Over the last couple of weeks, the weather has been decidedly undecided here in the UK. Can you believe it reached 37 degrees in the south of England on 1st July, yet the morning of 31st July dawned at just above freezing ? Things seem to be on the up, however, and temperatures are rising again. So what’s the best way to remain looking polished and professional in the heat, while keeping your cool ?
The shirt should be your starting point. I’m hoping you packed away your heavy winter suits, jackets and trousers weeks ago, but it’s surprising how many men wear the same shirts all year round. Branch out a bit. First, consider the fabric – opt for natural fibres such as cotton, linen or a blend of both. Or even seersucker. More commonly worn across the Atlantic, it can look very smart – think Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Although linen is wonderfully light and breathable, it does crease like mad, and a blend keeps those creases at bay. Lighten your colours too – and think beyond white. I freely admit to secretly admiring Michael Portillo in his ice-cream coloured shirt and jacket combinations. His choices of pale yellow, mint green, pink and sky blue exude summer and have a certain Continental je ne sais quoi. If pastel or bright colours aren’t your thing, the same summery effect can be achieved with a gingham check. Gingham looks crisp and is much more interesting than the usual stripe; you’ll find it adds a bit of personality to your look without sacrificing formality.
Turning to jackets, cotton, linen (or best yet, a blend) should be chosen in favour of hot, stuffy wool. Choose neutral shades (navy or beige for example) that will go with a number of your shirts, to give you maximum wearability. Mr Portillo wears his rainbow assortment of shirts with navy, red and even yellow blazers – but I don’t expect you to go crazy…
For more informal office days, pair your shirt with chinos and a lightweight blazer and you’re ready to go. Keep short sleeved shirts for casual or smart-casual occasions – they can be a bit too informal for daily business attire. If you’d like to forego a tie, you can button your shirt fully (very modern) or leave the top button undone (depending on the cut of the shirt). You could also opt for a cotton pique polo shirt; just make sure you choose a tailored version with no logos. White, navy and other neutrals are your go-to colours here. A crisp white polo can look really smart under a lightweight suit – try it.
I’m a huge fan of the suede loafer worn without socks. There’s nothing quite like it for evoking a bit of ‘summer on the Riviera’ attitude. And please – always wear closed toe shoes in hot weather (think suede brogues or chukka boots as alternative options).
Enjoy the summer !