Jeremy Langmead, Editor-in-Chief of online designer menswear boutique Mr Porter, bemoans the standard of British men’s summer wardrobe
Yay, the sun’s out! But uh-oh, so are a lot of other things, too… Men of all ages seem to forget where they are, and even how old they are, as soon as the temperatures rise. That’s why our parks and pavements are currently littered with fashion road kill: vests, board shorts, unsightly sandals and far too much pale or sunburnt flesh. It’s as if as soon as someone mentions ice creams, we regress to childhood notions of what’s appropriate to wear in public.
I don’t want to be a spoilsport and suggest all men wear a burkini; nor do I believe that shorts are always inappropriate for the city — unlike designers such as Tom Ford and before him, Sir Hardy Amies, who both declared that they should only be worn on seaside promenades — but there are three rules that are worth keeping in mind.
The length of your shorts is vital to get right: if you’re over 18, forget board shorts. They’re not flattering (making legs looks stumpy) and will give you a peculiar tan line.
However, neither do you want to go too short. Some of the designers may have opted for micro-shorts this summer, but unless you want to look like Daisy Duke’s cross-dressing brother, I suggest that you go for a tailored pair that falls a few inches above the knee. Also, beware the cargo short: unless you’re very skinny, all those pouches and pockets will not prove flattering — especially as, being men, we see a pocket and immediately feel a compulsive need to fill it with useless stuff.
Likewise, sleeveless tops are rarely a good idea. The vest is popular on the high street this summer, but it’s a look that requires toned, tanned arms to pull off, and even then they reveal a little too much armpit hair for those who have to share a crowded Tube with you. Even short-sleeved shirts can look wrong: if you have puny arms you can end up looking like the man from the Mr Muscle ads. Go for a classic T-shirt (Sunspel, for example) instead.
Now we’re left with the feet. These can prove very dangerous territory at this time of year: either cover them up or make sure they’re pedicured to perfection. Beards may be fashionable now, but that doesn’t mean you should sport them on your toes, too, so wax if necessary.
If you’re going for sandals, don’t buy a pair with too many straps (you’re not a gladiator, whatever the man in the shop says) and don’t buy a pair that look too practical, either (watch Mike Leigh’s Seventies classic Nuts In May and you’ll see what I mean). If you want your extremities to enjoy the good weather, I would recommend a pair of espadrilles, Rivieras or, if you’re poolside, a pair of Havaianas — just don’t let them click-clack too loudly.
So, there you go. A bit of consideration for your fellow citizens isn’t too much to ask, is it? After all, you don’t want people dressing you with their eyes all summer.
For your complete summer wardrobe, head here
Marcus Jaye, creative director of thechicgeek.co.uk, tells us what to pair with what this season.
“There are two types of summer headwear: the ‘statement’ and the ‘practical’. Both shield your head from the sun, yet only one offers you the chance to stylishly show off. If you want something a little bit different, try a boater.
“Synonymous with public school kids and toffs near water, the boater is a perfect alternative to the straw trilby or panama. The thick, English-made boater is a sturdy purchase and looks remarkably contemporary — think early-Eighties I’m Still Standing-era Elton John. “The Hat Company has a traditional English boater [£39.95; thehatcompany.com] and Lock & Co’s [pictured, £125; lockhatters.co.uk] features natural straw with black ribbon.”
“Think about investing in a canvas tote. They’re light, summery and practical, and held away from the body they won’t make you too stuffy and hot in the sun — backpacks by comparison always give you a sweaty back. This YSL example [£275, mrporter.com] is lovely — it’s coated canvas, so won’t stain as easily, and features subtle branding.”
“I’d recommend looking for the espadrille hybrid, which is a traditional leather shoe with a rope detailing around the sole. Lacoste has a good compromise with its Rene trainers [£57; lacoste.com], which have a nice thick espadrille detail. For something dressier, Kurt Geiger has the Warwick [£250; kurtgeiger.com].
“Another new trend is the coloured sole, giving a bright flash of colour between you and the pavement. These Mark McNairy New Amsterdam Suede Officers Shoes [£180; asos.com] have a striking blue sole in the same vein as those seen on the catwalk at Jil Sander and Raf Simons.”
“Try anything rounded. Go for a tortoiseshell colouring, which enhances the vintage feeling, and tinted lenses — try something different, such as navy or dark green lenses [pictured, £45; topman.com].”
“The big story this season is the smart summer jacket — a traditional, double-breasted jacket or tuxedo, but in lightweight cotton or seersucker. It’s all about looking dressed without being stuffy. The double-breasted shape wraps the torso in a new formality that you just don’t get with single-breasted. Cut short, it frames the upper body in a square shape and makes you look instantly put together.
“Asos has a double-breasted suit jacket in lightweight denim [£90; asos.com] that matches an informal fabric with a formal shape, and Paul Smith has this short double-breasted jacket [£375; paulsmith.co.uk] which would work well for a summer’s evening. Look for details such as white buttons and light-coloured striped or gingham linings.”
“The chino continues as the default summer trouser of choice, filling that gap between casual and formal while being more summery than jeans. The Rolls-Royce of chinos are by Incotex [pictured, £180; mrporter.com]. Made by the renowned Italian Slowear factory, they are pricey but you’re paying for the quality and not the designer name. By opting for a slim leg you have the option to roll the trouser. Go for lightweight cotton as they feel more comfortable in the heat and roll better.”
(Top image: Rex Features)
(Bottom image: Mikkel Russel Jensen)