Tired of holiday style guides that suggest you pack a few vests, a pair of shorts and some sunglasses? Then look to the south of France for your summer sartorial cues.
Emerging as one of the first modern resort areas in the late 18th century, the French Riviera has since been frequented by some of history’s most stylish cultural tastemakers, from novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald to artist Pablo Picasso. From the 1920s onwards, Europe’s most affluent began to flock in their droves to cities like Nice, Marseilles and Cannes, as well as Portofino and San Remo on the Italian Riviera.
Riviera style, then, began as a means of translating European elegance to a much hotter locale where daily activities included little more than sunbathing and maybe some yachting if you were feeling energetic. While fashion has changed over the years, the fundamentals of men’s Riviera style remain the same.
Keen to cut a debonair figure once you hit the coast? Or maybe you’re just looking to recreate a little of the Riviera back home? Either way, here’s what you need to know.
Accurately channelling the Riviera aesthetic is as much about the sensibility as it is ensuring your wardrobe is stocked with key pieces – and colour plays an integral role.
At the core of the classic Riviera palette are light neutrals like white, beige, stone, tan and ecru, all of which look their best in sunny weather, combine easily with most other hues and contribute to keeping you cool by reflecting rather than absorbing light.
For interest, nautical reds and blues are worth adding, while pastels like mint green, sky blue, pale yellow and lavender are the perfect accents to a low-key base.
The Polo Shirt
The polo shirt is an indisputable Riviera must-own. So synonymous is it with the south of France that luxe basics brand Sunspel even dubbed their collection of Bond-approved cotton mesh polos the ‘Riviera’ collection.
And it’s plain to see why. Coming collared – unlike a tee – a polo protects your neck from exposure to direct sunlight, while providing a more comfortable solution to looking refined in the heat than a long-sleeved Oxford shirt.
While traditional cotton piqué styles are inarguably classic – and will serve you well for many years to come – it’s worth exploring other fabric options like lighter weight Egyptian and Sea Island cottons, which will guarantee comfort on the Côte d’Azur.
Alternatively, keep an eye out for unusual textures in the form of knitted polos which hark back to the mid-century style of icons who first made the destination famous. Above all, avoid synthetic fibres which – unlike natural cotton – only add fuel to summertime heat’s fire.
Layer yours under a lightweight blazer, or try wearing it alone buttoned right to the top for a spruced up finish.
The Breton Long-Sleeved Top
There are few items of clothing as quintessentially French as the Breton striped shirt and, well, when in Rome…
While you’ll find plenty of short-sleeved Breton T-shirts on the current market, we suggest steering classic for this one, so look to add a long-sleeved, lightweight cotton style featuring a navy-, black- or red-coloured stripe to your summer wardrobe.
Whether or not you’re planning on boating, this maritime staple lends your Riviera getup some understated nautical charm.
Lightweight, Unlined Tailoring
No matter if the mercury soars, a polo shirt and a pair of shorts just won’t cut it for certain occasions. Whether you’re after an evening cocktail or a boardwalk dinner date, a few pieces of lightweight, unlined tailoring (or a suit) will allow you to look sharp without the need to accessorise with a sweat towel.
Which is where fabric choice comes in. Lightweight cotton, seersucker, linen and cotton-linen blends all make for sound summertime tailoring being both light in weight and breathable.
To maximise ventilation without skimping on style, look for a cut that’s slim enough to flatter your form, but not so restrictive as to compromise airflow.
Tailored Shorts & Chinos
Board shorts might be good for an all-inclusive resort on the Bahamas, but for this stretch of the Mediterranean coast, you’ll need something more streamlined.
Well-cut shorts (ending just above the knee, slightly tapered through the thigh) will save you from looking sloppy once you need to bare your legs, while a similarly cut pair of chinos (either cropped or rolled at the ankle) are a good stand-in for when you realise you forgot to steam those linen trousers.
As with tailored separates, fabrics like cotton and linen are favourable, while you should keep your colour choice conservative (think white or navy) if you want to maximise mixing-and-matching potential. However, if that’s not much of a concern, opt for a pastel shade or subtle print to stand out from your fellow sun-worshippers.
Tailored Swim Shorts
Taking a dip needn’t mean your style standards have to slip. With more and more labels crafting masterfully tailored swimwear, you can look just as put-together by the pool as at a villa party. Well, almost.
No matter whether you’re an Orlebar Brown man or a Dan Ward devotee, the principles remain the same: consider what your skin tone can take when choosing colours, and be prepared to crank up your confidence to pull off printed styles.
Although the only way to do the beach is barefoot for optimal Riviera insouciance, you’ll need to cover up once you come off the shore.
Classic leather sandals in black or brown work well, teaming effortlessly with the rest of your Riviera wardrobe, while espadrilles are a good alternative for men who don’t rate sandals but still want to keep things relaxed and refined.
For bar hopping or grabbing a bite to eat, sub in an indisputably timeless pair of loafers or driving shoes, preferably in suede for an additional flush of luxury that’ll mark you apart.
Once you’ve acquired the key pieces above, all that remains to bring your look up to Riviera level is a few judiciously styled debonair touches.
Given that even the glitterati would concede that neck ties are unnecessary in summer heat, swap yours out for a silk pocket square placed neatly in your blazer’s breast pocket.
Other worthwhile additions include a straw fedora or panama (partly for instant style points, partly for sun coverage) and a pair of classic tortoiseshell sunglasses (adjust frame shape to your face type) to add some final polish.
As practical as it is aesthetically appealing, it’s no wonder Riviera style continues to look relevant today, almost a century since it first took shape.
Will you be channelling the Côte d’Azur this season? Or care to share your Riviera style tips?
Have your say below.