How can it be that the season with the least amount of clothing can leave the most room for fashion mistakes? Perhaps there’s something about the heat that makes us shamelessly abandon any sensibility we would normally exercise during the rest of the year. Maybe we feel like the slowness of the season gives us permission to take a vacation from discriminating taste. Either way, big, baggy board shorts and wraparound sunglasses make one thing clear: Summer has a set of style no-nos all its own. These are the seven deadly style sins of men’s summer fashion, and lucky for you, their seasonal solutions.
Socks and shoes
Any other time of year, we seek to keep our feet bundled up in warm socks: argyle ones for work, a low-cut athletic pair for the gym and, on occasion, the heavy-duty wool variety in the cold moths. But summer calls for no socks at all, especially with the footwear of the season — namely, men’s sandals, drivers and boat shoes. Suffocating your feet in any of these with a bright white pair of socks should also require a camera bag and return ticket to Bratislava. Still insisting on coverage of some sort? Invest in knot socks, the no-show alternative to the tourist-favored tube.
You remember cargo shorts — the circa ‘97 type that you could use to store everything from lunch leftovers to a small child. Yeah, well, those are so last decade, and this brings us to the next men’s summer fashion mistake.
The huge pockets bow out at the sides and force the shorts to sag. It’s time to try a silhouette from this century. Cuts are slimmer (like your favorite pair of jeans) and patterns range from bold plaids to seersucker; even everyday khaki is a fine choice. The secret to a great pair of men’s shorts is finding ones that don’t stray away from a straight line running from hip to hem. And speaking of hems, yours should always end an inch or two above the knee.
Summer may be hot and heavy, but that heavy cologne from last winter is just too much musk for summer’s sweat-inducing temps. The combination of a weighty, woodsy scent and your natural eau can be nauseating this time of year. Summer is the signal to switch to something light and lean. Anything with citrus notes or hints of grass like vetiver is exactly what you want when the sun kick-starts the water works.
Summer’s official footwear is undoubtedly the between-the-toe flip-flop, which leads us into our next men’s summer fashion mistake. It’s the barely there cover for your feet ideal for a backyard barbecue or a beachside jaunt. And that’s about as far as a flip-flop should go. Any other outing should get the sandal treatment — not the Kumbayah kind with fabric straps à la Teva or a thin-strapped European mandal. We’re talking about a simple leather criss-cross that hugs the foot while still allowing it to breathe. As the saying goes, X marks the spot.
The tank is meant to be worn as an undershirt. And unless you’re a bronzed weight lifter or sick spousal abuser bearing this shirt’s nickname, the tank top is one garment that should be left under wraps, or better yet, quarantined on the Jersey Shore. So, what’s a guy to do in the harsh heat of summer? Try a light colored V-neck T-shirt or polo shirt instead. Both of those should provide at least some of the breeze you’re looking for without having to spend a lifetime at the gym.
Perhaps the season’s most prevalent men’s summer fashion mistake of all comes in the form of a billowy board short. It dips below the knee, and in the worst cases is so shapeless the lines merge into a mono-legged swimming skirt. More grown-up and indeed flattering options exist for even the most body-conscious men among us. Men’s swimwear should look and fit like a great pair of everyday shorts. Slim ones that sit just under the waist (not unlike a lower-rise jean) and finish somewhere between mid-thigh and an inch or two above the knee work best for every beach-going guy.
Blocking the sun’s blinding rays is critical for surviving the season. But that doesn’t mean you have to reach for Terminator-type wraparounds to protect your eyes. Sure, sport-inspired sunglasses are perfect for a round of golf or a game of tennis — everything in context. But, outside of an athletic activity, everything else requires an aviator, Wayfarer or other such style-savvy shape. And while you may be thinking that fashion-friendly frames don’t look good on you, remember this piece of lifelong advice: Finding the right pair of sunglasses takes time. Try on 100 if necessary. Then, sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
Three months of fun in the sun lie ahead. Let’s ensure they’re bright (but shielded by a classic set of shades) — and tank-top free.