In honour of the fact that summer is upon us, and that I haven’t written a thing since the spring, I thought I would rant vigorously and bitterly about summer attire, in the gloriously contemptuous style of the Old Testament.
Summer is, officially, the worst-dressed season in London as far as men are concerned. Men in the city slop around, slack-jawed, scratching their posteriors, wearing the wardrobe of teenage boys. The crass Americanisation of our summer attire reduces the steely grace of a winter’s John Steed into a theme-park-going cretin.
The time for calm, cautious advice has long passed. The time has come for indignation and commandment.
1. Thou shalt not wear socks
Socks are entirely optional in summer. There is nothing so ridiculous as the sight of a grown man insisting on wearing hosiery in hot weather. The most absurd example of this is clearly the socks-with-sandals aberration, but it also rankles when I see people wearing shorts, penny loafers and socks pulled up over their calves. Socks on their own are unattractive. They look awkward. They are only desirable in winter because they are largely invisible when worn with lace-up shoes and long trousers.
2. Thou shalt not covet flip-flops
Flip flops are the second most anti-social and degenerate footwear you can buy (the leader in this regard are Crocs). I’m not against exposed feet per se; if someone takes care of them properly (no surprise that male pedicures are on the rise in the summer months), then exposing footwear like sandals – a design that harks back to the civilisations of the ancients – is actually the most appropriate in certain conditions. But flip flops are a cheap con; a scruffy, filthy, lazy symbol of humanity’s decline.
3. Honour thy pastels
Grey and navy are the dominant forces in winter. When light levels are lower, and precipitation greater, these sobering colours make sense. But in summer, when the sunlight lasts till a few hours before midnight, it is time to make more use of nature’s desaturated tones. Pastel suits are the ultimate expression – think of Jay Gatsby’s pastel pink suit in which Daisy considered him “wonderfully cool” – but they require daring, with which most men are not blessed. Less of a stretch is a pastel summer jacket in linen, cotton or seersucker that works well with both white and off-white trousers, as well as strongly contrasting deep blues. For the most risk-averse, pastel trousers are the mildest expression of the pastel faith.
4. Thou shalt wear linen suits
I can’t count the number of times someone has worn a wool suit on a hot day and has complained ad nauseum about the heat and torn their jacket off in disgust: “too hot for suits.”
No, it’s not. It’s just too hot for that suit.
Too many men wear the wrong material in the wrong season. Wearing the same midweight wools in winter and summer is nonsensical. There are lighter weight wools that are better suited, but too few men wear linen in the summertime. Lighter coloured linens are more common, but navy and grey linens are more elegant for summer business attire. It should always be remembered that though the wrinkling of linen is to be embraced, it is advisable to press a linen suit for the boardroom.
5. Short-sleeved shirts should never be worn with suits and ties
Short sleeved shirts are never high on my list come the time of the summer sales. Men with biceps the size of beer barrels seem to love them – it’s one of the unofficially acceptable methods of ‘showing your bod’ on Tinder – but I have never got much utility from them. They are especially odious when worn with ties (with the added insult of a pen clipped to a breast pocket) as ‘work attire.’
6. Be ye not afraid of hats
When I wore a panama hat to a polo match on a cloudless day, I could see the ranks of smirking, sunglass-wearing luvvies looking at me as some sort of fragile relic. I had the last laugh come six o clock when the more auburn of the bunch gently tapped their crimson foreheads, their smiles quickly collapsing into a frown. More so than in winter, summer hats have a distinctly protective purpose. Not only do they keep the sun off your face but they are also remarkably good at keeping you cool.
7. Thou shalt stop dressing down
It isn’t a summer holiday. You are at work. Simply because the temperature is three degrees higher than it was four months ago does not mean you shed clothing, wander around the office without shoes, come to the office in polo shirts (it’s not goddamn golf day) and act like it’s all a barbecue. Summer slovenliness is on the rise – and it is risible.
8. Remember anti-perspirant, to keep it wholly pleasant
It is 2016. And yet the amount of wet armpits you see around the city on a summer’s day would make you think we were living in the pre-penicillin era, where quacks dispensed brandy and leeches as cure-alls for our ills. Deodorant is not a new thing, and it should be your constant friend when the sun is out and the Mercury is high. An elegantly assembled ensemble is pointless if you smell of day-old cheese soaked in vinegar.
9. Thou shalt not wear shorts over the knee
Do you remember being a teenager? It wasn’t great. You were insecure, spotty, awkward physically, sexually inexperienced, financially dependent on your parents – so why are you so desperate to be one again? There is nothing more pitiable than a grown man wearing the same long shorts as his sons. In a rash attempt to fit in and ‘be cool’ (whatever the hell that even is), he conveys to the adult world that he is a man-child, lacking interest in full maturity. To women, let alone other men, nothing is more likely to result in a severe recession of respect.
10. Stop wearing jeans
Jeans are an amazing marketing coup. Relatively uncomfortable, not warm enough for winter and too hot for summer, yet they remain a robotic essential choice for most men. For mild days, jeans are fine. But when the temperature soars, jeans are a disagreeable option; wear linen trousers, or cotton chinos instead.