Summer work wear is a notoriously tricky area to navigate; get it wrong and you run the risk of sporting a look better suited to the beach than the boardroom, spelling disaster when your annual review rolls around. But what’s a chap to do if the morning commute is stifling and necessitates a second shower before you reach your desk? Read on for some hints and tips to help you hit the right sartorial note this summer (and keep that bonus in the bag).
To tie or not to tie?
Unlike our female colleagues, us chaps tend not to adorn ourselves with accessories unless – like a watch or a pair of cufflinks – they serve a practical function. This makes this office staple pretty peculiar for a piece of menswear, in that it serves no real purpose other than to look good. Of course, being overly buttoned-up can make that thin strip of silk feel more like a noose around your neck in the warmer weather, so do ensure that your shirts sport the correct collar size and loosen or remove your neckwear whenever possible.
Some of the more progressive offices relax their dress codes during warmer months, allowing you to ditch the tie altogether and pop open a top button or two, however if you’re stuck with a rigid collar throughout the season then rolling, rather than folding a tie while en route to work will at least ensure that it’s crease-free and office-ready straight out of your inside pocket.
While a short-sleeved shirt may seem like the logical answer to your perspiration-bathed work wear prayers, tread carefully. What you gain in cooler forearms, you may lose in fashion credentials, as shorter styles can inadvertently make the wearer look like a fast food chain employee. Not that we’re suggesting that there’s anything wrong with that career option, but if you’d rather channel Don Draper than Ronald McDonald, then play it safe by sticking to a longer length.
Go breathable with natural fabrics, but ensure that you avoid the “slept in my clothes last night” look by steering clear of 100% linen, as it’s impossible to avoid heavy creasing. A fine cotton and linen blend is just as cool and will remain crisp for longer. Consider experimenting with pastels or a subtle check for a look that’s both seasonally appropriate and understated.
As with your shirt, do avoid 100% linen suits, as these will crease almost immediately, lending you a dishevelled air that just isn’t appropriate for business attire. Likewise, lightweight cream or beige suits may well reflect the sun’s rays, but they also carry an inherent danger of making you look like a crumpled old colonial figure, which is not a good look in today’s international business climate.
Although it sounds counter-intuitive, a superfine wool suit is a great option in the heat as this original smart fabric’s highly insulating properties help keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Cotton-linen blends are the order of the day in a business-casual office, while chinos respect a “no denim” rule but are perfectly smart when paired with a plain blazer in a complementary colour. For the fashion-forward among us who are lucky enough to work in a progressive environment, city shorts are having a bit of a moment and can look surprisingly smart. If you do decide to take the plunge and bare those calves, keep it businesslike with shorts no briefer than knee length, teamed with neutral or tan shoes. And ditch the socks.
Best foot forward
Black shoes are usually too heavy for summer months, so look to other neutrals such as tan, cream or even khaki to soften your look. Consider switching styles to espadrilles, suede desert boots or loafers, all of which are better suited to warm weather than brogues or Oxfords.
Open-toed footwear is usually a no-no in the workplace, but where permitted we implore you to please be considerate and ensure that your feet are fit to be seen in public before donning sandals. Hairy toes and ragged nails must be dealt with before unveiling them to your colleagues, or face the consequences (and a sudden decrease in those summer barbeque invitations).
Stick to these simple rules and you’ll be in for a cooler, more comfortable and considerably more stylish summer. You’re welcome.