While we’re dutifully substituting the wool suits for cotton or linen alternatives, ditching the denim in favour of chambray, and dusting off the tailored shorts at the first sight of sun, there’s one area of the wardrobe that often gets forgotten: the humble shirt.
Wearing the same cotton long-sleeved styles year-round is the norm for many, especially for those of us who have to suit up most days. But this menswear classic simply isn’t an all-weather piece, and seasonal takes are crucial if you want to stand any chance of beating the heat.
Here’s what you need to know to bring your wardrobe up to speed.
Key Considerations: Fabric & Colour
Naturally, fabric is the key consideration once the balmy days become more frequent. Polyester should already be a rare sighting within in your wardrobe, but come the summer, it’s time to ditch man-made materials altogether. Once that’s out of the way, vacuum pack anything flannel and wool, along with the heavier cottons that served your well throughout the colder months.
Instead, turn your attention towards lightweight shirts crafted from natural, breathable fabrics. Seersucker, cotton, linen and cotton-linen blends are the best options here. For the latter, a fairly typical 45/55 split is a good balance if you want to take advantage of linen’s superior cooling qualities but also keep creases at bay.
Likewise, choosing the right colours can help keep you cool. Prioritise lighter hues, which tend to reflect heat, rather than darker shades that absorb it. We don’t need to plug the merits of the white shirt (again) so why not consider pastels to really get a handle on the seasonal palette? Sky blue, lilac, mint green and sherbet yellow all fit the bill.
The Linen Shirt
The de facto choice for keeping cool in the heat, linen is highly breathable due to a low thread count. It’s also quick to wick away moisture, making it tough to beat come high summer. But these qualities do come with a downside: linen lacks the crisp structure of cotton – hence its propensity to wrinkle – making it less suitable to buttoned-up formal events.
Styling the linen shirt is best done by taking your cues from the Riviera; dress like you’re spending the day on the shores of the South of France or Tuscany and you can’t go too far wrong. Think light neutral colours paired with chinos, tailored shorts, unstructured blazers and tasselled loafers – very Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief (1955) or Alain Delon in Plein Soleil (1960).
Upholding its reputation for fabric innovation, Japanese retailer Uniqlo offers a slew of styles for those on a stricter budget. The brand’s linen line is typically outstanding, and this year it has expanded it to include a wealth of new colourways and cuts.
On the slightly pricier end of the scale, preppy stalwart Ralph Lauren rarely misses a beat when it comes to linen shirts, and neither does American-inspired Parisian label Hartford.
- Uniqlo Men Premium Linen Long Sleeve Shirt
- Uniqlo Men Premium Linen Long Sleeve Shirt
- He By Mango Slim-fit Linen Shirt
- Jigsaw Slim Fit Linen Shirt Cornflower
- River Island Grey Linen Long Sleeve Shirt
- Reiss Manoli Slim-fit Linen Shirt Pink
- Blue Harbour Pure Linen Easy To Iron Long Sleeve Shirt
- Orlebar Brown Malone Relaxed Fit Linen Shirt
- Oliver Spencer Red Eton Collar Linen Shirt
- Dunhill Billy Button-down Collar Linen Shirt
- Polo Ralph Lauren Slim-fit Linen Shirt
- Hartford Classic Linen Shirt
The Short-Sleeved Shirt
Once the reserve of the school playground and holidaying politician, this divisive shirt style is now a key fair-weather piece. But it does come with certain caveats – and failure to observe them won’t do you any favours, so pens at the ready.
First up, watch out for sleeves that are too big. If they’re ‘triangling’ out, look to bring them under control with a roll up or two. This will frame your arms well as opposed to dwarfing them with ballooning fabric.
Following on from that, make sure you reserve them for casual or smart-casual wear. Like a linen shirt, a short-sleeved design just doesn’t cut it when it comes to looking suitably spruced up for a formal occasion. Yes, you could disguise it with a blazer, but what if the jacket has to come off? Best not to run the risk of embarrassing yourself and keep this one for off-duty outings.
As for styling – perhaps a little ironically – short-sleeved shirts tend to look best when married with the more refined pieces in your wardrobe. Slim-cut chinos, tailored shorts, leather sandals and suede loafers will all do nicely. Try them with denim shorts, trainers, distressed jeans and the like and they tend to lose their lustre, so stick to the rakish Riviera as your primary source of inspiration, rather than Blackpool Pier.
Although a crisp white or sky blue short-sleeved shirt will never go out of fashion, don’t restrict yourself to plain coloured versions; a patterned design offers an easy way of injecting a shot of interest to your summer look, bringing a standout element at a time of year when everything’s being pared-back.
Alternatively, if you’re adverse to making such an overt statement, consider a Cuban collared version for a dash of 1950s Americana. The open, almost notch lapel-like collars are proving popular this season and will bring a touch of old school sophistication to any warm-weather wardrobe.
Reiss have been setting the standard for short-sleeved shirts for a couple of years now, offering a range of high quality plain and printed options that are cut slim and will adapt to the majority of occasions. For the more adventurous dressers, Topman is the place to go for trend-led designs, offering everything from psychedelic patterns to bold floral motifs.
- Topman Drapey Palm Print Revere Collar Short Sleeve Smart Shirt
- Asos Shirt With Short Sleeves And Ikat Print
- Allsaints Redondo Short Sleeve Shirt
- Reiss Olivio Printed Cuban Collar Shirt Soft Blue
- Reiss Beluga Checked Cuban Collar Shirt White
- Reiss Redmayne Short Sleeve Shirt Burgundy
- River Island Navy Micro Floral Print Short Sleeve Shirt
- Burton Pink All Over Print Shirt
- River Island Blue Stripe Short Sleeve Shirt
- Topman Navy/ Green Gingham Short Sleeve Casual Check Shirt
- Ted Baker Donot Oxford Shirt Green
- J.crew Floral-print Cotton Shirt
The Collarless Shirt
Want a style that’s less conventional but still keeps you cool? Then consider adding a band-collar or granddad shirt to your sartorial arsenal.
Surprisingly versatile, it’ll work well in both smart and casual settings this season, providing a subtle point of difference whether worn on its own or layered under a lightweight blazer.
While it definitely looks at home in the beating sun, it’d be remiss of us to suggest that the mere lack of a collar is enough to make this style summer-friendly. You’ll still need to heed the fabric advice detailed earlier, prioritising linens and chambray for dressing down and lightweight 100 per cent cotton options for smarter events.
Speaking of smart, a tie evidently won’t be much good for trussing up in this case, but you could consider the ‘air tie’ – i.e. doing your collarless shirt up to the top, which gives you a buttoned-up look in every sense of the word.
All-American brands Club Monaco and J.Crew stock a range of quality band-collar styles, from smarter Oxford-like takes to season-appropriate chambray and linen designs. However, if your budget won’t stretch, ASOS’ characteristically extensive range offers more than enough to fit your needs.
- Asos Twill Shirt In Long Sleeve With Grandad Collar
- Asos Shirt In Long Sleeve With Grandad Collar
- Zara Mao Collar Denim Shirt
- He By Mango Slim-fit Mao Collar Linen Shirt
- WALLACE & BARNES BAND-COLLAR JAPANESE SELVEDGE CHAMBRAY SHIRT
- Burton White Slim Fit Grandad Collar Smart Shirt
- River Island Black Smart Grandad Collar Shirt
- Linen Blend Tailored Fit Grandad Collar Shirt
- Reiss Mathias Grandad Collar Shirt Grey
- Oliver Spencer Slim-fit Striped Grandad Collar Shirt
- Club Monaco Slim-fit Cotton Shirt
- Aspesi Cotton Grandad-collar Shirt
The Smart Shirt
Just like your heavier suits, traditional smart long-sleeved shirts should be given a sabbatical following a hard winter’s work, packed away until the autumn leaves start to turn.
But what should you do if you’ve got a formal event or work in an office where failure to wear a smart shirt is a disciplinary offence? Pure linen may be out of the question but long-sleeved designs in cotton-linen blends can work. Failing that, lighter weight cotton shirts (particularly Egyptian cotton styles) are a godsend, saving you from relentlessly battling for control of the office air-con.
While fabric is your main focus for staving off sweat, don’t forget to keep your colours seasonal. Summer is the perfect time to bring a new hue into your usual workwear rotation; sky blue is an obvious and timeless choice, while lilac, washed yellow or pistachio green are all surprisingly versatile options too.
If pastel shades are too much for you (or your office dress code), gingham offers the ideal middle ground – injecting some seasonal personality without sacrificing formality or, indeed, verging into the used car-salesman territory that stripes so often do.
Try SuitSupply and Charles Tyrwhitt for an array of high quality Egyptian cotton shirts at extremely reasonable price points. What’s more, SuitSupply even allows you to design your own shirt if none of the existing styles pique your interest.
- He By Mango Slim-fit Tailored Shirt
- Asos Smart Shirt In Long Sleeve
- Reiss Totti Cutaway Collar Shirt Soft Pink
- Drakes White Brushed-cotton Shirt
- Racing Green Jonathan End On End Formal Shirt
- Thomas Pink Goldsmith Texture Slim Fit Button Cuff Shirt
- Limited Edition Slim Fit Forward Point Collar Shirt
- Suitsupply Pink Shirt
- Suitsupply Purple Shirt
- John Lewis Houndstooth Shirt Lilac
- Charles Tyrwhitt Purple Egyptian Cotton Puppytooth Extra Slim Fit Shirt
- Charles Tyrwhitt Pink Egyptian Cotton Puppytooth Extra Slim Fit Shirt
Summer is often a balancing act between looking good and not losing your head in the heat. However, by making the necessary changes to your wardrobe staples, like the shirt, you’ll find it a breeze.
Add a couple of the designs above to your collection this season and you’re sure to stay cool and comfortable without compromising your meticulous style standards.
Which shirts do you have on rotation for summer?