Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirt and gritty
Been down, isn't it a pity
Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city
All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head
That's the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of living in New York City and how miserable it can be about this time of year. And you don't have to be living in New York to feel like the heat is on. It's August, it's pretty much hot everywhere. And we think we've got some answers for you how to beat back the heat, no matter if you're in California (Craig,) Florida (Chris,) the South (Ryan,) or even NYC... as I am remembering right now, sweating to the oldies in the subway station.
What to wear at the beach or poolside or at a backyard barbecue is one thing – and we'll touch on that later. But the tougher questions, is when you need to go to a wedding or a board meeting or special event – how do you dress up, but stay cool?
Right outta the gate my mind goes to fabric – the right fabric for summer is a game changer. And the usual lightweight summer accomplices – cotton, linen, seersucker, madras, pique – are well-known (and get the job done) for a reason. They're tried and true. But my go-to... and I'd say the one most people don't think about, is wool. I know, you're thinking "wait, really, wool??" But stick with me. We have a particular high-twist wool fabric from England that we use in our many of our suits that has a very fat yarn structure, and the yarns are plied – 2 ply to be exact – so 2 yarns twisted together in the warp (north-south) 2 yarns twisted together and the weft (east-west) and when you put these two fat yarns together it makes for a very open weave. Basically like a basketweave. The fabric almost literally breathes and allows air to go through it – which in turn, keeps you cooler. And that twist in the yarn means it has an excellent bounce-back to it and sheds wrinkles well. Case in point: I wore my Air Force blue high-twist to an outdoor wedding in August in the Florida panhandle a few years ago. In my mind, I hardly broke a sweat, except on the dance floor. (Though maybe I was sweating less just knowing that my air-conditioned suit was working.) But the beauty of the wool suit is that it's a year-rounder and we make it in a variety of colors – that Air Force blue, oxford grey, charcoal, lovat green (as in we-love-it green) – and you can wear it just as easily in August as you can in November.
Second thing I think about is color. If it's in the daytime, and if you're going to be in the sun, the general rule is the lighter, the better. Now you might not want to go full-on white suit – though for the record, I do own one – but think light stone, light blue, seersucker, and shoot... it's basically a requirement in the south to have a khaki poplin suit. These lighter suits are meant only for true summer or where it feels like summer most of the year. (Lucky you in Palm Beach.)
The last thing I'm going to think about is putting the outfit together in a way to maximize lightness. You want to avoid looking hot, and maybe worse, having people TELL you that you look hot. I'd start from the bottom and work my way up... if at all possible, I'd bypass heavy, leather-soled dress shoes in favor of lighter ones... penny loafers or tassel loafers. And if possible, I don't wear socks – that will instantly make you feel cooler and look cooler. I'd put a back pocket square in one of my pant pockets. It can be great for mopping a brow or soaking up the condensation from a cold drink - a makeshift coaster. And, as much as we recommend wearing a tie, depending on the event, I would consider going without one. A sport shirt – or even a polo with a cut-and-sewn collar that will stand up and keep its shape – looks great with a jacket and allows a little more airflow.
And Ryan, to answer your question about maintaining a certain level of sophistication with shorts and a short-sleeved shirt... There are a few rules I like to stick to. I like a shirt with a collar vs. a t-shirt for a crisper presentation (a short-sleeved oxford cloth button-down is fantastic). If you insist on going untucked, I'd steer you toward our Marquez shirt, a pared-down riff on a guayabera. (We also do a more classic one.) Oh, and one last thing... going a little shorter and more tailored on your shorts makes you look a little taller. Not sure you'll be any cooler temperature-wise, but standing taller is never a bad thing.
At the end of the day, don't forget... everybody sweats, and a little perspiration actually looks good. Admittedly, I love the summertime. Lean into it! Or, just get a drink.