How early is too early for summer suits?

How early is too early for summer suits?

Q. I have been on the jury of an interminably long, but very interesting, case for months now. Even if you publish this after the case is over, I can’t explain anything about it or about those involved, but I can comment on their clothing. A fellow juror pointed out that we have been here so long that one attorney seems to have transitioned from suits for fall then winter and now to his suits for spring. He is now wearing light-colored suits in a sea of navy blue, gray, and black.  I imagine he was desperate to mix it up.  Is mid-to-late-April too early for the change?  

A.If his suits were light wool, I would think they would be fine, but I would not recommend going so far as to wear a light cotton seersucker suit in April. You mentioned that those around him were in darker suits, so he may well want to stand out, or even distract. Of course, clothing can distract in both positive and negative ways. Being appropriate or inappropriate to a setting or to a season can be nicely attention-grabbing, or it may send a wrong message. 

Light-colored suits certainly can be a flattering look. They are such a refreshing change of pace that it does not seem logical to hang onto all those old-fashioned ideas of dressing. The traditional rules stated that no one should wear spring and summer clothing before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. That said, there really is no good reason to wait for Memorial Day before breaking out a suit in light blue or pale gray wool or a khaki-colored cotton poplin. Besides adding suits that are lighter-colored, you might also add dark ones in very lightweight wool or a wool/cotton blend. These are all widely accepted as transitional items in a man’s wardrobe. They can help him segue smoothly from one season to the next.

For the man wondering about other early spring options, there are many choices when you further expand your thinking beyond matched suits to include fine light-colored blazers and sport jackets. Add a pastel wool blazer or two as well as an elegant ivory slub-textured silk jacket to your closet for a note of sophistication. These choices are now more acceptable than in the past’s more formal work world. Times have changed. In addition to the usual what-to-wear questions, the influences of Covid and climate change have added a new layer of informality to our lives. Some of the previous dressing “up” requirements now seem to have taken on a note of “too much.”  

Perhaps the most versatile garments for transitional dressing are sweaters. All weights and materials (cotton, silk, wool, and cashmere) and a range of styles (from crewnecks and V-necks to cardigans) will work for you in many situations (from super casual to quite dressy). Finding sweaters that layer nicely over shirts and under jackets is a useful tactic, definitely worth the time and effort. And I don’t know any man who does not love to wear a dark leather bomber jacket for casual weekend events. This is certainly the right time of year to introduce all of these.

If you do decide to wear lighter blazers this early in the year, I suggest pairing them with well-cut wool dress trousers in some dark color. Don’t mix any slightly-ahead-of-the-season items with garments that everyone associates exclusively with summer dressing, such as linen trousers, cotton Madras plaid neckties, short-sleeve sport shirts, sandals, or a straw hat. Keep in mind that when a man is a secure enough dresser to break a rule or two, it should be apparent that he is doing so by design, and not because he doesn’t know any better . . . or else he may be harshly judged. 

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