Basic Training


Since yesterday’s post on women’s wear basics for the warmer months I’ve given the same thought to our wardrobes. Men have traditionally switched to lighter fabrics in summer. That’s about it. Lighter colours, lighter fabrics.

Have a nice summer.

Just kidding. But not really. As we’ve noted before, changes in menswear are measured in millimeters and decades. You’ve already got the makings for staying elegant when spring starts to feel more like summer and summer makes you pack up and head for the shore or the mountains. The trick is to combine classic pieces and still feel au courant; not hard to do with the resurgence of classic dressing. (Of course, you will still have your standard business dress. This list is for those in-between days.)

Got through your closets and get the following ready to ship out.

1) Flat front chinos. “Chinos” are those khakis with a bit of a polished sheen to them. They are lighter in weight (6 oz.?) and a classic. To cuff or not to cuff? Whatever you prefer. Even the Europeans are rolling up their khakis to show some (sockless) ankle — which makes it look like they’re wearing sloppily cuffed trousers. Wear them with a long-sleeved shirt (sleeves rolled up), your Sperry Stripers and a polo shirt, or a black tennis shirt and black loafers for a casual evening out.

2) A white linen or khaki cotton (poplin) suit. Make sure that it fits well. Mine were all too loose (comfortable, but slovenly) until I went down a size and looked much better. The great thing about each is that you can split the pieces and wear them separately. The white coat/khaki trouser looks great as does the reverse. Keep the accessories plain: a dark knit or pale linen tie, a so-pale-it-might-as-well-be-white blue shirt or a classic white shirt (end-on-end or sea island are two choices that will keep you cool.)

3) Linen odd trousers. I like navy or white or a pattern (cream and white houndtooth, for example.)

4) Seersucker suit. Again, the pieces can be worn separately with khaki or white trousers and a white button-down or tennis shirt, respectively. Choose a dark knit tie or linen matte tie with a white shirt to give it a more serious look than the traditional white button-down and bowtie with white bucks combination.

5) Striped shirt. Either a fisherman’s shirt like the ones Picasso so famously wore or a t-shirt to layer or wear to very casual events with shorts.

6) Suede loafers (unlined). I never stick to them, even when I don’t pour in the foot powder. Tan or lighter colours are best (unless you can pull off the bright coloured driving shoes like the Italians.) Or a good pair of highly polished penny loafers or bit loafers.

7) A ribbon, needlepoint or surcingle belt. Something with some colour to it. Or brown alligator.

8 ) A colourful shirt. I have an orange linen one that looks great with a tan and my white jeans.

9) Striped espadrilles… or Sperry canvas deck shoes (“Stripers”). For casual wear, they can’t be beat and look great.

10) Shorts. I recommend white duck, cut just like your casual trousers (flat front), linen in whatever colour, or khaki plain fronts. All should end above your knee. If you can get away with them, go for a plaid pair (just no black socks with sandals.)

11) Linen drawstring pants. For vacation or lounging around the house. Mine are blue or khaki. Too, too for you? Natural or white linen jeans.

12) Great sunglasses. Classic aviators, tortoiseshell wayfarers, Persols….

13) A straw hat. In a classic style and in whatever condition to use at outdoor events at high noon or at the beach. I don’t like the wide-brimmed golfing version that crops up all over. I’d rather see one of those huge lifeguard versions or a plantation sized brim on an optima crown, even.

14) A bandana in a bright colour. For use as a neckerchief or a pocketsquare or a picnic cloth.

15) Tennis shirts. Lacoste, Polo, Peter Polo, Fred Perry, Golden Fleece, whomever. Trim fit, tropical colours (go for shockingly bright in addition to white and black.)

16) A brightly coloured sweater. Lime green, orange, red, yellow… but make it lightweight.

17) A light tie. Yellow, pink, lime green or light blue. Whatever takes your fancy. To wear with your business greys and blues.

19) Gold Bond body powder. It works. It keeps you cool.

And, if you want to channel our man in the photo above, please do. Spectator shoes (white trousers, jackets and bucks) are traditionally worn from Memorial Day to Labor Day in the States (or year-round in tropical climes.) You can’t go wrong with a linen blazer or light coloured odd jacket in a fresco cloth. Don’t forget your white DJ.

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