Summer style can be hard when you live in the South. We are in the middle of another stretch of 100+ degree days with a drought covering our fair area. What is a man to do with his wardrobe when there is no way to avoid sweating? We will take a quick look at some of the options for office or sharper attire in the summer and come back for an off duty post next week.
I unabashedly pull out my seersucker suits in the summer. If you remember, seersucker is a cotton weave that creates greater breathability. The classic, and common design, is a vertical stripe most often in blue and white but also with other colors replacing the blue. In the South, it is a lot easier to get away with the full classic southern seersucker look – bow tie - for summer style. If you are reading this from environs further north, you need to be careful about the bowtie plus classic seersucker stripe.
In the picture above, I’ve got possibly one too many things going on, but seersucker, bow tie, pocket square, and lapel pin are the classic southern lawyer outfit. Being a Southern Lawyer, this seemed a reasonable outfit for me. If you are not quite game for the Bow Tie yet, you want to look at neck ties that won’t clash with your suit. This means avoid patterns that are in the same scale as the stripes of your seersucker. If you are having some difficulty in pattern matching, just stick with a solid color tie.
You can get great summer cotton suits that are not seersucker. They are lighter and more breathable than the traditional wool suits and you will find them in lighter colors such as lighter blues, browns, and tans. Check out Esquire’s examples here. A pretty good mass market example is the J . Crew Ludlow Italian Cotton suit. It clocks in at just under $500 total without any sales.
Also, there are a number of great seersucker suits and jackets [See below] that have the weave but are in a solid color! I really like these and you may want to look into them. Wearing a suit in the summer is not easy, but if your office demands it, in the south they probably won’t look too askance at the idea of the seersucker.
Blazers & Trousers
My heavier wool trousers are in hiding until we get back to a decent temperature. The Southern climes can have 100 degree days as late as September in the year and 90s in October are not uncommon. Your pants need to help you survive. Chinos are one of the best bets, especially for office wear. Cotton chinos (you may be used to calling them Khakis) are a staple for a reason. I resisted for a long time, but in the summer heat, they are a lot more comfortable. For the professional attire, I’d stay to neutrals and slight colors like khaki, blue, and tan or darker brown.
We’ve talked about jackets before, but for a more casual look that you can probably get away with in most offices, an unstructured cotton blazer is going to pair well with the chinos. Khaki & navy is a classic color combination – look at matching a khaki colored chino with a darker navy or blue blazer or vice-versa. Check out Valet’s round up of seersucker jackets. They are a bit expensive to add to my personal collection for now, but I think they are pretty cool.
Other summer jackets will be of a lighter material and often only partially lined. You can see in this picture how the jacket back is not fully lined creating a little bit more breathability. Pair it with the darker chinos like shown above blue numbers and a cotton tie.
First – remember Cory’s plea - Don’t use only polos in the summer! For the love of all that is stylish, remember to keep some variations in there. Sure, if it is a casual Friday or your office environment is on the more relaxed side, wearing a polo seems like the natural response to the summer swelter. As long as you recall that fit is king, and you don’t overdo it.
Instead of having a stack of polos, I kept my older button up shirts. These were cheap shirts I bought when I was just starting the whole professional life thing. They are thin and not what I would necessarily buy today. As the years have continued, I’ve added some slowly aging button ups. I will throw one of these on, spend a few minutes rolling the sleeves up, and look more put together than a polo.
How do you roll the sleeves up and have them look good? Check out this video from Antonio Centeno at Real Men Real Style, or this link to Style Girlfriend. They have already answered the question for you.
One last word about summer office attire – don’t forget your undershirt.
It is hot. Gentlemen, we will be sweating in this heat. Remember that sweating is used by the body to cool us down so we don’t die. An antiperspirant will only go so far. You do not want to have sweaty underarms showing threw your button up shirt and many of the aluminum based deodorant products contribute to the underarm staining we despise. An undershirt will add a layer of protection against both.
My recommendation, especially if you are using thinner shirts, is to go for a grey undershirt. It stops the light better than the white undershirt. I recommend a slight vee neck instead of crew on the undershirts to give your neck a little bit of a break from the heat and to create more of that subtle vertical vee shape.
Esquire ran through some of the common undershirts and earlier this year about the quality of undershirts. As always, get the best you can afford for what you are getting. Your local Target, JCP, or Wal-Mart may well have the right kind of undershirts for you. If, however, you are looking to splurge, check out Ribbed Tee.
Record setting heat is no reason to avoid looking stylish!