Male Call – There are rules for light suits?

Male Call – There are rules for light suits?
Q. Is a lighter suit really appropriate for an office?  I wear blue and gray suits and it would be good to have something that is a bit of a change, but I am not sure anyone wears them to real offices as opposed to celebrities at openings.

A. Unless you work in the most straight-laced, formal field in the strictest dress code of offices (and often even there), a lighter colored suit is definitely appropriate for the summer. But it is important to know the styles and rules to distinguish what works versus those that are the extreme and should only be worn to a summer wedding or party.
These can be great opportunities to stand out beyond the typical dark suit, and look cool, without a risk of trying to appear younger or “hipper” than you see yourself. Young men may tend to overlook anything slightly unusual, either because they are unfamiliar with it or for fear of seeming like too much of a maverick. A well-dressed maverick has a certain appeal. And a light suit, particularly a seersucker suit, is certainly not an everyman style.
Besides a lighter shade of blue or gray, you have two options: a lightweight khaki suit or the seersucker. They both have the advantage of being a change of pace and appropriate, as long as you observe the seasonal “rules.”
A khaki (or tan) suit offers variation; it extends your color palette. It allows you to wear a light suit, which can be a welcome addition to an otherwise dark wardrobe of suits. It works well with a suntan, and, thus, has its own built-in repetition of color. 
Notice how logical men’s styles are. Contrast is essential. In winter months, when we are pale, dark suits are all that are appropriate. In warm weather, with a flattering tan, khaki suits are added to the closet, giving you variation, repeating the color of tan skin, and emphasizing it as well.
Khaki suits can be lightweight wool or comfortable cotton poplin. In either fabric, they allow for shirts and ties in a wider range of colors than you might normally pair with your blues and grays. Brown accessories such as brown belts and shoes are the ideal choices. Ivory-colored shirts work well. Variations on yellow and orange ties are very smart with khaki.
A seersucker suit: Now is definitely the perfect time to consider buying a classic seersucker suit, because the seersucker season is a limited

Seersucker suit

one from Memorial Day to Labor Day just as with most “whites.”

For the uninitiated, seersucker is an all-American style. The cut is classic: two-button closure, natural shoulders, and a relaxed (not too slim) fit. The fabric is crinkly, lightweight and cool, mostly all-cotton (but sometimes a cotton blend), and generally less expensive than wool. It is light in color, partly because it is striped: blue-and-white looking from a distance like light blue, brown-and-white appearing to be tan, and (less often) red-and-white adding up to a rose/pink. My strong preference is for the blue-and-white version.  

As for the appropriate occasion for wearing seersucker, in men’s clothing there is a sliding scale of what is quite dressy, what is less so, and what is casual wear. The dressiest item (short of black-tie wear) is the matched suit, progressing in color/dressiness from dark to medium to light. Therefore, perhaps the most casual suit is the seersucker. It has a nice air of different-from-the-usual, without being too quirky. 
Because seersucker is a bit less formal, it can be worn with or without a tie, with either a button-down collar shirt or a knit polo shirt, when and where the settings are appropriate. If you do wear a tie, stay with styles on the conservative side; bold avant-garde patterns seem somehow discordant with the quiet “old money” tone of seersucker. Choose a tie that is not too formal, such as a cotton madras plaid, a solid-color pastel linen, or maybe a navy knit.

Avoid any elegant, dressy styles such as double-breasted cuts, French-cuff shirts, cufflinks, and other dandified touches. Wearing seersucker implies a casual nonchalance; it requires a large degree of consistency and more than a hint of self-confidence. Because a seersucker suit has an offbeat look-at-me “personality,” the rest of the outfit should be more standard. A light blue-and-white seersucker mates perfectly with a quiet white Oxford cloth shirt. Avoid pairing a blue shirt with blue seersucker; two shades of light blue are nearly impossible to harmonize well. A pale yellow or fresh pink cotton shirt blends nicely with seersucker’s casual texture.

As to whether a seersucker suit can be worn to work, a lot depends on the formality of your work environment. If the men in your office still only wear deep blue and dark gray suits year-round, then a seersucker suit is probably too light-colored and informal. But if khaki suits appear in spring and summer and if men wear sport coats, your corporate culture is likely to embrace the style. In fact, in these informal days, a seersucker suit might actually be too dressed-up for many casual offices.

On the other hand, some rather staid offices feel these suits are too casual, too preppy, too devil-may-care, too white-shoe, even too snobby and Ivy League. These all may have one-upsmanship advantages, but they may also have disadvantages that should be weighed carefully before deciding on seersucker for the office. Personally, I love seersucker suits, but not everyone does.

Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions for “MALE CALL” to:

Categories: Male Call