Summer Heat and the City

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Though we welcome the warmth of summer, the thought of ‘heat’ united with the ‘city’ does not sound at all like the ideal. Heat is best combated in the languorous cool of the countryside, where idleness is a requirement rather than a mere possibility. The city’s problems seem only to be exacerbated on exceptionally warm and particularly close days; we become more bothersome and irritated, public transport is quite unbearable, we dehydrate and develop a crabbiness that seems unique to the concrete jungle; the idea of an idyllic spot in the shade, surrounded by trickling streams, birdsong and a cool breeze seems almost impossible and remote on such occasions.

Hot days in a metropolitan context, though common, are best avoided. I myself am particularly affected. The worst possible edition of Winston JP Chesterfield is one that scrabbles uncomfortably through a sea of shoulders, sodden with sweat, dizzy from heat and exhaustion, maddened by the interminable sirens and incessant hum; on such days, I would not wish my beastly company on anyone.

However, I cannot avoid such Hyde-ian transformations. Whatever the temperature, it is business as usual. I have never provided a credible excuse for absence on these ‘overly clement’ days. Steps are taken instead to avoid the turn.

Shorts

Firstly, when it is very warm indeed, I simply have to wear shorts, particularly when I am walking through London and spending a great deal of time outside. I think shorts have been given a jolly rough time, sartorially speaking. One of the greatest problems is that merely because bare leg happens to be on display, many assume we can only team the garment with t-shirts, polo shirts and trainers. Putting on a pair of shorts brings back the novelty of P.E. sessions or sneaking out of the office a little early to play a couple of sets with an old chum; they’re just too sporty for us to take seriously. However, I think this is a shame. Shorts may very well be less formal than trousers, and we would hardly turn up to an important meeting and expect to be taken seriously, but they can be very elegant.

Avoid the multi pocketed combat shorts and go for the neat, tailored styles. As for length, it really depends on the occasion and also how shapely and appealing you happen to think your legs are. Very smart clothing calls for shorts that finish just above the knee, whereas more casual items can be worn with the ‘short-shorts’ – exposing more of the glorious thigh. And as strange as it sounds to wear shorts to work, it is actually done. I know several people that, last year, wore tailored shorts to the office on certain summer days. Maintaining the preppy chic of the upper half with a tie, shirt and blazer and rounding it all off with a pair of elegant shoes is key; without these elements, it will look far too relaxed.

Espadrilles

I think espadrilles are wonderful and I hate to limit their use to the very few weeks a year I might spend traipsing around resorts, ruins and Ravello. Even London can be an appropriate location for the rustic chic and practicality of these simple items of footwear. They are hardly appropriate for the working week, but come the days of freedom, these will serve you better than trainers, plimsolls or loafers; they are cooler and inexpensive and the multitude of colours to choose from means you can match them brilliantly to other items of the ensemble such as a polo shirt or a pocket square.

Shirt sleeves

I have never been a great buyer of short sleeve shirts. I own a few, but I simply prefer long sleeves. Even taking very warm weather into account, I would prefer to roll my sleeves up. In an article that advocates the wearing of shorts, it might seem rather perplexing to the reader that I am not advancing the case for short sleeve shirts, but the simple fact of the matter is that I, personally, do not like them as much. However, having said that, short sleeve shirts can be very appealing but – and that’s a ‘but’ the size of Hyde Park – only when they are worn in fitted styles. Loose and baggy short sleeve shirts are the very end. Ideally, short sleeve shirts should be spruced up with a natty bow or neck tie. The question really is whether it is worth splashing out on short sleeved shirts for the summer or saving more than a few quid by surviving on adapting long sleeved shirts to summer wear. The point of short sleeved shirts is avoidance of excess material in times of warmth, but it really depends on your style persona. Whereas I am happy to fiddle around with shirt cuffs and sleeves, others might prefer to avoid the fuss.


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Winston Chesterfield is an amateur composer, fashion blogger, trained lawyer and style aficionado. He lives in Westminster, London and blogs at www.levraiwinston.com.

Comments

  1. Turling says:

    Seersucker shorts and a crisp, white, long-sleeve shirt. This was my uniform Saturday, when it was 103 F (39 C) here on the edge of the desert in Southern California. I was quite comfortable. The fact that I was drinking gin and tonics all day might have had something to do with it, but for purposes of this article, we’ll say it was the clothes.

  2. Philipp says:

    Hi there,

    I have to disagree with you on this article in all but a very few regards.

    Shorts, in my humble opinion, are never appropriate for anything short of the back yard or beach.

    Where we agree is that it has been done, but so have wars, homicide and trainers with suits. Not things any civilized human being, again just my opinion, should strive to emulate.

    Did you ever wonder why shorts are not a common sight in hot climes? It is because the advantage of less fabric is offset by the disadvantage of protection against the sun.

    Maybe you should consider taking your cue from the gentlemen in hotter climes such as Georgia (the US State not the country) or South American men of style. A linen or cotton suit will serve you much better than any shorts you could pick out.

    When it comes to wearing these shorts with a Jacket and tie: “Please refrain!” The only image that could conjure up is the image of a high-school football player on game day, never one a man well dressed.

    As for the short sleeve shirt, I tend to agree with you there. I cannot help thinking the words “used car salesman” when I see someone pairing a short sleeve shirt with a necktie.

    No shorts do have their place as do short sleeve shirts. They go perfectly on a hot day together with a glass of iced-tea (or gin if that is your preference :) ) and a back-yard barbecue. For anything more formal, such as a day at the office they should remain the domain of life guards and fiction writers working at the beach.

    Of course this is just my opinion and you can feel free to disagree. However I urge you to inspect your inner self and determine whether your urge to wear shorts to the city is really something you feel is good style or something that comes from your inner self as a scream of “I would really love to be at the beach with some ice-cream” that you feel unable to suppress on these particularly hot days.

    Greetings,
    Philioo

  3. I think it’s interesting to get different viewpoints on the issue of ‘shorts in the city.’ The value in an article like this is as much weighted towards the possibility of comment down here as the words, which are of course ‘opinion’, written up there. Therefore, I am genuinely pleased that Philipp has given his time to provide a contrary view to my own. Whilst some may not respect the idea of comment boards turning into a virtual ‘sartorial courtroom’, I thoroughly encourage others to continue their commentary! As far as I am concerned, Philipp’s opinions are valid and reasoned. I still do not agree that one has to refrain from wearing these shorts with a jacket and tie – the point I was making about this was not that it would necessarily make a well, or even better-dressed man in comparison to a gentleman in a suit but most certainly a well-dressed man compared to the vast majority of short wearers who, despite being relatively smart in other areas, dumb down their outfits when they slip on a pair of shorts; “…many assume we can only team the garment with t-shirts, polo shirts and trainers.”
    In relation to the last point whether I believe it is ‘good style’, I believe style largely depends on how you are able to ‘work’ with clothes. There is a great deal of attention needing to be paid to what clothing one buys but true style is essentially creative. Therefore, to me, the man who takes an unconventional item like a pair of shorts, and produces from this item an ensemble of unexpected panache, he is applauded for creative style. I very rarely want to be at the beach; although growing up near the coast, I always found it a little overrated, but you could say that wearing shorts in the city is a sign of my youth and naivety. And I am also extremely blase about protecting my legs from the sun. Rather foolish perhaps.

  4. Barima says:

    I think the number of S/S 2008 menswear collections shilling shorts suits and a playful-but-formal take on such summerwear says it all for the move of late to make this area of clothes into something more interesting and daring
    I rarely wear shorts myself, due to my apparaisal of the personal aesthetic benefits (or lack thereof), so while I don’t practice this suggestion either, I definitely have to agree that a cotton or linen outfit can bring practical style to hotter climes
    Conversely, having admired some of the runway attempts at this, as well as in other places such as the good old Sart’s blog, I also believe that it’s possible to produce panache from shorts. Back when my father wore them in appropriate weather, I still believe to this day that no one else could match the style he brought to them, since every item was chosen with the best possible care and taste
    But nevertheless, I’m always up for a sartorial challenge, so I’ll be looking into pulling it off during my holidays later this summer

  5. Nicola Linza says:

    On this one, I will have to split my commentary between Philipp and Winston. The jacket/tie/shorts combination indicated in the picture upper left is completely appropriate for warm resort climates. Philipp mentions Southern US, such as where I am in Palm Beach, but this is a resort known for American looks that have taken inspiration from classic Bermuda styles. In Southern cities that are business oriented I too would refrain from it. That look for the heat is appropriate, if in a town where resort wear is wearable during the regular course of the day. However, with that stated, I consistently enjoy and trust Winston’s selections, and his wisdom regarding men’s style. I find his statements on this issue both honest and creative, they appear to be based strongly from his brilliantly creative suggestions for use of clothing in various situations. I can appreciate his position. I personally would wear the jacket/tie/shorts combination indicated only in a resort/beach town, but I would not wear that look in the “city” beside potentially a day at the park. In hot climates, a tricky situation floats between both Phillip and Winton’s suggestions. In Miami Beach the jacket/tie/shorts combination (although Philipp may be right, past age 21 that look may appear a bit “school boy“) works well, and would be completely acceptable; but in downtown Miami or better yet Richmond or Charleston on business? I personally would not do it. If need be, I would as Philipp suggests, wear a linen or cotton suit, which is often seen in South Florida, yet only if need be, as for me that is even pushing it. In business meetings, regardless of locale I am still partial to conservative selections that stay away from what I tend to consider Bermuda wear. Nicola