I was once asked my favourite season and responded promptly that although a rather predictable fan of summer, I adored the fact that I could wear more clothes in the colder seasons. As much as I moan about the weather in Blighty, there is invariably a time of year too warm for waistcoats, too sweaty for sweaters and even too toasty for ties; this is the time of year at which even great arbiters of elegance loosen their damp collars, at which trussed up dandies seem to vanish and, in the haze of the boozy weekend afternoons, we all seem to let ourselves go. Ella was right; “It’s too darn hot.”
In the midst of all the shedding, the cacophony of flip-flopping and the positively gruesome slime of sweat that drips onto the summer streets, there is still room for regal rebellion. It all seems rather hopeless on what one might call a ‘belter’ of a day; when the sky, irrepressibly blue, suggests temperatures that make the maximalist wince in premonition of discomfort. Stiff upper lips be damned – no one in their right mind would dress in more than they need on such a day. And why would they? Dressing well is noble, but dressing appropriately is always preferred. Anyone crass enough to brave the beating heat in a woollen suit needs an extraordinary excuse. I myself can feel rather uneasy in seeing a more than adequately clothed gentleman on a blisteringly hot afternoon.
Style, then, makes no attempt on such days? Well, for many, it certainly takes a back seat. However, to depart from style considerations entirely, to beat a complete retreat at such flimsy adversity, is rather disappointing. Real style always finds a way around minor inconveniences like temperature. Simplicity is Style’s aide-de-camp when Summer begins to singe. Material needs very careful consideration; linen and light cotton are lightweight and heat friendly, wool should be avoided. Also, thickly lined jackets and trousers should be set aside – summer scorchers are ideal days to wear unlined jackets (if jackets are desired or necessary).
How to cover the torso (for the torso should always be covered) is a quandary for many men; is a t-shirt enough? Is a polo shirt acceptable? Is a shirt too much? Generally, it depends on personal taste, and the occasion, but I do not believe shirts are any ‘warmer’ than cotton polo shirts. Particularly if the polo shirt is ‘fitted.’ T-shirts are at least more dignified than ghetto ‘tank tops’ but they are hardly fitting for anything other than sports/casual wear at the beach. Polo shirts are much more appropriate for those who seek casual elegance, but shirts – with a maximum of a two buttons undone – are still the best choice for those wishing to retain some sort of style distinction.
I have written on summer shoes before, frequently advocating espadrilles above the irritating and rather revolting flip flop. If foot-ventilation is required, there are some interesting brown and black leather sandals, some of the ‘Jesus’ type, some of the rather Gallic looking basket-weave fashion, that are far better for the man of style. At no point would any man of style wear the horrible Velcro, sports ‘technical’ sandals.
Shorts should not be of the excessively pockety ‘cargo’ variety, as seemingly useful as those pockets may be; they should be above the knee, of the tailored (i.e. smart) style and made of cotton or linen.
To conquer the flair-killing nature of summer heat, gentlemen should adopt colour in place of layering as the style mantra. Bright colours, like banana yellow, fire engine red and apple green, with complementary accessories such as belts, are brave but sophisticated choices when the weather forbids over-layering and trussing.