Summer Alternatives

Summer is the time of the year when style simplicity reigns. The nuances of fashion and its many trends are generally skipped over at the height of the season – when temperatures are at their peak – with the majority of men opting for a more relaxed, casual approach to their daily attire.

Yet even though your outfits have been stripped-back to the bare minimum, a few tweaks here and there will make all the difference to your look without sacrificing practicality or comfort.

One easy adjustment is to opt for subtle alternatives to your current wardrobe staples – for example, a band collar shirt in place of a traditional Oxford button-down.

With that in mind, today we focus on three alternative summer tops that offer something extra over your basic t-shirts and polos this season…

1. The Baseball Shirt

The sports luxe aesthetic has stamped its mark on designer collections in recent years, with sportswear becoming one of the fastest growing sectors in menswear. One of the more literal interpretations to crossover from the world of sports to men’s fashion has been the baseball top, which has quickly developed into a go-to casual option for many men.

The baseball jersey brings a relaxed feel to any summer look, typified by its collarless neckline and soft cotton construction. A contemporary choice, its relative absence outside of US fashion circles ensures it will make a subtle statement while adding a unique twist to your day-to-day looks.

Whether you favour a team replica, branded version or more pared-back design, restricting your top to casual aesthetics is the easiest way to master it. While slim or skinny tailoring layered over a baseball shirt can appear ultra-modern, they often look best when styled in a laid-back way.

The baseball top isn’t just a one season wonder either. DKNY are major fans and included them within their SS15 collection, styling the shirt on its own alongside tailored trousers as well as rakishly layered underneath a suit for a true sports luxe feel:

Men's Baseball Tops On The DKNY SS15 Runways

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Baseball Tops Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

primark ss14sandro ss13bal ss14asos ss14asos aw14urbanoutfitters summer league 2014
Example Look One: A Timeless Touch

The baseball shirt’s popularity may be born out of the industry’s current appetite for sportswear, but there’s no reason why you can’t take this trend and adopt a more timeless approach.

Give the top this very treatment by combining it with some stylish neutral basics: slim chinos, tassel loafers and a bomber-style cardigan, for when the temperature dips in the evening.

As this outfit proves, the baseball shirt, especially a clean and minimal version, makes a great alternative summer top because it’s able to subtly impact even the simplest of looks. Not only that, it offers versatility that belies its current trend status and has the potential to become a mainstay in your casual wardrobe long after the current infatuation with sportswear ends:

  • Asos Smart Shirt With Baseball Collar In Short SleeveAsos Smart Shirt With Baseball Collar In Short Sleeve
  • Sandro Zip-fastening Wool CardiganSandro Zip-fastening Wool Cardigan
  • Reiss Conor Straight Fit Chinos NavyReiss Conor Straight Fit Chinos Navy
  • Topman Thorn Brown Suede Tassel LoafersTopman Thorn Brown Suede Tassel Loafers
Example Look Two: A Trend-Led Take

Sportswear, sports luxe, sports-casual – whichever way you spin it, the aesthetic is currently in vogue and there’s no getting away from it. Here we take a more trend-led approach, creating an ensemble that will mark you out as a guy who has his finger firmly on the fashion pulse.

Look to smarten up your baseball top with some tailored trousers – dressed down suiting is something you’ll be seeing a hell of a lot of in 2015, so jump on the bandwagon early. Finish with seasonally-appropriate leather sandals for an edgy, fashion-forward feel.

This monochromatic look is effortlessly cool and proves sportswear needn’t be restricted solely to the gym anymore:

  • River Island White Stripe Button Through Baseball T-shirtRiver Island White Stripe Button Through Baseball T-shirt
  • Asos Slim Fit Suit Trousers In PoplinAsos Slim Fit Suit Trousers In Poplin
  • Topman Brown Leather Smart SandalsTopman Brown Leather Smart Sandals
Key Pieces
  • Asos T-shirt With Baseball PlacketAsos T-shirt With Baseball Placket
  • Majestic Athletic New York Yankees Baseball ShirtMajestic Athletic New York Yankees Baseball Shirt
  • Asos T-shirt With Baseball Button Through PlacketAsos T-shirt With Baseball Button Through Placket
  • Shades Of Grey By Micah Cohen Baseball ShirtShades Of Grey By Micah Cohen Baseball Shirt
  • Asos T-shirt With Button Through Baseball Placket And Chest PrintAsos T-shirt With Button Through Baseball Placket And Chest Print
  • Mesh Look Mvp Baseball ShirtMesh Look Mvp Baseball Shirt
  • Simon Miller Anthem Stripe Short-sleeved Denim Baseball ShirtSimon Miller Anthem Stripe Short-sleeved Denim Baseball Shirt
  • Majestic Ny Yankees Baseball JerseyMajestic Ny Yankees Baseball Jersey
  • Topman Black Leather Look Baseball T-shirtTopman Black Leather Look Baseball T-shirt
The Summer Henley

The Henley top is, quite frankly, an item worthy of its ‘timeless’ tag. Yet it’s also a piece that continues to be both underrated and under utilised as a casual wardrobe staple, not just in the summer but year-round.

Essentially a lightweight crew neck jumper with a button-up placket, the Henley offers something different to your basic t-shirt collection, without you needing to break or push any style boundaries.

Both long- and short-sleeved versions should be given serious consideration when considering alternative casual wear this summer, so look to stock up on a few from affordable retailers like Uniqlo, ASOS and HE By Mango.

Although the heat will sometimes restrict your choice, long-sleeved versions are particularly versatile; push the sleeves up and leave a few buttons open in warmer weather to keep cool while adding an effortless feel to your look, then simply roll the sleeves down and button-up when the nightly chill begins to kick in.

Not only that, a long-sleeved Henley makes an effective layering piece during the autumn/winter season, which means you are guaranteed to get value for money from it, whether you opt for a plain or patterned version.

Obviously, in summer natural fabrics are the superior option, so keep your eye out for cotton or even linen versions. Knitted styles in breathable, open weaves are also worthy of consideration, adding character, texture and depth to your warm-weather ensembles – something that is sorely missed when your outfits are stripped-back to single layers.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Summer Henley Tops - Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

h&m summer 2013lbm 1911 ss13reiss sports lux 2012scotch & soda ss13allsaints ss13minimum summer 2014he by mango summer 2014dolce & gabbana ss14
Example Look One: A Smart-Casual Henley

If you haven’t invested in some lightweight tailoring yet, you should. Whether you opt for linen, cotton or seersucker, a seasonally-appropriate suit is a modern must-own and they’re absolutely ideal for dressing down in a chic yet effortless fashion.

Pop a short-sleeved Henley tee underneath a cotton-linen blend suit and you’re instantly ready to tackle any smart-casual function this summer, from garden parties to a relaxed wedding reception. Top the look off with a pair of suede monk-straps for a continental feel:

  • Levis Henley T-shirt Slim Fit Mini WaffleLevis Henley T-shirt Slim Fit Mini Waffle
  • Allsaints Estate BlazerAllsaints Estate Blazer
  • Allsaints Estate TrousersAllsaints Estate Trousers
  • Topman Brown Suede Monk ShoesTopman Brown Suede Monk Shoes
Look Two: Long Sleeved In Summer

Wool and cashmere is hastily abandoned once winter concludes, but not all knitwear is created equal. A lightweight knit is an effective tool for spring layering and can be used as a summer top layer on a breezy day, particularly linen styles.

A light knitted Henley in a Breton stripe is going to serve you well whatever the weather. Use it as a middle layer during the colder months of the year and in the summer push the sleeves up for a relaxed, louche look.

Some bold coloured preppy shorts bring a strong statement aspect to this outfit, while you can never go wrong with classic white leather trainers:

  • He By Mango Striped Henley T-shirtHe By Mango Striped Henley T-shirt
  • Gant Rugger Slim-fit Cotton And Linen-blend ShortsGant Rugger Slim-fit Cotton And Linen-blend Shorts
  • Common Projects Original Achilles Leather Low Top SneakersCommon Projects Original Achilles Leather Low Top Sneakers
Key Pieces
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Henley T-shirtPolo Ralph Lauren Henley T-shirt
  • American Apparel Knit Long Sleeve HenleyAmerican Apparel Knit Long Sleeve Henley
  • Shades Of Grey By Micah Cohen Meridian Stripe Henley TopShades Of Grey By Micah Cohen Meridian Stripe Henley Top
  • Schiesser Cotton-jersey Henley T-shirtSchiesser Cotton-jersey Henley T-shirt
  • James Perse Slub-cotton Henley T-shirtJames Perse Slub-cotton Henley T-shirt
  • Schiesser Long-sleeved Cotton-jersey Henley T-shirtSchiesser Long-sleeved Cotton-jersey Henley T-shirt
  • Reiss Bourne Henley Collar Tee BlueReiss Bourne Henley Collar Tee Blue
  • Todd Snyder Chambray-trimmed Cotton-jersey Henley T-shirtTodd Snyder Chambray-trimmed Cotton-jersey Henley T-shirt
  • River Island LIGHT PINK GRANDAD T-SHIRTRiver Island LIGHT PINK GRANDAD T-SHIRT
  • He By Mango Henley T-shirtHe By Mango Henley T-shirt
  • 120% Lino Henley Striped T-shirt 183842120% Lino Henley Striped T-shirt 183842
  • He By Mango Slub-cotton Henley T-shirtHe By Mango Slub-cotton Henley T-shirt
The Statement Vest

The boldest of our picks and thus the hardest to pull off, a bold coloured or printed vest is a guaranteed statement-maker and when worn with confidence can become the lynchpin of your casual wardrobe during high summer.

They’re ideal for standing out at a festival or on the beach when taking a well-deserved break. Menswear certainly hasn’t shied away from print, pattern or colour of late so don’t be afraid to take it up a level with a sleeveless number this season.

In terms of style, there are limitless options available to you – 2014 is the year that menswear fully embraced all prints and colours, from high-end to high street.

That said, key motifs to keep your eye out for include polka dots, tie-dye, animal prints and florals, while block-colour pastel shades or Breton stripes look great when paired with tailored shorts or white trousers for a Riviera feel.

The statement doesn’t just come from the print chosen, though – the sleeveless look in itself is a bold one. Yet try not to get hung up on the vest aspect, this aesthetic is as far removed from the unflattering wife beater/string vest stereotype as it could be. After all, how many lager louts do you see stumbling out of your local at midday rocking a polka dot vest and a perfectly coiffed pompadour?

Finally, it should go without saying that the vest always looks its best on athletic or muscular builds. However, that doesn’t mean we all need or want to see your nipples. There are many designs on the current market that expose much more than is necessary. Try to exercise a little restraint – you’re not auditioning for Geordie Shore, after all.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Statement Vest Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

h&m summer 2013h&m summer basics ss14zara man 2014minimum summer 2013river island high summer 2014saturdays surf nyc ss13bershka ss11allsaints ss13topmanpull & bear march 2014zara man may 2012primark ss12
Example Look One: Loud & Proud

When the summer days become hot, humid and downright unbearable, a printed vest will have you looking on-point despite the clime. Forget all thoughts of layering and the like – let the vest fly solo.

With the print forming the focal point of your look, keep the rest of your outfit simple and casual. Here we pair an on trend floral vest with some neutral slim-fitting shorts, which can be switched for tailored swim shorts if you’re hanging out by the pool or on the coast.

Complete this go-to high season ensemble in fitting fashion with a pair of espadrilles. Again, opt for a muted hue to let the vest do all the talking:

  • Pull&bear Vest With Floral PrintPull&bear Vest With Floral Print
  • Allsaints Hendry Swim ShortsAllsaints Hendry Swim Shorts
  • Castaner Pablo Canvas EspadrillesCastaner Pablo Canvas Espadrilles
Look Two: Cover Up

Vests aren’t just suitable for those days when wearing anything else simply isn’t an option – a good vest allows you to exercise some warm-weather layering.

Pop a lightweight jacket or even a shirt over the top and leave it open, maintaining your printed vest as the focal point.

Light coloured legwear should absolutely be on your summer wishlist; white trousers are far more versatile than you think and pastel shades are always a strong spring/summer option.

Here we opt for a timeless white pair to help anchor the oversized polka dot (set to be a key print trend for SS15) vest. Roll the hems up a little and finish with a pair of leather loafers:

  • Saturdays Surf Nyc Printed Cotton-jersey VestSaturdays Surf Nyc Printed Cotton-jersey Vest
  • Jean Machine City Chambray Shirt 172816Jean Machine City Chambray Shirt 172816
  • He By Mango Garment-dyed Linen-blend Slim-fit ChinosHe By Mango Garment-dyed Linen-blend Slim-fit Chinos
  • Tods Scooby Doo Caviar Driving ShoesTods Scooby Doo Caviar Driving Shoes
Key Pieces
  • Pull & Bear Strap TopPull & Bear Strap Top
  • Next Floral Print VestNext Floral Print Vest
  • Allsaints Ripped Camo VestAllsaints Ripped Camo Vest
  • Topman Burgundy Ikat Classic VestTopman Burgundy Ikat Classic Vest
  • Topman White Tunis Tile VestTopman White Tunis Tile Vest
  • Pull & Bear Strap TopPull & Bear Strap Top
  • River Island Asos Longline Vest With Tie Dye And Dropped Hem Skater FitRiver Island Asos Longline Vest With Tie Dye And Dropped Hem Skater Fit
  • Lightning Bolt tri-colour VestLightning Bolt tri-colour Vest
  • Reclaimed Vintage Vest With Acid Dye Blue StripeReclaimed Vintage Vest With Acid Dye Blue Stripe
  • Asos Vest With Bound EdgeAsos Vest With Bound Edge
  • Selected Homme Madder Tank In BlueSelected Homme Madder Tank In Blue
  • Asos Vest With Bound TrimAsos Vest With Bound Trim
Final Word

With summer being such an awkward period to dress for, seeking out alternatives to our basic staples is a great way to freshen up your style without the complication.

All three of the tops showcased above have the potential to bring a whole new dimension to your off-duty summer wardrobe, without dictating a dramatic change to your current personal style.

But now we want to hear your view:

  • Do you already own any of these three tops? Perhaps all of them?
  • How do you style yours when the sun is shining?
  • Have we convinced you to add any of them to your summer wardrobe?
  • Are you a fan of sports tops like the baseball shirt?

Let us know in the comments section…