Just because it’s hot out doesn’t mean you need to give up the tailored clothing for t shirts and bermuda shorts. On the contrary. Tailored clothing, when done right, can help keep you cool on even the hottest days. Here are my dos and don’ts for buttoning up in the heat.
Before diving into my three dos and don’ts, you may have seen this quote from Australian tailor Patrick Johnson circulate the web last week – it’s what inspired this post and contains a lot of truths I want to expand on:
If you don’t wear a jacket in summer then my question to you is: why not? Jackets are wonderful. They give you pockets to put things in, hide your sweat patches and look smart and professional. They also give you a waist, something you are tragically denying yourself with your big square shorts and your big square, short-sleeved shirt. Wear a jacket in a lightweight wool, cotton or linen made with very little or even no lining and larger armholes for an unimaginably cool, smart summer option.
Open Weave Cloth
There is much more to cloth than the base material. There are cottons that wear warm and cashmeres that wear cool. It all has to do with the weave. You want to wear cloths like hopsack and oxford that will let air pass through the cloth and naturally cool your body. If you hold a piece of something like JJ Minnis’ Fresco (a classic open weave wool cloth choice) up to the light you can see this really obviously. The stuff looks like gauze, allowing tons of light through. And that means air.
Most people consider shirts year-round clothing for the most part, but there are some great open weave cloths that make perfect summer shirts too. In lighter weights, pique actually makes great button up shirts. You’ll have to go MTM or bespoke for these though.
Less is not always more. What you want to do is create cool pockets of air around your body, just like you want to create warm pockets in winter. Same principle, opposite effect. The key is to keep space between your layers. In winter you want things that fit close to the body to hold heat in, whereas this time of year you want space for air to circulate between the layers. Undershirts are probably the best example of this.
Care for Your Clothes
Your clothes WILL take a beating over the summer and if you’re not careful some things will be ready for the trash by fall. Shirts will get doused in sweat after one wear. Wash frequently and use pretreated on cuffs, collars, and pits. Switch to a non-antiperspirant deodorant for the summer. You’re going to sweat no matter what, and antiperspirant will just leave yellow stains on your shirts.
If you’re going sockless don’t forget trees and air. And along the same lines, your trousers and jackets will require more recovery time, so hang nicely where they can air out, and don’t try wearing the same jacket every day. That’s just a recipe for a very expensive rag.
Get rid of them. Layers of tightly woven, non-breathing material between you and your new open woven clothes are the last thing you want when the temperature rises. Trouser linings will just stick to your legs, and jacket linings turn all jackets into wearable ovens. Sleeves can stay lined, and maybe shoulders, but buggy, quarter, and half linings should be the order of the day.
As Jesse wrote on Put This On last week, unlined jackets tend to be pricier off the rack because of the extra work required, but if you’re ordering custom/bespoke it should be no problem. Without linings you are going to see more wrinkles at the elbows, knees, and seams of your clothes, but that’s all part of solid summer style.
As Patrick observes above, a jacket gives you a waistline unachievable otherwise, even for the most fit. That said, you do want your summer clothes cut a little looser than usual. Not baggy by any means, just with a little extra. Without linings, anything tight will cling and ride up, plus you don’t want sweat soaking into your tailored clothing. Shirts are easy to wash, wool suits not so much.
Trousers can be a particular problem in this area. Without a lining they can bunch up around your calves if cut too narrow, not to mention sticking to your thighs. If you go with the open weave fabrics recommended above, they can be a little heavier which will help with draping.
When you get up and the forecast says a high of 95 degrees for the day, the impulse is to just forgo dressing altogether. Don’t give up. Most guys who are into their clothes prefer fall/winter, but summer can be enjoyable if you know what you’re doing. In a sea of sweating, uncomfortable, disheveled looking people, you can look put together and like you’re not even breaking a sweat. No reason to not enjoy dressing for three months a year.