When it comes to summer dressing, most men like the idea of adding a little shot of color to their ensemble but are often fearful of overdoing it. When does a little become too much? How can I show some personality without looking like a caricature?
Thinking this over, I am reminded of a fellow I once saw on the street on a steamy summer day. He was wearing the loudest pants I’d ever seen. They looked remarkably like sofa cushions from a 1950s Florida vacation house; bright orange with giant palm fronds and parrots printed all over them. These pants actually hurt my eyes. But the guy wearing them looked cool as a cucumber; relaxed and suave in sockless loafers and a crisp white oxford.
Though most of us would run the other way when presented with such an outfit, it worked on this gentleman because it fit his particular personality. He was at home in that overwhelming cacophony of color and pattern. For the rest of us, spicing up the warm weather wardrobe will likely include less extravagant exercises in color. Dressing for fun and sun is easier on the weekends, but when it comes to the work week, most everyone still need to dress professionally – or at least wear long pants. But there is still room for personal style in manageable increments.
As a general rule, please do not make the mistake of thinking that dressing for summer weather means wearing togs better suited to the beach or a weekend cookout. Office style, whether formal or “business casual” still says a lot about you and your values. so always assume that someone important will need to see you during the day and dress accordingly.
How then do you “responsibly” add that bit of personal color? A favorite option of mine is to use accessories as a way to tone down the formality of office attire while still offering the world a little flash of your style.
Ribbon watch straps a great option, especially for the summer. You’ll be amazed at how a preppy grosgrain or NATO strap can change the whole feel of your favorite wrist watch and by extension soften your overall look and feel. Additionally, these straps give your timepiece a breezy, vintage feel which is popular right now. People will think that your dad wore it back when he was studying archeology at Yale – don’t bother to correct them.
English company Smart Turnout makes some of the best ribbon straps I’ve ever worn. With striped representing British military units to England’s venerable colleges – even a few American Ivy’s – you can find something that fits your personal style. They are easy to swap around, so keep a drawer full and match your watch your watch to your mood. If needed, invest in the little tool that allows you to remove the pins which hold most watch bands in place – it makes life easier.
Belts are another simple way to add color to your look while falling well within the bounds of great practical style. Tucker Blair needlepoint belts are a unique and thoroughly preppy way to add some fun and color to your summer wardrobe. Though a new company, Tucker Blair’s signature needlepoint belts are a timeless classic in a seaside-y sort of way. Each one is a little work of art and an instant heirloom. They truly are unique and speak to both New England clambakes and Low Country boils.
Ribbon belts are a popular and less expensive way to give your style a little seaside punch. Companies like Ralph Lauren, J. Crew, J. Press, and Gap offer stripes, critters, solids and plaid versions that make choosing one an easy exercise in personal messaging.
Another summer staple of the past that’s getting a new shot of life is patchwork madras. In the States at least, it seemed like back in the day everyone’s father had one of these shirts. Each year it was debuted at the family Memorial Day picnic and was kept busy all summer long.
With every washing the cloth got a little softer and a little more faded – the sign of true madras. It never stopped bleeding, getting mellower year by year. Cape Madras, founded in 2004, has resurrected the real thing and built a unique company that is both dyed in the wool American and dyed in Madras, Indian. While the Cape Madras collection is designed by the creative team in the US, the company weaves all its own fabric designs in rural villages in India. A modern global partner, albeit a small one, the company is dedicated to providing it’s Indian workers with good, creative and long-term jobs.
Also modern is its design approach. Unlike the traditional muted colors one associated with madras, Cape Madras uses colors not usually seen in traditional madras like bright pinks, greens and oranges. With offerings of shirts, shorts, jackets, pants, you can find that classic summery look for any occasion.
To add an extra layer of individuality, choose a signature, something that people will associate with you alone. A relative of mine wears round tortoise shell glasses. Since I can remember, he has always worn them and by now anything else just wouldn’t look right. He is particularly Ivy League in his style of dress, so the glasses give him a living Ralph Lauren ad persona. It’s just right on him. So, what’s your summer signature of personal style?