A Man's Guide to Summer Dress

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Hot weather, unlike cooler temperatures, necessitates that we do more with less. Beautiful weather creates a more relaxed attitude that translates into flexible dress codes that lean towards comfort and summer weather utility. However, no coats, only occasionally a jacket, and more often than not shorts instead of trousers, forces us to reveal our sometimes less than attractive legs, stomachs, and backsides. How does a modern day gentleman dress for the hot summer weather while still looking presentable?

This article is broken into two parts – in part one, we cover general guidelines to hot weather dressing, the different styles of shirts, and warm weather jackets. In part two, we’ll discuss shorts, jeans, summer trousers, footwear, and accessories.

Although the thermometer may read 100 degrees, those meeting you for the first time are still going to make a snap decision based off your appearance. The goal of these articles is to make sure that the impression you leave is the one you want, not one that brings into question your decision making ability or respect for others.

Hot Weather Dressing General Guidelines – Clean, Light, and Understated

These three words sum up how a sharp dressed man clothes himself during the summer months.

Clean – A gentleman is showered, well-groomed, and his clothing is free from stains. He realizes that although he may perspire, he does not have to smell nor look like he stepped out of a sauna. If you need to shower twice a day, then do so. Use antiperspirant deodorant, and consider soaps with menthol that will help cool your body. A sharp dressed man never wears stained clothing, even if he believes others won’t notice. His hair is washed and its ends cut regularly, with excess hair on the back of the neck trimmed. Invest in a pair of nose hair clippers (which can be used on the ears as well), opt for a close shave, and treat your skin to lotions that improve health and appearance. Need more guidance here? Visit Tyler Sims at ForeMan; his website’s grooming guide is full of great info that answers dozens of questions.

Light – Wear light colored clothing and select fabrics made with breathable weaves and natural fibers such as cotton, linen, or tropical weight wool (perfect for summer’s formal events). Looser fits facilitate airflow, but do not take this to mean you should wear a full size (or three) larger than what your body size calls for. Remember that dark colors do not reflect light but rather absorb it and all other factors being constant, are thus hotter. On a sunny day, a white long sleeve button-down cotton shirt will be much cooler than a black polyester T-shirt.

Understated – A gentleman wears quality garments that have cuts and patterns that compliment his figure and attitude – his clothing never detracts from the ladies in his company. He pays attention to unstated dress codes, plans accordingly, and shows up in accordance so that he can enjoy the companionship of those around him. If you need to bring a change of clothing, do so; try not to wear your swimming trunks into the evening festivities (unless they are in the water!). Be remembered for your friendly conversation, not for being the over-dressed peacock or under-dressed ruffian.

Summer Shirt Styles

The T-shirt

The T-shirt is as casual as it gets. With its underwear origins (and for many still its only domain) the T-shirt is in this author’s opinion appropriate for working out, beach wear, and situations where a close fitting garment that is unlikely to get tangled is called for. However in the US, a quality designer T-shirt is accepted as casual summer wear; you won’t get a second look if you choose to wear one to class, to the local café, or out to a bar with friends.

When wearing a T-shirt, ensure the fabric is 100% cotton and that it is not so thin as to be see-through. Pay attention to proper fit in the torso area – too loose of a shirt only makes you look smaller than you are while too tight of a shirt makes you look like an overstuffed sausage.

The advice 90% of you will ignore:

Think twice about wearing a T-shirt if you can just as easily wear a Polo, short sleeve, or long sleeve button-up. Yes, I know everyone else wears them, but in most situations a short sleeve collared shirt is simply a better choice because of its versatility. Even a $150 designer T-shirt is outclassed by a $25 polo because the latter has a collar. Summer picnics, informal garage graduation parties, and Sunday morning brunch at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q can all be attended in style with a short sleeve button dress shirt.

The Short Sleeve Polo

As its name suggests, the polo shirt has it’s origins on the fields of sport where its moisture wicking properties and style made it the choice of gentleman athletes. Today it has ascended as the standard uniform of the North American man dressed in summer casual. However, just because it’s widely accepted does not mean its use should be abused. Reserve the polo for true casual events on weekends. Unless it’s your company’s uniform, consider wearing a tasteful button down short sleeve during the week.

When it comes to colors and patterns, polo shirts are afforded more freedom in their range of acceptable hues and contrast. They are one of the few exceptions where a man can wear bright & bold colors and not be accused of trying to draw attention to himself (well, within reason). Fabrics types are either a smooth weave or a more casual rough weave with visible texture; you want to choose polos made from cotton, although up to 15% of other fibers types is acceptable as they may be used to enhance performance, fit, and comfort.

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