Men have long been dogged by our clunky approach to summer dressing. Too much of the wrong thing, too little of the right, and don’t even get us started on the moves blokes break out on foreign shores (budgie smugglers are very rarely okay, outside an Olympic swimming pool).
Of course, we’re not all in the same boat (especially when it comes to JFK and his yacht). So here, with the help of eight timeless menswear icons, is how to nail every look you could possibly need this season, all without breaking a sweat.
It’s a safe bet to assume that none of us are (or ever will be) even half as cool as Clint Eastwood, but that’s no reason not to try. Although perhaps best known to millennials as the guy that spawned a Gorillaz song, in his heyday the Man with No Name made summer dressing look more good, than bad or ugly.
Take a leaf out of his book and play preppy the right way. That means no fire engine-red chinos or loose-fitting powder pink polo shirts with upturned collars. Instead, pop on a slim-fitting polo in a colour that hasn’t been tainted by Rahs, and wear with regular-fitting chinos or trousers to skillfully walk that smart-casual line. Cool, clean, classic.
Believe it or not, but there once was a time when the Office of the President of the United States was occupied by arguably the most stylish man on earth.
You only need to look as far as JFK to see that the commander-in-chief also commanded an impeccable selection of Ivy League wardrobe staples and clean-cut classics that wouldn’t look out of place today.
Outside of The Oval Office, the 35th president did his best work on a yacht. Offset only by his trademark Wayfarer sunglasses, Jacky Boy made all-white boat style look a breeze, pairing a now on-trend Cuban collar shirt with relaxed-fit chinos and tonal sneakers.
If that POTUS style is a little too punchy, sub in a slightly more toned down black or navy version of the shirt or add some variation down below with cropped grey trousers. Take note, Trump.
Marlon Brando’s unfussy style – T-shirts, trousers, crew neck jumpers – should, in theory, be universally achievable. In practice though, without leading man looks and Stanley Kowalski guns, it’s hard to make such basic pieces look as good as he did.
But just because you can’t smoulder as effectively, doesn’t mean there aren’t a few timeless pairings to take away here. Provided you nail the fit of both (slim but not chest-hugging up top and straight- or slim-leg for the jeans down below), the result is guaranteed to transcends trends – it’s positively Facebook-proof.
If you really want to nail the Mr Mumbles uniform, you’ll need to consider quality. Any old misshapen white T-shirt and baggy-kneed jeans won’t cut the mustard, so opt for the best materials you can afford.
Play The Field
A quick Google will testify that Robert Redford had one of the greatest wardrobes – both on- and off-screen – of all time at one point. We’re pretty sure you could close your eyes, point and be pretty much guaranteed to land on a killer outfit, which means he can teach all of us a thing or two about looking suave in summer.
More specifically, you should riff on his love of that old classic, the field jacket. The beauty of this stylish perennial is its construction: not too bulky or lightweight, it makes the ideal top layer for the season’s more inclement days.
Wear yours with a grey T-shirt and beige chinos for a fresh take on this military-inspired must-have.
The King Of Cool
Is there a man more celebrated for his style than Steve McQueen? It might have become something of a menswear cliché to praise the actor’s ability to pull together a damn fine outfit, but hey, there’s no smoke without fire.
The key to Bandito’s eternal appeal? His appreciation of simplicity. Tap some of his style nous by looking to a surprisingly modest combination: a crew neck T-shirt and some denim shorts. However, it’s imperative you get the fit of the shorts right – too loose, and you’re a member of a nineties boy band, too tight, and you’re suddenly on the set of Geordie Shore.
For a little extra McQueen-inspired magic, shade your eyes in a pair of Persol 0714s – the glasses that made the actor’s turn in The Thomas Crown Affair one of the most iconic style moments on-screen.
Move Like Jagger
The Rolling Stones’ frontman doesn’t get enough credit in menswear’s canon of iconic dressers. Sure, some of his stage outfits would only prompt piss-taking if worn down the local, but off-duty Jagger offers up several looks worth stealing.
Proving it’s not just the French that can comfortably nail Riviera chic, the pillow-lipped singer’s iconic summer uniform of a Breton top and tailored chinos is something you’d do well to channel now. Bring it right up to date with a slim fit and swap loafers for minimal leather trainers. Satisfaction, no sweat.
When he wasn’t soundtracking entire decades, Bryan Ferry was busy racking up an impressive collection of white and beige linen suits (it was the 1980s, after all).
While perms might still rightly be festering in Room 101, Ferry-esque lightweight, breathable linen tailoring has made a comeback – and this time round you don’t need a yacht to jump on board.
If a full linen suit – and its maddening tangle of creases – isn’t your thing, try a wrinkle-resistant linen-cotton blend instead. Darker shades of grey and navy will make for the easiest wears, but if you’re feeling braver, opt for a stone of beige two-piece and dress it down with a white T-shirt and trainers for a contemporary take.
Looking cool never felt so, well, cool.
We get it, the Hawaiian shirt has long been an indicator of poor taste. But, way before it became the default barbecuing uniform for suburban dads, some men were doing it justice.
Like Montgomery Clift – not only a regular fixture of Hollywood’s defining era, but pretty much the progenitor of the Hawaiian shirt’s golden age too. Clift excelled at taming loud prints, making them seem bold, but not brash, and always sophisticated.
With a few canny styling tricks, you can too. Above all, keep it simple and let the shirt do the talking. Wear closed or open over a T-shirt and pair with tailored shorts for a low-key tropical twist.