There’s something about the heady mix of serotonin-inducing sunshine, cocktails galore and all your mates in one place under the setting sun that makes a summer night out non-negotiable. But what to wear to the bar? Not all watering holes are created equal and you risk being turned away from the most upstanding establishments if you arrive in the same flip-flops you wore smugly at the pub.
Dressing for going out in the summer is a smart-casual minefield, one that requires a smidgen of thought about the setting and practicalities, and a versatile wardrobe is a must. Lightweight jackets, interesting tees, relaxed jeans, smart chino shorts, jazzy Cuban collar shirt, a smart blazer – these are going to be the backbone of a stylish night on the tiles.
The Local Pub
The public house is an indelibly British institution, and one to be proud of at that. Match the pub’s inherent Britishness with fellow national heirloom, the rugby shirt, which is having a much deserved comeback this year. A distant relative of the dress shirt, it brings some formality to your look but don’t worry, the cotton jersey is casual enough to breeze through any setting.
Looser fits can channel streetwear, while hoops and stripes more closely mimic the traditional. Also be thankful for the arm coverage which will keep you warm in the beer garden as the sun is going down, something to think about when planning a late afternoon trip that may – ok, yeah, probably will – carry on.
Fellow preppy staple, the chino, is an easy, summery way to style your rugby top, a light stone coloured pair offering a breezier companion than anything darker. Remember to take your shades should the sun decide to make an appearance, preferably a simple black-framed pair that won’t distract from the hoops and stripes of your rugby shirt and ground the business with a pair of clean white sneakers on your feet.
The Neighbourhood Dive
Whether it’s your local neighbourhood dive bar or just an incredibly sticky floored nightclub, when the night gets messy you need to be prepared for the worst. Drinks will be spilt, keys will get lost and you’ll wake up with a hangover that feels like it’s been gifted by Satan himself. We can’t much help with the latter past offering up some Dioralyte, but we do have some advice for the former.
Think workwear, utilitarian jackets like a waterproof coach jacket (for the spills) or a multi-pocketed chore jacket (for the house keys and other bits and bobs). These are simultaneously lightweight, durable and easy to carry around with you should you whip it off to have a boogie around the jukebox.
Chore jackets tend to be boxier in shape and suit slimmer jeans, while the rule works the other way for the coach jacket which is cut trimmer and shorter, usually just above the waist. A workwear jacket is defined by its simple cut, so you may need to slice through that with either a contrasting tee or an eye-catching graphic.
And lastly remember to pack your dancing shoes – stylish, but practical Converse will work great, leather loafers that rub the back of your feet less so.
The Rooftop Bar
And on the eighth day God created the rooftop bar, a perfect summery concoction of music, drinks and being three storeys closer to the sun than the riff-raff down on the ground.
As these rooftop bars can be swanky affairs – what with the panoramic views of the city and the plastic palm tree in the corner – we’d suggest a loose draping blazer in a pique cotton, for something that can be taken off easily, won’t crumple like a tissue when you fold it up and is also lightweight and moisture wicking when you do decide to actually wear it.
Underneath, you want something that will help you stand out when the jacket is off. The answer comes in the form of the Cuban collar shirt, probably one of the easiest style upgrades you can make this summer. Some on-trend boat shoes will complete the look admirably.
The Hotel Bar
Well, someone’s feeling plush. Here you are readying yourself for an evening sinking champagne in a hotel bar, presumably with your bank manager’s permission. First things first, this is as good an opportunity as you’re going to get to wear a suit in a social setting. You’re not at work so don’t feel the need to confine yourself to the big three neutrals – navy, black and grey. Coloured tailoring is raging like a fire emoji throughout menswear at the moment and something we’d recommend all guys play around with.
Before you reach for the canary yellow or millennial pink though, we suggest you dip into more intermediate shades first. Green suits, or those in a brighter blue or brown stick closer to the neutral centre-ground and will work with all skin shades when hues that are too-bright can sometimes wash out the pale skinned.
A white T-shirt is a simple way of modernising the stale suited and booted look, especially when a dress shirt can plunge the outfit into over-fussiness. A pair of loafers is a fine way to bring this dandy look to a close, polished leather ones offering the required formality for such a ritzy occasion.
The Live Music Joint
From Elvis to The Ramones, the leather jacket has long been a rock n roll style signature to which there is no equal.
Gigs are sweaty affairs though, even more so in summer so go for suede leather which tends to be thinner and softer than polished making it a great switch-up style play for the hotter climate. A plain white tee underneath can feel too much like costume – you’re not trying out for the role of Danny Zuko in your local am-dram here – so give the look a modern edge with a printed shirt – floaty viscose working best for the laidback, rocker vibe.
Downstairs, skinny black jeans and Chelsea boots are the best supporting acts for the headliners up top. The slim jeans will also contrast nicely with the natural bulk of the jacket, while the Chelsea boot is one of the lightest boot styles around – useful for those of you who don’t suit sneakers no matter how hard you try.
The Sports Bar
Nineties culture has returned to fashion in all its technicolour, and for time travelling style nothing beats vintage sportswear for sheer nostalgia. The sports bar is your chance to really go to town with this either by pulling out one of the classic sportswear brands of the era (Champion and Fila are two enjoying welcome, much-deserved returns) or delving deep into your wardrobe for one of your old football tops.
The retro football shirt might have felt naff just a few years ago, but a subjugation from the skatewear gang and stylish rappers like Snoop Dogg and Loyle Carner, has brought them firmly into the realm of fashion cool. Wear yours oversized with as zany a pattern as you can find, effectively treating the maverick designs as you would a printed shirt.
Then its a matter of keeping the ball under control with a pair of neutralising black or stone chino shorts, anything more casual might make it look like you’re lining up for a kick-about. A pair of dad trainers will apply the finish for a peak ’90s, very on-trend athleisure get-up.