Pay attention to material. The secret to looser cut pants is all in how they drape. Sometimes a basic chino can work with a workwear ensemble, but sometimes they’re also a bit Jim Harbaugh-ish. If you’re concerned, try a flow-ier fabric such as Tencel or stiffer, heavier wools. There aren’t any shortcuts here — you have to try on the pants to see how they hang — but just because one wide cut doesn’t work for you doesn’t mean others won’t.
Some nice wider trousers this season: Again, J. Crew is always good for a more affordable option. They recently released a new relaxed cut they call their 1450 model. Stan Ray is also nice for affordable fatigues (mostly their 1100 and 1200 cuts). I also like this season’s Lemaire belted trousers in grey and navy, Christian Kimber’s olive chinos, Naissance’s tapered chinos, and E. Tautz (although, fair warning, E. Tautz’s pants are really wide).
Use Interesting Accessories
When summer limits what you can wear, you can always choose the right accessories to make an outfit a little more stylish.
This can be something as simple as a nice pair of sunglasses. Or you can use a more interesting belt. Think of one-inch slide buckle belts worn with suits and sport coats (I like lizard leather versions), braided belts with classic casualwear ensembles, or something even thinner for a more contemporary outfit. Brooks Brothers is a great staring place for these sorts of things; The Armoury has a nice alligator belt if you’re baller. Gustav Von Aschenbauch is good for guys who wear brands that sound like Gustav Von Aschenbauch.
I also think jewelry, when chosen well and worn tastefully, can be great. Native American cuff bracelets, signet rings, and vintage pendant necklaces can be great ways to make a summer outfit more interesting. Self Edge and Reliquary are just two of my favorite shops these days for jewelry. We have a great assortment at the Put This On Shop. Nikolai Rose and James Colarusso are good if you want something more minimalistic and modern. Choose something that you’re excited to wear and makes you feel good — jewelry is best when it’s personal.