Don’t wear chinos. Asking my number one rule for good summer style is a bit like opening Pandora’s box, but I suppose I have to say this. Modern man has a huge problem with chinos. There are so many crap ones out there. They are hot, sweaty and 90% of the styles available now have a skinny fit that doesn’t taper and doesn’t seem to be cut for real men. I don’t know where this idea that men need to pack themselves in like that comes from, but it makes you very uncomfortable when the sun comes out. Wear chino shorts, or tapered shorts, instead.
It’s time we got over our strange relationship with shorts in the UK. I think a lot of men associate them with Just William and that schoolboy look. We’ve also been told for decades that you can’t wear shorts and look smart. Finally, excitingly, that’s changing. Today’s climate means you’d be mad not to step out in shorts for a few weeks of the year. There are so many great, modern tailored shorts out there now from brands you wouldn’t expect – you just have to get out there and try some. I like my clothes to be roomy – despite hating sport, I have the thighs of a rugby player – so I can’t wear anything too tapered. I tend to choose nice knee-length shorts in cotton or linen, with a couple of pleats. I’ll roll them up a few times, which gives them a bit of a Call Me By Your Name vibe – one of my favourite summer style references. You want them to sit about two-thirds of the way down your thigh. The Ralph Lauren Tyler short is based on a big pleated chino the brand made in the 80s and 90s; they don’t make them anymore but you can get them for next to nothing on eBay. I live in them, and they’re perfect. I love 80s style, so I tend to wear my shorts with my shirt tucked in, and I’ll add a woven belt to break up the two. But if it’s really bloody hot, just untuck your shirt. Who cares?
Men should wear what makes them feel comfortable. I rail about chinos because I’m such a grump but linen trousers really are a great alternative. Buy them a little bit wider as you’ll want to allow some air through. Today it’s 30ºC and I’ve been running around the West End in a pair of chocolate brown linen trousers – linen has a glorious fluidity and either a pleated or flat-front pair look so elegant however you wear them. I wore mine with a dusty pink linen shirt. Not many people like pink and brown, but I think it’s lovely and I like the story that, as a young sporting rake, Winston Churchill used to wear chocolate and pink jockey silks.
If you find linen scratchy, just wash it a couple of times. If you don’t like the way it creases, I’d say persevere with it – I find it quite charming. Every man needs two pairs of breezy linen trousers in classic colours – safe starting points are navy, olive and stone. Failing that, there are some great cotton-linen blends out there – Hackett does some really useful blazers. The linen gives the lightness and the cotton gives a clean look. An oxford shirt is also great in hot weather. It’s quite thick, but it’s designed so air can penetrate the weave, so it should still keep you nice and cool.
What else do you need for a good summer wardrobe? A couple of good white t-shirts in quality cotton are essential – they have to be Sunspel really, don’t they. They’re relatively expensive but they are worth it. I live in linen safari shirts or overshirts in warm, earthy colours. Olive, rusty shades, terracotta, cream – they all work really well. If you keep your overshirt crisp and steamed, it’s more than smart enough to pull off over a spread-collar shirt and a pair of trousers in the office when it’s hot. I run really warm like a lot of guys – beyond May, a linen or seersucker blazer is just too much. As a wedding guest, I love a beige or caramel-coloured double-breasted linen suit.
I absolutely love sandals. It’s time to embrace them. I have a pair of Birkenstocks that I live in and, unless I’m going into a smart client’s office, I’ll wear them with linen trousers and a shirt. I also love a fisherman’s sandal, like the classic Church’s. Those with linen trousers and a Cuban short-sleeved shirt is a great look. If you’re more of a traditionalist, an unstructured suede loafer is a good alternative – something without a lining. They stretch out a lot but you only wear them a few months a year. I have some lovely pairs from Crockett & Jones. One pair will carry from the office to dinner to a wedding.
I have a rule when it comes to socks. Go for a long, over-the-calf style, or wear no socks at all. Summer or winter, there is nothing less elegant than sitting down in a sharp suit and half your leg poking out a short sock. It kills the whole look. When I say wear nothing, I of course mean wear an invisible style. However, if you’re in the mood and you’re a younger guy – and you too are a fan of the Call Me By Your Name look – you could get away with rolled-up chino shorts, a loose-fitting shirt, white sneakers and white sports socks.
I tend to shop at esoteric brands. The one I always come back to is Drake’s. You know you’re always going to find a really classic summer piece that will do the job. For linen trousers I really like Scott Fraser Simpson’s classic style. Camoshita United Arrows in Japan makes a boxy terrycloth polo shirt in different colours – I bought a sherbet one at the start of this season – and it has an open collar without buttons. They’re lovely. Finally Bryceland’s and Co, the cult Hong Kong outfitter, makes a modern replica of a towel shirt, with a printed cotton on the outside that’s lined with white towelling. They’re nuts, but they’re a proper feelgood piece.
Call me an anomaly but I don’t find The Talented Mr Ripley that inspiring for summer style. As I might have mentioned, though, Call Me By Your Name made such an impression on me when it came out a few years ago. It’s the big shirts and the Asics sneakers for me. I also drift back in time for references – I love Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, David Niven and Gene Kelly. The foundation is always a sports shirt with a high-waisted trouser that really flows – there’s just something about that silhouette in summer that I can’t get enough of. At the other end of the spectrum, an iconic summer film that everyone should watch for its appreciation of swimwear and eyewear alone is Sexy Beast. The opening scene is basically just a very purple Ray Winstone lying on a sun lounger for 20 minutes.
We haven’t talked about Breton shirts! I’m a huge fan of the look. Every man should have navy on cream or vice versa. My go to is Armor-Lux, one of the original producers that dates back to 1926 and still makes them in Brittany. You can get them on End Clothing for around £30 quid a tee. You’ll find olive and cream, pink and cream, tan and cream, and a man of any age can wear them. I wear the exact same style my father wears.
Something I’ve bought recently and am excited to wear is – drumroll – a beige suit. There’s a tailor in Paris called Husbands – the owner Nicolas has a very 70s lounge lizard vibe. He does a really slinky house cut. I’ve gone for a cream Fresco two piece that I’m going to wear for a few weddings. It’s a beautiful bone colour. I was lucky enough to get my measurements taken there pre-pandemic, but this suit is just a slight variation of a ready-to-wear style they have online. The other new piece I love is a linen jacket from Drake’s – it’s a slightly heavier version of an overshirt – and I’ve been living in it. It has four big utility pockets on the front and it’s super soft because it’s already been washed – you don’t have to be precious with it, I’ve rolled it up and used it as a pillow on the tube. I’ve been wearing it with off-white jeans.
With summer accessories, less is more. Get a fun baseball cap – check out A Novel Mart. I used to love a panama hat but I find them a bit costume-y now. A baseball style is more post-pandemic. A canvas tote or shopper will also stand you in good stead – perfect for the office, beach or hand luggage. I have a lot of sunglasses. I’m a big fan of Kirk Originals and I also like Jacques Marie Mage –eye-wateringly expensive but the lenses are so good they’re worth it. General Eyewear in Camden is also worth knowing about. It’s a bloke called Fraser who collects vintage frames – you can have your prescription or your choice of lens fitted into a pair of reconditioned pre-loved frames. He also does a bespoke service – it’s about £450 to have a pair made entirely from scratch. He’ll measure your face to the millimetre and design a silhouette that works for you, then make it from vintage deadstock acetone at a factory in north London.
To look good on the beach, my advice is the opposite to what I say about shorts. Get a nice, neatly cut pair of trunks. They’re better if they’re a bit shorter and a bit trim – it’s 2021 and it’s time to embrace the short look. You can’t go wrong with Orlebar Brown – the Bulldog is a modern summer icon. I like Vilebrequin for fun prints, but for something off the beaten track I really rate Anderson & Sheppard’s swim shorts. I don’t know what it is about the guy who feels the need to wear a budgie-smuggler – I don’t know what he’s trying to say or prove.
I like getting dressed for dinner on holiday. If you can stomach a nice stone-coloured suit or a navy linen blazer then that’s always a treat. More realistically, just wear a shirt you haven’t flogged to death during the day and a nice pair of trousers. If you’ve been in shorts all day, put on trousers, a belt and some loafers for the evening, just to nod to that classic look.
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