Summer Suits

Summer Suits

Q. Last week I answered a question about a light blue jacket as a nice variation for summer wear. I immediately received an email complaining/asking if lighter blue was really the most wild a man can go?

A. A lighter blue jacket is definitely just one launching point . . . Summer dressing is a well-dressed man’s opportunity to stray from the straight and narrow. His warm weather choices can be lighter, brighter, less formal, and more playful than any other time of year. Depending upon how daring/creative you like to be, each category of a man’s clothing allows for a few summer departures from more conservative year ‘round dressing. While most of these suggestions are great choices for weekend and social dressing, some are questionable options that call for caution as business wear, especially if yours is a rather staid business environment.

SUITS: You can go a little crazy with colors in summer. Very light shades of gray, blue, olive, tan, ivory, even white suits make a handsome sartorial statement in warm weather, but they don’t seem appropriate in fall and winter. And, despite what you might see pictured in current men’s fashion publications, I do not recommend – even for fashion-forward dressers – that you wear suits in yellow, coral (orangey-red), mint green or lavender. A whole suit in such offbeat colors is too over-the-top and too look-at-me for a male who thinks of himself as an adult.

BLAZERS/SPORT JACKETS: Not only can these seasonal jackets be lighter and more colorful than winter jackets, but the patterns can also be bolder: checks can be larger, window panes can be more vivid, herringbones and glen plaids can be brighter. Even so, this freedom of choice does not extend to outright goofiness, such as a polka-dot jacket.

TROUSERS: Most light colors as well as white work well. So do dressy darks. As an example, a cream-colored linen jacket pairs up smartly with, say, black trousers. Fabrics range from lightweight wools to cotton seersucker. In the right setting, white jeans are a stylish summer look.

SHIRTS: Dress shirts in all colors, especially white and light, clear shades, are flattering on a man who has a summer tan. Fabrics may be lighter in weight. Summer sport shirts include long-sleeved traditional styles in solids, pastel plaids, or semi-bold patterns; short-sleeved patterns such as polka dots and Hawaiian prints; and all manner of knit polo shirts.

SWEATERS: Fabrics shift from an emphasis on wools and cashmeres to cottons and linens. Long-sleeved and sleeveless vest styles can become alternatives to a sport jacket.

TIES: Instead of mostly silks, many warm-weather ties are cotton or linen in solid pastels, in knits, and in such summer fabrics as madras plaids and flowered prints. You can make a personality statement simply by wearing a bowtie or a strongly-colored tie. It might be a bright blue with widely-spaced khaki stripes, perfect with your tan summer suit.

POCKET SQUARES: Silk squares are certainly fine with a suit, but summer seems to call more for cotton or linen. I like colored cotton or white cotton with a colored border. Be sure your square compliments, but does not exactly match, your tie. Tuck it in your pocket – points up or points down. Either way, don’t arrange it too precisely. Casual is the right tone.

SHOES: Styles are less formal. Fewer lace-ups and more slip-ons are seen. Even with a suit, wingtips are rare. But guys with a strong sense of self and style might be able to pull off two-toned spectators or saddle shoes. With casual clothes, loafers, deck shoes, and “dress sneakers” are popular.

SOCKS: If you have hesitated to personalize your wardrobe with fun colored socks, summer could be the time to give it a try.

Important note: while smart dressing allows for unique departures, it does not allow for more than one, or at the most two, noticeably unusual elements in a single outfit. With oddball colored suits or jackets, tone them down with accessories that are on the quiet, conservative side. So, if you wear an ivory-colored suit, pair it with a standard white or light blue shirt, rather than an unexpected light green or lavender shirt. With a vividly colorful sport jacket, don’t add an orange or purple tie; choose a more neutral color tie instead, such as navy. So long as you adopt only one or two special touches, you gain individuality. If you incorporate several, the effect is counterproductive. You are seen as being too concerned with your looks.

When you break one rule deliberately and elegantly, you are dressing with distinction. When you break several, you are seen as a person who just doesn’t know the rules.

Categories: Male Call