Having spent a few weeks in the tropics it became increasingly clear that a wardrobe which works well in England’s temperate climes is largely useless when it gets hot.
Partly this is simply a matter of temperature. When it is approaching 96 degrees in the shade, wearing a blazer and chinos for a smart casual event does not seem such a good idea. Partly it is a matter of culture. Different cultures have different ideas of what smart casual means. In the tropics this could mean that you wear a smart shirt with chino shorts and shoes rather than your usual tank top with cargo shorts and flip-flops.
So on the few occasions when I was looking for a smart causal look I was reminded that smart wear in the sun is a different animal from my usual norm.
The primary differences are layering and colours. My natural preference is to opt for a layered look. I am usually to be found wearing a blazer, jumper, or waistcoat over my shirt. If wearing a blazer, a long sleeved shirt with cuffs extending ½ inch beyond the sleeve of the blazer is ideal. Colours are primarily muted greys, blues and navies
In hotter climes none of this works as well. Layering is a recipe for heatstroke and thankfully muted colours aren’t as effective when the sun is shining. So what do you need for smart wear in the summer sun?
Lighter brighter colours
In the summer sun, with far more daylight available, it is the time of year to explore lighter and brighter colours. So white, pink, pale blue and virtually any pastel colour you fancy are great colours to explore. This range of colours works not only for shirts but also for trousers and shoes as well. Even better try combinations of colours: pinks with blue or green, or pale yellow with navy or red, for example.
Short sleeved button down collar shirts
For more casual contexts T shirts and polo shirts are a comfortable option. For a smart casual look it’s hard to beat short-sleeved button down collar shirts. It’s a look which will keep you cool in warmer climes. Shirts in some of the colours above work well. As a general rule bolder colours work better in plain shirts. For checks, stripes and other patterns, less bold colours are best. Avoid using both bold colours and patterns.
Smart shorts and linens.
Summer is the one time of year that gentlemen can get away with wearing shorts in a smart casual context. I’ve been thinking hard about what makes some shorts smarter than others. Broadly speaking, it’s the same qualities that make some trousers smarter than others. More external pockets means less formal.
Shoes which work with formal clothing simply do not work as well with smart casual clothing. This was one of the areas with which I struggled most, especially when wearing shorts. Drivers, loafers, or boat shoes are great options, whilst brogues are less effective.
When wearing T-shirts or polos with shorts or linens then the best option is not to tuck your shirt into your waistband. However if, wearing button up short sleeved shirts then tucking your shirt in is probably a good idea. This is a good chance to accessorise with a coloured belt. Belts can match or deliberately clash with your shoes.
Follow these simple ideas and make the most of the last few days of summer.