It’s fair to say that we Brits haven’t yet had a summer to speak of. However, as the past couple of days have proved (at least in Brighton), occasionally we might be pleasantly surprised. We suffer terribly inconsistent weather, but for those whose intentions are distinctly sartorial, it’s still important that what we wear reflects our passion for clothes.
Some of you might remember the original guide to dressing down and dressing well, which was published last October. In this article I discussed my personal attitude towards clothes and how this manifested itself in the outfits I put together.
Well, my attitude hasn’t changed but the season has, so it’s time to stoke the fire once more and consider how you might want to dress down but still dress well during the spring/summer season.
Dressing Down In Spring/Summer
Unfortunately, we aren’t all blessed with an innate ability to remain sweat-free as soon as the temperature starts ticking towards twenty degrees – even if we’re just standing around. Throw in any kind of light exercise, a little bit of pressure/nervousness and it can seem as though someone has tipped a bucket of water all over you.
I have always found that the easiest way to get around this problem is to avoid over-complicating your outfits. Casual looks are by far the coolest and least stifling – regardless of whether or not you take note of Matt’s excellent advice on summer fabrics – so it’s generally my go-to way of dressing over the warmer months.
My summer outfit selection is generally based around colour, fabric and fit. As much as it seems ridiculous, certain colours do show your unsightly sweating more than others, particularly grey. I also find that bold colours in general tend to set it all off, so will generally avoid them.
Although a lot of these problems can be solved by fit. For one season only, the slimmest of slim fit shirts, tees, polos, jeans, chinos etc. are not your best friend; anything that clings close to your body is just inviting warmth and contact, so opt for clothes that have a slightly looser cut.
Fabric, as Matt has pointed out, is also extremely important. Heavyweight chinos, cords and the like are designed for the winter – so too are big, chunky jumpers in heavyweight wool. Lightweight layers will be much more comfortable and much more suitable for warmer days, stopping you from overheating yet keeping out the worst of any chill.
Look 1: The Humble Henley
To my mind, the humble Henley tee is a wardrobe essential. Extremely versatile, you can use them as a base layer, a lightweight second layer or as a standalone item, and for those mornings/evenings when the temperature is just a touch lower than normal, the extra length in the sleeves should be just the thing to keep you warm.
Stick to neutral colours (I’ve found oatmeal to be particularly useful) and you can wear them with practically anything you want. Knitted examples are good when using as a standalone piece and don’t be afraid of going for something striped or patterned, it will only serve to add interest.
A pair of tailored chinos or trousers is a great way to elevate the Henley to another level. If your top is in a neutral hue then you can afford to experiment with colour on the bottom – don’t be afraid to go for something a little bit ‘out there’ as the rest of the outfit will anchor them. Consider getting your trousers taken up at the bottom so that they brush the top of your shoes, or even sit around the ankle for a typically Italian-inspired aesthetic.
I’ve chosen to use double-monks here because they are a personal favourite – you could easily switch them out for a pair of loafers, suede brogues, espadrilles, desert boots… whatever you please.
Should you want to bring an extra layer with you, why not consider a denim shirt? Particularly if you’ve used chinos or tailored trousers, a denim shirt might be just the thing to strike a perfect smart-casual balance:
- Esprit Henley Top With Long Sleeves
- Allsaints Beaumont Shirt
- Reiss Roadster Cotton Tailored Fit Trouser Ice Blue
- Allsaints Conduct Shoe
Alternative Lookbook Inspiration
For our alternative lookbook inspiration, we will simply showcase a variety of spring/summer-appropriate outfits that bear in mind the principles outlined above whilst making use of the key pieces within each look.
Here we build around the simple Henley tee and its smarter alternative, the granddad collar shirt:
Look 2: Short-Sleeved Shirts
Denim features heavily in this look but that’s because it strikes an effective balance between keeping cool and staying warm. I’ve only just come round to short-sleeve shirts in the last couple of months but now I love them, at least in a casual context.
Do that shirt all the way up, roll up the sleeves once or twice and you’ve got the beginnings of a look with a bit of an edge. As previously mentioned, avoid slimmer fitting styles (unless you intend to tuck the shirt in) as this will help keep you cooler and maintain the casual aesthetic.
Carry around a shawl collar cardigan and you will be able to transition from morning to day or day to night with ease, smartening up the whole look with the structure of the cardigan.
A pair of neutral shorts is a summer must have but try thinking outside the navy/stone box in which many seem to get trapped. Alex recently covered print shorts, but it could equally be a pair in green, grey, burgundy or yellow. I always roll them up once or twice as well, a few turns finishes them off nicely.
Although I’m sure many of you are not fans, I have a soft spot for Vans Authentic trainers. The canvas upper makes them the perfect summer shoe and they are so easy to pull on and go. If you’ve played it safe with your upper half, don’t be scared to use a bold coloured or printed pair of trainers – they were, after all, picked out as a key piece for this season by one of the girls in our recent Girls’ Eye View feature:
- Reiss Anderson Short Sleeve Denim Shirt Blue
- Beams Plus Shawl-collar Linen Cardigan
- Topman Grey Chino Shorts
- Vans Authentic Plimsolls
Alternative Lookbook Inspiration
Shorts-sleeved shirts are experiencing a moment, so here we focus on this key style for SS13. A shawl neck cardigan is another great layering piece to have in your wardrobe for when the temperature drops (be it morning or evening), and it can be paired with everything from polos to basic t-shirts:
Look 3: Jeans & T-Shirt Combination
As plain as some might say it is, the pairing of jeans with a basic tee forms the base of many a stylish look – and I don’t really see why it shouldn’t work perfectly well on its own. Whilst a pair of slim jeans, good boots and a white tee is a winning combination all year round, during the summer I think you can afford to take it to the next level.
Opt for a block stripe (like the one below), a motif/embroidered pattern, tie-dye, anything – just don’t be too safe, there’s no fun in that. For your top layer, a plain sweatshirt is an excellent choice, suiting the casual nature of the look down to the ground.
The fit of the jeans here is particularly important. When it’s warm, the extra space provided by slim or tapered cuts will be a welcome relief from your skinny jeans. A pair of light coloured suede desert boots is a classic and lightweight choice that will finish off any outfit with ease:
- Oliver Spencer Panelled Cotton T-shirt
- Allsaints Sprint Crew Sweater
- Allsaints Blythe Taper Jeans
- Desert Boot Caramel
Alternative Lookbook Inspiration
A simple jeans/chinos and t-shirt combination can be worked in a variety of ways – whether you want to make a statement or keep it stripped back, timeless and masculine:
Look 4: Lightweight Prep
The varsity jacket continues to be a key style this season and I’m willing to bet that it’ll be around for a while longer yet. Perfect for layering up during the winter and an excellent standalone outer layer during the summer, it’s well worth investing in one.
Lightweight versions, such as the one below, are perfect for the summer because they keep out the chill without becoming too heavy and overwhelming – jackets can soon become extremely uncomfortable to wear during hotter weather so it’s important you find the right one for your needs.
Neutral colours will offer maximum versatility but don’t be afraid to go for something in an easy to wear, yet slightly different shade, such as green or burgundy.
For the sneakerheads out there, roll up those jeans and let your latest cops shine. These Le Coq Sportif Eclat 89s are next on my list:
- Reiss Mccaan Striped Shirt Soft Blue
- Asos Varsity Jacket
- Topman Light Wash Stretch Skinny Jeans
- Le Coq Sportif Eclat 89
Alternative Lookbook Inspiration
Classic Spring/Summer Outfit Combinations
There are some classic, spring/summer-appropriate outfit combinations that will never go out of style. Simply mix and match chinos, jeans and shorts with tees, polos and casual shirts to create on point and adaptable looks, whatever the weather.
The lookbook below proves how two or three basic pieces can be combined to produce stylish casual outfits with minimal effort. Bear in mind fit, colour combinations and detailing and you will still be able to put your own individual spin on even the most timeless of ensembles:
- Topman Pattern Stripe Knitted T-shirt
- Asos Stripe Long Sleeve T-shirt
- Topman Grey Marl Grandad Long Sleeve T Shirt
- Allsaints Arlanda Crew Jumper
- Topman Navy Bomber Jacket
- Asos Denim Jacket
- Reiss Parachute Garment Dyed Harrington Cobalt
- Asos Textured Shawl Cardigan
- American Apparel Fishermans Pull Over
- Reiss Harrison T Harrison Trousers Blue
- Allsaints Yukai Taper Jeans
- Band Of Outsiders Slim-fit Washed Cotton-twill Chinos
- Topman Red Chino Shorts
- Reiss Tracker S Formal Cotton Tailored Fit Short
- Beams Plus Embroidered Shorts
- Reiss Stasko Tassel Loafers Tobacco
- Clarks Originals Desert Boot
- Nike Roshe Run
I love fashion, I love clothes, I love tailoring, I love suits and I love getting all dressed up – but most of the time I just don’t want the hassle. I want to look good and dress well but without having to make loads of effort every morning.
That’s why my hair isn’t carefully blow dried into position every day and why I don’t wear blazers and ties. I’d like to think I still dress well; it’s just in a different way; taking more and more inspiration from sportswear trends and focusing on the casual end of the spectrum.
But now it’s time for you to have your say: do you find your style becoming a bit more casual during the summer? And what are your go-to outfits when you want to dress down, dress well and stay cool?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below…