The first warm, summery day of the year can bring a bittersweet blend of emotions to our readership. While we’re of course overjoyed that things are thawing out and our seasonal-affective disorder is nearly overcome, we’re undoubtedly nervous about what warm weather can mean for our style options.
While many are eagerly anticipating the freedom of summer heat, we’re already in mourning for the horsehide jackets and heavyweight denims we’ll have to leave in the closet. But perhaps it’s for the best. All too often, our (sometimes) neurotic need to wear our favorite jeans and jackets can be a fashion crutch. We don’t need to think all that much about what we’re wearing on a given day if we’re working on fading and aging our favorite daily drivers. Instead of missing our current favorite jeans, leather jackets, deck jackets, etc. try to think of summer as an opportunity to embrace new styles, looks, and silhouettes – and work on aging a whole new set of garments, but ones that will breathe better and leave you comfy as can be.
A wise man starts his outfit from the pants up and summer opens up a slew of non-denim options for your lower half. Our collective raw denim obsession may have given us an inherent bias against chinos, but they mustn’t be discounted outright!
Though chinos, whatever color they may be, can start off looking a little square, all it takes is that same dogged determination that we give to our jeans to break them fully in. Khakis and their ilk might initially remind your of your dad’s not-so-cool wardrobe, but if you wear ’em and tear ’em, they’ll have that same debonair cool of your favorite denim.
The Army Chino
A quick google search of The Great Escape should hopefully convince you that khakis can be cool. This style of chinos have been done dirty by certain office-dwelling generations between their inception during WWII and today, but there is something intriguing about a perfectly weathered pair of chinos. Our contemporaries may associate the khaki color with business-casual wardrobes, but we know better. Unlike jeans, which are arguably designed to be distressed, khaki chinos are pressed and well-maintained. All of this just makes their eventual destruction more subversive.
The cut of the WWII chino might seem daunting for you low-rise, slim-taper lovers, but I promise you that this style will be your friend. The wider leg and higher rise will mean that air can circulate and as long as they fit your waist snugly, you can get away with a little room elsewhere, at least sartorially speaking. Paradoxically, a pair too-fitted is more likely to come off as dorky in the current fashion climate. So give yourself some breathing room.
Available for $135 at History Preservation Associates.
The Fatigue Pant
The fatigue pant is another essential. A little less formal than a chino and a lot more like a pair of jeans, they should be an easy sell. Their patch pockets feel a lot more like a classic five-pocket jean and because the usual olive shade is darker in tone than the average pair of khakis, their potential for fades is greater. Fatigues come in all manner of colors and styles, but the most classic is similar to the WWII chino. It should fit you high in the waist and be rather wide at the bottom.
Orslow, Stan Ray, Tellason, and all manner of brands have interpreted this classic piece of militaria, so you can easily find the cut and styling that best suits your personal brand. But heed my warning: the practicality and generous cut of the original fatigue pant will absolutely be the best for when things get hot. Also, stay away from heavier-weight versions, let those babies breathe.
The above pants are available for £75 (~$100USD) at Stan Ray.
The Bold Choice & The Cheap Choice
There are two final pants routes to take. The first is the bold choice – a blouse-y, classic pleated trouser that gives you the room and swishy material to guarantee your comfort. Something like this requires a bit more upkeep—y’know, ironing. But it could be the thing that makes you feel excited about stepping out of the house on a sweltering day. The above Scott Fraser chino is available in linens and cottons, both of which could keep you cool. All you need with something like this is a form-fitting tee, or a cool equally retro shirt. The choice is yours.
The cheap choice is to drag your favorite, almost-retired jean out of retirement. Your current rotation might still be too starchy and stiff to be conducive for summer wear, but most of us have that raggedy, worn-down pair that honestly breathes pretty well. Maybe pull that pair out if you can’t get yourself to do non-denim, even in the heat.
When it comes to shirting for the summer, vintage should be your first stop. Depending on your location (New York City, I’m looking at you) one wear on a sweaty summer day and your favorite collared shirt might already need a trip to the laundromat, which isn’t economically feasible for everyone. If you keep your eyes peeled at your local vintage spot, you might be able to lock down a couple of great summer looks for a fraction of the price of a new, Japanese, high-end version. That being said, there are a couple of styles to keep a look out for.
Chambrays, though not especially ambitious, are a closet necessity. They come in varying shades of blue, all of which look good with a beat-up chino or your favorite pair of jeans. They make a great investment, as they just end up looking better and better with wear and distress.
These are shirts designed to take a beating and you can either invest in a new slim one, like the above Mister Freedom option, or rock a vintage boxy one, which are fairly easy to find in your local thrifting spot.
Short or long-sleeve, tucked in or worn long, the rayon shirt is a summertime essential. They make for that perfect going-out shirt on summer nights and feel silky and breezy during the day too. Scott Fraser makes the above version, but vintage stores often stock the more retro varieties and even brands like Uniqlo occasionally offer their own, more affordable interpretations.
You’ll know the material is right once you touch it, but the patterns and other details are entirely up to you. Try and take a moment this summer to wear a silhouette or a pattern you wouldn’t normally try. You like slim? Get boxy. You wear all black? Mustard yellow, of course.
Once the weather warms up, so will your feet. And while spring may be an okay time for your burly boots, you might find that summer requires something more delicate. If you’re willing to splurge on some new shows, why not go in a slightly different direction? A canvas sneaker like those pictured above from Stepney Worker’s Club are on sale from Need Supply and cut a subtly different profile from the legion of Converse and Vans out there in the world.
Summer can be a hard time for the leather-lovers among us, but there are still options for when things warm up. The above loafers from 2120 Handcrafted are a great alternative to your favorite boots if you want something you can wear in and watch patina, but need a touch more circulation around the ankles.
We’ve saved hats for last because unlike the other options, you don’t necessarily need a hat. If you want to get some of the sun off your face, there are plenty of good options out there. Something to consider, however; every time I go out to a bar, there’s always one guy with an insane cowboy hat looking smug. You can wear whatever you want, but maybe don’t be that guy.
The Beach Master above from Papa Nui is a great option and a great example of a bucket hat done right. Its slouchy silhouette should nicely complement roomier, summer garb and its pattern adds enough variety to an outfit, without overwhelming it.
But supposing you really need to get the sun off your face, there’s nothing better than a classic western hat. The above bespoke model from Wellema Hat Co. is a great option that combines the practicality of a Stetson-style hat with the toned-down classic style of a fedora (which we wouldn’t necessarily recommend). As long as you’re not too comically Wild West, they can greatly enhance an outfit. And if you, like me, are especially susceptible to the sun, they can’t be beat.