"What's the weather like out there? 'It's hot. Damn hot! Real hot! Hottest thing is my shorts. I could cook things in it. A little crotch pot cooking.' (Well, can you tell me what it feels like?) 'Fool, it's hot! I told you again! Were you born on the sun?'" - Robin Williams as Adrian Cronauer in the film Good Morning Vietnam.
The Florida heat regularly makes me think of that silly movie scene.
Oftentimes, I'm asked, "How can you wear a suit in the summer?" To which I reply, "It's a summer suit."
Hot weather isn't an excuse for not looking sharp. I mean, I'm usually going from an air-conditioned house, to an air-conditioned car, to an air-conditioned restaurant anyway (or wherever my destination is), so what’s the big deal?
These days with the relaxed business-casual office dress code, and the even more relaxed tropical Florida atmosphere, men don’t really have to wear a suit. Some, like me, do so anyway. It takes confidence, and gains you respect, and better service. Trust me on this one.
"If a man runs for president, interviews for a high-level job, or needs a good table at a smart restaurant, chances are he'll be wearing a suit. The tailored jacket with matching trousers remains the uniform of official power, suggesting civility, diplomacy, and physical self-control. Suits have a way of looking superior."
"The sophisticated dresser understands that while no longer mandatory corporate fare, the suit is here to stay. With the classic dress suit now pressed into service more for ceremony than ordinary day wear, men want their tailored attire to be no less a talisman of success than their cars, wines, and watches …" – Alan Flusser, from the book, Dressing the Man.
Summertime is Fun Time for Men’s Suits
There are special suit styles and materials for the summer that the sharp-dressed man can have fun with, and look more party-ready than business meeting stuffy.
The classic summer suit is the Seersucker. It’s been around since the early 1900s, and is still a classic style. Seersucker is a puckered, striped, lightweight cotton fabric which facilitates air circulation to help keep you cool. The most common version is striped in blue and white, but you can also find seersucker in pink, tan, and olive. I even have a multi-colored seersucker jacket that I found at a thrift store. A nice thing about seersucker is that it doesn’t wrinkle, so it needs no ironing.
The opposite of seersucker in the wrinkling and ironing department is another classic summer material. Mentioned in the Bible, linen was woven more than four thousand years ago, and in 2013, Leonardo DiCaprio looked spectacular in it in his pink pinstripe and ivory linen suits in The Great Gatsby.
Linen is another material that breathes to help you chill during the hotter months. Don’t worry about the wrinkles. That’s the laid-back nature of linen- it wrinkles – it's supposed to look like that.
Breathability is the most important general aspect of summer wear. A loose weave, and lightweight fabric are important as well. Most suits are made of wool, but most of them are not for the summer. Tropical worsted wool is the obvious choice here.
All of the rest …
After seersucker and linen, 100% cotton, lightweight suits are probably the next most popular choice. In general, you’re looking for lighter colors, pastels, whites, tans, and light browns.
Gabardine and silk are great choices if you want something a little different that not too many other guys have. Blends work too. I have a great cream colored summer jacket that is 55% silk and 45% cotton, which is super comfortable and dapper. You can also look for half-lined, or unlined jackets.
Lastly, if you really want an attention getter, and have a high level of style confidence, look for a Madras sports jacket. Madras is actually a pattern rather than a material. Strands of cotton are dyed in different colors and then loosely woven together to form a loud plaid pattern of bright colors in a lightweight material meant to be comfortable in hot, humid weather. Madras originated in British Colonial India, then migrated back to England, Scotland, and eventually to the U.S. with Brooks Brothers. It can be found at lots of different retailers and is a summer classic that only a few can pull off.
For a little extra panache with your hot weather threads, add a classic summer style of two-toned spectator shoes, or suede bucks.