When it comes to the most inhospitable place on Earth, El Azizia in Libya, or, Death Valley in California are up there. Yesterday, I found a serious contender. The Northern Line, London.
I was down South visiting the agent of an Italian manufacturing business. Riding the tube, or as I call it, ‘the land of a thousand farts,’ on a hot day in Summer is not for the faint hearted.
Wanting to create the right impression, I was kitted out in a three piece suit made-up in LBD’s ‘Havana’ cloth. It’s a very lightweight super 120’s with cashmere (about 7 to 8oz in weight) and even though it’s as light as a feather and cool to wear, was still no match for the humidity and general foistiness that enveloped our little carriage.
As my core body temperature reached dangerous levels, it got me thinking. What should a well-dressed man wear in the height of summer?
Perhaps I should begin with what not to wear. I’ve discussed short-sleeve shirts for work-wear in a previous blog and the bottom line is just don’t, or you’ll look like a school kid, or, worse, a traffic warden.
Then there are shorts. If you’ve got legs like Brad Pitt in ‘Troy,’ then maybe, just maybe you can get away with them, but for most of us, that isn’t the case. Personally speaking, I have the legs of an anorexic ballerina and like to keep them under wraps. I can’t tell you the number of pale, bruised, skinny, hairy, specimens that were poking out of voluminous cargo shorts. It’s enough to put a fellow off his lunch.
And then there are those mid-calf ones – fine if you are a fisherman in Bali, but absolutely ridiculous in town.
Next, down to the feet and perhaps the uber-sin of footwear. Crocs. I salute the marketing genius that actually managed to convince people over the age of four that it is ok to wear fluorescent orange rubber clogs. Maybe it was just some guy having a crap footwear competition with the joker at Birkenstock who decided to produce a range for blokes.
Fact – most men’s feet are the work of the devil. They spend fifty weeks of the year festering away in socks and shoes and then the first sniff of sunshine and bang. It’s lights! camera! action! Out with the Prada flip flops and centre stage for all that pasty skin, yellow toe nails and cracked heels.
When it comes to dressing well for Summer, the Europeans are streets ahead of us Brits. Just look at one of the ray-ban wearing, Marlboro-smoking, sun-soaked signores, sipping his grappa in a square in Rome. You’ll probably spot an open neck shirt with the sleeves rolled back, a pair of well cut lightweight trousers, a half-lined jacket slung over the back of the chair, and feet encased in a pair of Todd’s loafers, sans socks.
Us Brits don’t do Summer clothes well, but to be fair, we hardly have a Summer in which to do anything well. Just because it’s hot, doesn’t mean we can let our standards drop, get over-excited and dress like we are heading to the beach. It just means we have to find and wear the right fabrics, and that’s where a good tailor comes into his own.
Personally, I don’t like using pure linen as it takes ages for the whole garment to look equally dishevelled and much prefer using a light-weight wool, (around 9 oz’z in weight), perhaps blended with a little silk, linen, or, mohair.
I also like the yarn to be twisted, so it sheds creases more easily, which is better for travel suits. Useful, as we usually have to travel to find decent weather in the first place!
I mentioned earlier about a ‘half-lined jacket, and an example of one is pictured below.
The beauty of a half-lined jacket is that they are cooler to wear. From a tailoring point of view, there is more work and cost involved because all the seams, and general gubbins inside, have to be meticulously finished, rather than ‘hid’ behind a lining.
The picture of the centre-back seam below clearly shows how it has been pressed flat and each edge of the seam stitched down quite beautifully.
A well dressed Englishman in sunnier climes is a bit of a rarity. As far as I’m concerned, a beautifully tailored half-lined jacket made up in a cool, lightweight fabric in cream, stone, pale grey, or Italian blue, worn over a crisp cotton shirt is a good start.
If you insist on getting your legs and feet out, then for heavens sake, hit the tanning booth and cut those toe-nails.
Finishing touches, a decent pair of sunnies and if you dare, a Panama Hat. David Niven and Jude Law, eat your sun-kissed hearts out.