Men’s Summer Nautical Style Guide

Picasso, Cary Grant, James Dean – these prominent men may or may not have known their port from their starboard, but they definitely knew a thing or two about the power of nautical style.

Less a trend (as it’s often dubbed by the fashion media), more a summertime perennial, the nautical aesthetic has endured by virtue of its sheer simplicity. Which, funnily enough, is also what sometimes makes it so difficult to get right – tread a little too far into the water and a look that started out as refined rapidly plunges into the cringe-inducing depths of fancy dress.

“It’s so important not to be too literal with this look,” warns Tony Cook, menswear editor at online luxury retailer FarFetch. “Nautical stripes are more than fine, but matching with chinos, boat shoes, a flat cap and anything with anchors will leave you looking like you’re in costume.” A little goes a long way, then.

If this is your maiden voyage with nautical, remember that while the below pieces are all important in their own way, don’t go overboard by piling every single one on together. Anchors away.

The Breton Long- Or Short-Sleeved T-Shirt

An indisputable classic – nothing is more integral to a nautical look than the timeless Breton T-shirt. A short-sleeved style will allow your skin to breathe but a long-sleeved version offers you a little more mileage, lending itself well to both casual and smart-casual getups, year-round.

While the Breton top’s traditional fabrication of wool and cotton was a good fit for fishermen who spent hours toiling at sea, 100 percent cotton will do fine for your cruise or weekend getaway. As for the stripes, we suggest sticking with the traditional navy and white palette.

Men's Breton Stripe T-Shirts and Tops Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

j crew ss14mango man 2015mango man 2015h&m 2015gucci resort ss15unknowntoast ss15jigsaw ss14gucci resort ss15burberry black label ss15aquascutum ss15louis vuitton pre ss14

Key Brands & Pieces

Key Brands: Saint James, Sandro, A.P.C., Saint Laurent, Ralph Lauren, Ami, J.Crew, Gucci, ASOS, Reiss.

  • Reclaimed Vintage Military Striped Long Sleeve T-shirtReclaimed Vintage Military Striped Long Sleeve T-shirt
  • Allsaints Alanim 3/4 Crew TshirtAllsaints Alanim 3/4 Crew Tshirt
  • Topman Slim Fit Navy Stripe T-shirtTopman Slim Fit Navy Stripe T-shirt
  • Derek Rose Alfie Striped Stretch-modal Jersey T-shirtDerek Rose Alfie Striped Stretch-modal Jersey T-shirt
  • Reiss King Stripe Short Sleeve T-shirt NavyReiss King Stripe Short Sleeve T-shirt Navy
  • Mki Long Sleeve Stripe Tee Dark NavyMki Long Sleeve Stripe Tee Dark Navy
  • Ami Striped Cotton-jersey T-shirtAmi Striped Cotton-jersey T-shirt
  • A.p.c. Striped Cotton And Linen-blend T-shirtA.p.c. Striped Cotton And Linen-blend T-shirt
  • Saint Laurent Striped Cotton-jersey T-shirtSaint Laurent Striped Cotton-jersey T-shirt

The Double-Breasted Blazer

First sported by Cambridge rowers in the first half of the 19th century, this trusty piece of tailoring has stood the test of time, looking every bit as sharp now as it did back then.

Easy to button up over a Breton top or just as good thrown over a simple white T-shirt, a double-breasted white, off-white or navy blazer (preferably with gold buttons) will lift your summer looks from unremarkably casual to carefully put-together.

Given you’ll be wearing this as a second layer, take some sweat-prevention measures and find a style that’s made from 100 percent cotton or a cotton-linen blend, rather than a comparatively heavy wool version.

Men's Double-Breasted White and Navy Blazers Inspiration Lookbook

ramsey ss14mango man 2015massimo dutti spring 2015dunhill ss15tommy hilfiger tailored ss14tommy hilfiger summer 2014lbm 1911 ss13eidos napoli SS15Boglioli ss15

Key Brands & Pieces

Key Brands: Suitsupply, Reiss, Tommy Hilfiger, Mango Man, Jaeger, Canali, Boglioli, River Island, Burberry, Banana Republic.

  • Modern Slim Navy Linen Double-breasted BlazerModern Slim Navy Linen Double-breasted Blazer
  • He By Mango Double-breasted Pique BlazerHe By Mango Double-breasted Pique Blazer
  • He By Mango Double-breasted Pique BlazerHe By Mango Double-breasted Pique Blazer
  • River Island Navy Linen-blend Double Breasted BlazerRiver Island Navy Linen-blend Double Breasted Blazer
  • Suitsupply Madison Blue PlainSuitsupply Madison Blue Plain
  • Jaeger Plain Twill Modern JacketJaeger Plain Twill Modern Jacket
  • Burberry London Off-white Double-breasted Linen BlazerBurberry London Off-white Double-breasted Linen Blazer
  • Burton Light Grey Double Breasted BlazerBurton Light Grey Double Breasted Blazer
  • Suitsupply Madison Light Brown PlainSuitsupply Madison Light Brown Plain


Although technically a soldier’s staple gone civilian (first invented for British and French military uniforms), chinos are now just as connotative of seamen’s style as stripes. And it’s all in how you wear them.

Whether or not you generally make a point of ‘mankle’-baring during the warmer weather, going sockless and rolling your trouser hems is a necessity for nailing nautical style.

Look for a moderately slim fit; not so skinny as to look like you’re auditioning for a boy band to rival McBusted, but not so baggily cut as to undo any effort you put in entirely.

Colours-wise, stick to the traditional nautical palette of red, white and blue, while bearing in mind other pieces you plan to wear them with.

Men's White, Navy and Red Chinos Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

tommy hilfiger ss13gucci resort ss15mango man summer 2013tommy hilfiger tailored ss14mango man ss15boss hugo boss ss15zara spring 2015EL GANSO ss15jaeger ss13burberry black label ss15river island high summer 2015uniqlo ss15

Key Brands & Pieces

Key Brands: J.Crew, Ralph Lauren, John Lewis, Tommy Hilfiger, ASOS, Reiss, Mango Man, Uniqlo, Incotex, Club Monaco.

  • John Lewis Linen Slim Fit Trousers WhiteJohn Lewis Linen Slim Fit Trousers White
  • Norse Projects Aros Light Twill ChinoNorse Projects Aros Light Twill Chino
  • J.crew Urban Slim-fit Lightweight Cotton TrousersJ.crew Urban Slim-fit Lightweight Cotton Trousers
  • Club Monaco Connor Slim-fit Cotton-twill ChinosClub Monaco Connor Slim-fit Cotton-twill Chinos
  • Uniqlo Men Slim Fit Chino Flat Front TrousersUniqlo Men Slim Fit Chino Flat Front Trousers
  • Kin By John Lewis Laundered Slim Fit Chinos Deep RedKin By John Lewis Laundered Slim Fit Chinos Deep Red
  • Incotex Slim Garment Dyed ChinoIncotex Slim Garment Dyed Chino
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Newport Slim-fit Pima-cotton ChinosPolo Ralph Lauren Newport Slim-fit Pima-cotton Chinos
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Cotton ChinosHe By Mango Slim-fit Cotton Chinos

Boat Shoes

Invented by Paul A. Sperry in 1935, boat shoes may originally have been devised for traversing a slippery deck, but today they serve just as well as the anchor to your fair-weather looks.

Both leather and canvas styles have their virtues; the former being a little more polished in its appearance, the latter often offering unbeatable comfort and breathability – so, opt for the style that suits your requirements best.

Keep in mind the pieces you’ll be teaming your boat shoes with before committing to a particular colourway. Navy might be an obvious choice given the theme here, but they’re only really wearable with white, red or off-white chinos, so tan or chestnut brown might be a better bet.

And we know it’s the done thing to wear these sockless in the truest sense of the word, but slipping on a pair of invisible socks will save your feet as well as your shoes – not to mention contain smells.

Men's Boat/Deck Shoes Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

mango man summer 2013gant ss14mango man 2015EL GANSO ss15idle man ss15tommy hilfiger summer 2014mango man ss15nordstrom ss15crew clothing ss15

Key Brands & Pieces

Key Brands: Sperry, Timberland, Lacoste, River Island, ASOS, Quoddy, Tommy Hilfiger, Mango Man, ALDO.

  • Tommy Hilfiger Suede Boat ShoesTommy Hilfiger Suede Boat Shoes
  • DamasusDamasus
  • He By Mango Leather Boat ShoesHe By Mango Leather Boat Shoes
  • River Island Tan Brown Leather Boat ShoesRiver Island Tan Brown Leather Boat Shoes
  • River Island Brown Leather Boat ShoesRiver Island Brown Leather Boat Shoes
  • Kg By Kurt Geiger Sorrento Boat Shoes NavyKg By Kurt Geiger Sorrento Boat Shoes Navy
  • Quoddy Downeast Nubuck Boat ShoesQuoddy Downeast Nubuck Boat Shoes
  • Quoddy Downeast Leather Boat ShoesQuoddy Downeast Leather Boat Shoes
  • Sperry Top-sider Authentic Original Leather Boat ShoesSperry Top-sider Authentic Original Leather Boat Shoes

Leather & Canvas Accessories

If you’re a bit of detail obsessive, swapping your usual accessories for styles a little more maritime adds the perfect, not to mention subtle, finishing touch.

Choose from woven leather or canvas belts worn around chinos or shorts, leather or rope bracelets to complete casual takes on nautical, or anchor tie clips and cufflinks for something a little more tongue in cheek.

Remember, less is more: “It’s about capturing the effortless style of seafaring life,” says Tony Cook. “So, simple styling is key.” It’s advice seconded by Sarah Gilfillan, founder of men’s personal shopping service Sartoria Lab“Don’t go too mad with a matching look complete with nautical accessories, unless you want some ‘Hello sailor!’ comments as you walk down the street.”

Men's Leather and Canvas Accessories Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

massimo dutti june 2014digel ss15ramsey ss15apc ss14mango man ss14h&m ss14massimo dutti june ss13house of fraser howick ss15austin reed ss14

Key Brands & Pieces

Key Brands: Anderson’s, Miansai, Trashness, Ted Baker, Seven London, Simon Carter, Paul Smith, River Island, Tommy Hilfiger, Austin Reed

  • Andersons Tubular Tri Colour BeltAndersons Tubular Tri Colour Belt
  • Blue Harbour Stretch Web Striped BeltBlue Harbour Stretch Web Striped Belt
  • Gap Striped Webbing BeltGap Striped Webbing Belt
  • Andersons Woven Leather BeltAndersons Woven Leather Belt
  • Andersons Woven Elasticated BeltAndersons Woven Elasticated Belt
  • Austin Reed Stone Woven Elastic BeltAustin Reed Stone Woven Elastic Belt
  • Ted Baker Wrapped Leather BraceletTed Baker Wrapped Leather Bracelet
  • Miansai Hooked Silver-tone CufflinksMiansai Hooked Silver-tone Cufflinks
  • Seven London Leather Wrap BraceletSeven London Leather Wrap Bracelet
  • Miansai Rope And Gold-plated Anchor BraceletMiansai Rope And Gold-plated Anchor Bracelet
  • H&m Miansai Anchor Tie BarH&m Miansai Anchor Tie Bar
  • Miansai Brass Rope Hook BraceletMiansai Brass Rope Hook Bracelet

Nautical Styling Tips

Mind Your Stripes

As much as a Breton top is a universal classic, it’s worth taking some time to ensure your stripes are suited to your body shape before buying. “Do wear a T-shirt or sweater with stripes at the chest and shoulder area if you want to make yourself look broader,” says Gilfillan. If your frame is on the slimmer side, your torso can take all kinds of stripe.

But we’d suggest you hang back if you’re built like a battlecruiser. Men with broader shoulders and more muscular body types should look to finer horizontal stripes to slim down, rather than emphasise, their above average size.

Men's Striped Top - River Island Summer 2015Image: River Island Summer 2015

Keep The Breeze At Bay

A firm favourite of fisherman for years, the heavy-gauge cable knit jumper is another enduring nautical piece – but in summer they’re only good as sweat rags if you don’t opt for the right type.

Swerve traditional heavy gauge wool versions and instead opt for 100 per cent cotton or cotton-linen blend designs that are both breathable and lightweight – ideal for throwing on over your Breton tee when the temperature drops in the evening.

Men's Lightweight Cable Knit Jumper - Gant Rugger Summer 2015Image: Gant Rugger Spring/Summer 2015

Gant Cotton Cable Crew Jumper

Go Fish

Still, a lightweight knit isn’t much use in the rain. So if you’re looking to cover up from a heavy summer shower, throw on a fisherman’s jacket instead.

Lightweight and waterproof, one of these seafaring staples will keep you dry and see that the nautical theme stays intact – worth considering if your summer’s more Rotherham than Riviera.

Men's Fisherman Jacket - Matalan Spring/Summer 2015Image: Matalan Spring/Summer 2015

Don’t Forget The Details

Nautical needn’t always mean Breton stripes and heaps of blue.

Try a subtler approach by incorporating marine-inspired details like – as Gilfillan suggests – anchor motifs, brass or contrasting white buttons, epaulettes, rope and toggle fastenings, and boat necklines.

Trashness Anchor Bracelet and BeltImage:

Final Word

Masculine and perfectly suited to most, nautical style is one way of dressing we suggest you get down pat sooner rather than later – hopefully now you feel slightly less at sea.

What way do you wear nautical? Are there any tips or go-to brands you’d like to share?

Let us know in the comments section.

Similar Articles