Summer is officially here!
And that means you’re probably asking yourself the same thing thousands of men email me as warmer temps creep in:
“How the hell do I dress for work and not drown in a pool of sweat?”
Look, I’m with you if you think Fall and winter style is easy. You get all these cool jackets and accessories to layer together.
But how do you look good when it’s a disgusting humid 90 degrees, without resorting to a t-shirt and shorts?
Today I want to show you how. I’m going to bust the myth that you can’t look and feel cool in the summer!
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- The best fabrics to pick for your summer wardrobe.
- How to wear more color and tricky prints (even if you’re not a color and print kind of guy.)
- My 6 favorite summer shoes every guy should have in his closet.
- And a whole lot more!
Part 1: The Best Fabrics And Colors For Summer
The key to the perfect summer wardrobe comes down to three things:
- The right breathable fabrics
- Lighter and brighter colors
- An airy, relaxed fit.
Best summer fabrics for men
Many guys don’t realize every season has its own seasonally appropriate fabrics and fabric weights!
Ever make the mistake of wearing clothes you picked up in November and find your body dripping in sweat come lunchtime? That’s because it was designed to trap body heat and keep you warm in the winter!
Summer weight fabrics will be lighter, with looser weaves allowing heat to escape and keep you cool.
While there are probably hundreds of different types of fabrics, blends, and weaves, I want to simplify it for you.
Here are the more common summer fabrics you should look out for.
The King of summer fabrics.
The majority of your summer pieces will be 100% cotton or cotton blends, like cotton/linen and cotton/silk.
Why this is a great summer fabric: Cotton is extremely breathable and versatile. Thanks to the tighter weave, it wrinkles less than looser weave fabrics like linen.
My favorite uses for cotton:
- Shirtings, such as button-downs, camp collar shirts, polos and t-shirts
- Pants such as chinos, shorts, and jeans
- Summer Sports coats and Suits
If cotton is King, Linen is the Queen.
Linen is made from the flax plant and is a common summer alternative of cotton. That means anywhere you’ll find cotton (button-up shirts, tees, shorts, even suits) you’ll find a linen variation.
Why this is a great summer fabric: Linen fabrics have a more open weave, allowing more heat to escape and air to pass through. This breathability is the lifesaver in hot, humid months.
Linen often gets shit because it wrinkles easily. This is due to the lighter open weave. (The more open the weave, the more it will wrinkle.) To get around this, you’ll often find blends like cotton/linen so you can take advantage of linen’s breathability, but cotton’s structure.
Personally, I see wrinkly linen as a pro, adding to the more relaxed nature of summer style.
In fact, linen that wrinkles more is a sign of a better quality linen. Cheaper linens tend to be stiffer and crease rather than drape and wrinkle. So if you got a nice, drapey, wrinkly linen piece this summer, embrace it!
My favorite uses for linen:
- Shirtings, such as button-downs, camp collar shirts, polos and t-shirts
- Pants such as chinos, shorts, and jeans
- Summer Sports coats and Suits
Lightweight, Tropical Wools
My private clients are sometimes confused at first when I pick a wool trouser for their summer wardrobes.
Like cotton, there are lightweight wools designed to be worn in the summer. Tropical wools are great for suiting when you want to look polished. Their tighter weaves mean they wrinkle less than linen counterparts.
Why this is a great summer fabric: For those that need to wear a suit or sports coat to the office, or just love the look for formal clothes, tropical wools are your friend.
My favorite uses for tropical wools:
- Hopsack sports coats and suit
- Tropical wool tailored trousers
Synthetic & Blends
Synthetics often get a bad rap.
Fabric technology has vastly improved since the rayon days of your Dad. Today, synthetics are made of natural byproducts, making them more sustainable and pleasurable to wear. My favorite is lyocell/Tencel, a silk substitute made from wood pulp.
Why synthetic fibers are great for summer: You’ll often find Tencel blended other fabrics like cotton, giving it a softer, silkier feel. It also adds things like wrinkle resistance and a cooling (temperature-wise) touch.
One of my favorite shorts is a Tencel blend. And on really gross summer days, I love throwing it in the freezer to make it extra cool.
My favorite uses for synthetic fibers like Tencel:
- Blended with cotton for button-down shirts, t-shirts, and polos
- Blended with linen for airy, relaxed shorts and pants
What colors should I wear in the summer?
Summer is all about colors and patterns.
Even if you aren’t one that normally wears a lot of colors, you can easily “Summerize” your outfits using my “Lighter and Brighter” trick.
Like settings on your t.v., turn up the brightness of your essential core colors. You don’t need to wear yellow and pink if you want to look Summery. Go for a lighter shade of core neutrals like blue, lighter olives, lighter browns, lighter greys.
This simple switch will be your summer base colors.
Then throw some brighter colors and patterns on top of that if you want!
More tips: Not sure how to pull off colors and patterns? Check out my post, “How to wear more prints and patterns.”
How should my clothes fit in the summer?
Ok men, brace yourself.
After spending the last decade drilling that “Getting the right fit will solve 90% of your style problems.” I have something to tell you…
Summer is one of the few times where it’s OK to loosen up your fit a bit.
Yes, you can literally relax about getting the “perfect” fit.
Go for roomier cuts. Give your skin some room to breathe – get a relaxed cut t-shirt and button-downs. Don’t be afraid to try straight or fuller cut pants and shorts.
Think about how men in hot Middle Eastern countries dress: It’s usually loose, flowing clothes and robes in breathable, light fabrics.
The key is to look for pieces that are labeled “relaxed cut”, which is different from sizing up.
Relaxed cuts will give you a bit more breathing room but fit properly in the important areas, like length of the body and sleeve.
When you size up, the garment size increases equally in all areas. This can lead to shirts or pants that are too long for you.
If there’s no relaxed cut option, sizing up on a few pieces is ok as a last resort.
Part 2: The Starter Summer Capsule Wardrobe
A reader asks:
“Is it OK to just wear a long sleeve shirt I wore in fall/winter but roll it up because of the heat?” – Carlos
Great question, Carlos.
The short answer is no! I don’t recommend it.
Remember the previous section on summer fabrics. There’s a good chance your fall clothes, whether wool or cotton, are textured or heavier. They’re designed to trap in heat to keep you warm. If you wear them now you’ll be a swampy, miserable mess by the end of the day.
I recommend you create a Spring/Summer weight capsule wardrobe and box up your fall gear til September.
I know. Shopping for another wardrobe sounds overwhelming. But you’ve been doing it before without even realizing it.
What you need is a plan. And I got your back!
Below is a collection of summer wardrobe tips I used with my private styling clients through the years.
Tips on Putting Together The Perfect Summer Wardrobe
Lightweight Jackets (Recommended: 1-2)
I like to have a couple of lightweight, unlined jackets even in the summer. They’re great for air-conditioned buildings, as well as the occasional summer date night when I need to dress up.
For business casual wardrobes An unlined, unstructured sports coat is a great versatile piece. You can wear in and out of the office. Look for one in tropical wools or a linen-blend. (You can go full linen if your workplace is a bit more casual.)
For something a bit more casual A chore jacket is my favorite casual alternative to a sport coat/blazer. The signature large patch pockets are ultra-functional and perfect for holding a few beer bottles.
T-shirts & Polos (Recommended: A mix of 5-10)
T-shirts are a summer staple, but don’t sleep on Polos. Polos are a great middle-ground between a t-shirt and a button-down shirt. They’re great for business casual work outfits when you want to look professional but want to feel relaxed.
Tips when shopping:
When shopping for t-shirts, look for ones made from Pima or Supima cotton. Pima/Supima cotton is made from long strand cotton, which is softer to the touch. Colorwise, I recommend a mix of white and light greys, then a few muted summer colors of your choice.
For polos, I avoid pique cotton. That’s the heavier, “grainy” feeling knit fabric you think of when you think polos. Look for polos made from thinner t-shirt style fabrics like Supima cotton or linen blends. They’re a lot more comfortable to wear.
When it comes to colors for polos, white is too blindingly bright in my opinion. My default polo colors are light grey and cream, which will easily mix and match with any pant color.
For some summery colors, I’d also recommend choosing light, muted colors. I personally love a muted olive green.
What about graphic tees? Can I still wear them and not look like I’m in high school?
Graphic tees often get a bad rap, mostly because less stylish guys overdo it with ugly graphics or funny sayings. Summer BBQ by the pool is just begging for a nice graphic tee! Look for abstract or subtle graphic tees to avoid looking like you’re stuck in college.
For more tips, check out my post, “The grown man’s guide to wearing graphic tees.”
Button-down long-sleeve shirts (Recommended: At least 3)
One of the biggest complaints my clients have is how boring t-shirts and shorts are in the summer.
Do you know what I tell them?
Swap in a button-down shirt in place of your boring t-shirt.
Unbutton the top button and roll-up the sleeves.
It’s good to have a few lightweight cotton or linen button-downs for work. Even if your job is on the casual side, I recommend having a few in your closet to keep things fresh.
Tips when shopping:
A white, pale blue, and striped poplin or linen shirt will have you set for both work and play.
I like to add a lightweight chambray shirt in the mix. I think it’s the most flattering shirt any man can own and gives your button-down game a shot of color.
- Poplins and Linen shirts: Bonobos, Save Khaki, and Drakes
- Chambray shirts: Bonobos, J.Crew, and Mr. Porter
How to roll up your sleeves so they stay up
You can’t wear a button-down shirt in the summer and not know how to properly roll up your sleeves.
My preferred way? The Italian method, a double foldover style that prevents it from coming undone. My friend Barron over at Effortless Gent shows you how to do it in this easy to follow video.
Pants (Recommended: 4-5)
I think all summer wardrobes should have a mix of chinos and jeans, a total of 4-5 min for a little color variety.
Chinos are great versatile options for work and the weekend, while light jeans are a nice break for more casual outings like BBQs or the weekend.
Tips when shopping:
Look for chinos in lightweight cotton to make them more bearable in the heat.
Colorwise, I recommend sticking to lighter neutrals. My favorites are grey, khaki, and olive, which are easy to mix and match and will cover 90% of your bases. For work, I would throw in a navy chino, which feels a bit more professional.
For jeans, go for a lighter wash of blue first. A pair of white jeans is a great 2nd option if you want to go full summer mode.
Shorts (Recommended: At least 2)
Shorts are a no brainer when it’s come to summer wardrobe essentials. Do I need to explain why?
Tips when shopping:
I like a mix of chino shorts and drawstring shorts.
These two styles give you an option that’s more work-appropriate (chino), and one that’s great for lounging around (drawstring).
For chino shorts, just follow the shopping tips for full-length chinos. Any outfit you wear full-length chinos, you can wear your chino shorts. Like your full length chino, look for chino shorts in lightweight cotton.
For drawstring shorts, I like lightweight cotton and linens fabrics.
For colors, I recommend khaki or grey for the chino shorts, and olive or navy for the drawstring shorts.
How long should my shorts be?
PSA: Men wear shorts that are too long.
Here’s how to out style 99% of the men out there this summer.
The sweet spot is 1″-3″ above your knees. Any shorter will get into daisy duke territory. Anything past your knees is too long.
And while you can get away with wearing shorts that hit exactly on your knees, you’re treading dangerous waters.
Better to go a bit shorter and make them look perfect.
Shoes (Recommended: At least 3)
When it comes to building a minimal summer wardrobe, I think you can get by with 3 pairs of shoes.
My picks are:
- Minimal white sneakers – A great versatile option now that workplaces have gone more business casual.
- Brown suede loafer – A solid, professional work shoe that you can dress down for the weekend date night. In summer, you’ll find unlined options, making for an ultra-comfortable, breathable shoe.
- Espadrilles – My favorite “Mandal” alternative. The classic Spanish slip-on made of canvas with a signature rope sole is great for poolside lounging. It was a favorite of Picasso. The O.G. Bond Sean Connery wore them in 1965’s Thunderball. Do I even need to convince you why these are cool to wear?
Tips for shopping:
White sneakers While you can find them in a lightweight knit, I recommend going for leather if this is your first pair. They’re truly a 4-season shoe and a wardrobe staple.
Suede loafers Get a medium brown, which is a classic summer choice and easy to match with any outfit. Make sure the suede loafer you get is unlined; otherwise your feet will be a swampy mess at the end of the day.
Espadrilles Today, you can find espadrilles in materials like leather and suede. For summer, stick with the traditional lightweight canvas.
For colors, black, navy, or tan are the most versatile options. To brighten up your look, go for a lighter grey (sand) color or even white. For a shot of color, olive or light blue are my favorites.
- Minimal white sneakers: Adidas, Koio, and Common Projects
- Suede loafers: SuitSupply, Morjas, and Alden
- Espadrilles: Castaner, and Morjas
Sunglasses (Recommended: 1)
Do you struggle trying to find sunglasses for your face shape?
Go with a classic round frame. Slightly rounded top with a rounded bottom. (Not to be confused with a circle frame, which is an even circle.) This is a style that I’ve found is universally flattering no matter what your face shape. It’s impossible to mess up!
While black is the easy choice, I like a tortoise (my favorite) or a light brown for summer. You’d be surprised how much a light brown pair of sunglasses can brighten up your look.
Bonus recommendation: Short Sleeve Camp Collar Shirt
Camp collar shirts, also known as Cuban collar or aloha shirts, get their name from the lack of band between the shirt’s collar and body.
The lack of a band to prop up the collar allows it to fall open, creating a relaxed, breezy vibe—the perfect shirt for summertime lounging.
Tips when shopping: While you can find plain camp collar shirts, I recommend going for the classic printed camp shirt.
You don’t have to go full floral Hawaiian either! (Though it’s really fun!) You can find camp collar shirts in subtle patterns like geometric shapes and dots, or toned down prints.
What are the best socks for summer?
Cotton socks Put away your wool socks and make sure you’ve switched over to cotton for the summer.
Casual cotton socks are suitable for when you want more coverage while wearing sneakers. While finer cotton and blends, like cotton/silk, or cotton/linen, are great for dress shoes.
Invisible Socks I also recommend picking up some invisible socks for both your casual and dress shoes.
You’d be surprised how baring some ankle in the warmer months can help cool you down.
They also create a barrier between you and your shoes, preventing blisters.
Invisible Casual Socks Make sure you get invisible socks and not ankle socks.
As the name implies, ankle socks end at your ankles, while invisible socks are cut lower to remain hidden.
The rule for colors is that they should match the lining of your sneakers. I’ve found a few pairs of white, gray, and beige should be enough.
My favorite casual invisible sock brands right now:
Invisible Dress / Loafer Socks
Invisible dress socks, often called “loafer socks,” are the same as invisible casual socks except they’re made specifically for dress shoes.
Like longer dress socks, they’re made of finer cotton. Another key difference is that they’re cut even wider to mimic the loafer opening and stay invisible.
When it comes to colors to buy, the same rules apply. Match your invisible dress sock with the lining of your dress shoe. Since most dress shoes are lined with black or brown leather, black and brown/ beige invisible dress socks are all you’ll need.
My favorite invisible loafer sock brands right now:
Part 3: Summer Grooming Tips
The Best Way to Stop Sweaty Armpits
The Problem: Your pits sweat like crazy, soaking your shirts.
The Fix: A combination of Sweatblock and Aluminum-free deodorant
Over the last 5 years, I’ve tested a handful of solutions with thousands of men. This is the most effective combo I’ve found in fighting sweaty pits.
SweatBlock is an antiperspirant towelette that you wipe on your armpits once a week before bed. The towelettes contain an FDA approved proprietary formula that will block sweat up to 7-days per use.
Why this is better: Sweatblock is a thinner solution, making it absorb better and faster. It doesn’t get gunk on your clothes like your standard antiperspirant/deodorant stick.
The only downside?
While it does block sweat effectively, it doesn’t completely eliminate odor. (Lack of airflow can increase B.O..) That’s why I recommend using it in combination with an aluminum-free deodorant for the scent.
How to get rid of caked-on deodorant on shirts
The Problem: Your shirts have a cakey build-up of antiperspirant/deodorant that seems impossible to remove.
The Fix: Toss the shirt out and change the way you apply your antiperspirant/deodorants.
I’ve tested dozen of online methods that promised to help you remove caked-on deodorant. Unfortunately none of them were reliable enough for me to co-sign.
The best solution in my opinion is prevention.
A cakey build-up of deodorant on shirts is usually caused by deodorant not being absorbed by your pits.
This is usually due to a few factors.
- Apply too much deodorant
- Not giving it enough time to absorb before putting on your shirt. Traditional antiperspirant/deodorants combo sticks work by plugging your sweat pores with aluminum. It needs some time to absorb into your pores to work.
- Washing and drying a shirt with cakey residue in the pits. This can “bake” in the residue, making it near impossible to remove without damaging the fabric fibers.
To ensure that your shirts don’t get a build-up:
- Switch to the Sweatblock & Aluminum-free deodorant combo above Traditional antiperspirant/deodorants tend to be the main culprits. Using the Sweatblock combo helps reduce your need for applying a lot of deodorant.
- Apply antiperspirant/deodorants to dry pits. If you do decide to use a traditional combo stick, apply it to dry pits to help with absorption.
- Trim your armpit hairs. Too much or thick armpit hair can prevent your antiperspirant/deodorants from being absorbed onto your skin. Antiperspirants/deodorants love to latch onto armpit hairs and transfer onto your shirt.
- Apply antiperspirants/deodorants before bed to give them enough time to absorb. If you shower the next day, avoid direct contact with water.
The Best Summer Haircuts for Men
The Problem: Your head is dripping in sweat.
The Fix: Get a summer cut and switch to lighter weight styling products.
As Megan Collins over at Style Girlfriend explains:
“A good haircut can be your best hot weather accessory. You can quite literally cut off a few degrees by tightening up your sides, having your stylist razor through a thick heap of hair, and/or switching to lighter weight products. Bonus? It streamlines your morning routine…less maintenance, product, and upkeep [while] keeping you cool and dry.”
Peter’s advice on what to tell your barber:
Ask your barber to vary the length of the top of your hair and the sides. Have them cut/shave/fade a bit closer to the skin on the sides in the summer.
This is one of the first fixes I have my barber, Mr. Bee, do with my styling clients.
I tell him to do a skin fade, either starting midway up the sides of your hair or high.
Here are a couple of great examples:
Tom Hardy and Idris Elba are great examples of shaved heads done right. Varying the length of the side and top can make a buzzed head look sophisticated and groomed, rather than a desperate attempt to beat the heat.
Tom’s sides are more evenly shaved, while Idris is a beautiful example of a neat skin fade.
Tighten up the sides and switch to lighter products to give your hair some room to breathe.
You can ask your barber to end the fade a bit lower to avoid the undercut look, which can be too edgy for some guys.
Men get a lot of shit for “man buns,” but if you’re a stylish man with long hair, top knotting your locks will help keep you cool on summer’s hottest days.
Want to cool yourself down even more? Take Style Girlfriend’s advice and ask your barber to thin out your hair with a razor.
Not into the man bun? Consider reducing a bit of the length to air out your neck like actor Avan Jogia.
Fall and Winter is the time you should be growing out your hair anyway, so just like with your clothes, you should lighten up your long hair for the season.
Next steps! Check out the free bonus I created for this post!
If you’re curious what my personal picks are this summer, I put together a small bonus for you. Just click below to get my “10 summer essentials” shopping list. I just updated it for 2021!