Dressing well during the summer is both easier and harder than other seasons. On the one hand, you don’t have to worry as much about layering and making sure that all your clothes work well together. The flip side, however, is that the few garments you do wear bear a greater responsibility.
Then you have to factor in the temperature swings, where you can be outside in 100-degree heat with 100-percent humidity one moment and inside where meat locker-like temps make your teeth chatter the next. To help you navigate all of these considerations, and look good doing so, we put together this handy list of the 10 commandments of summer style.
1. Thou shall not wear flip-flops anywhere other than the beach
It’s one thing to sport flip-flops when you’re living out your own personal version of a Corona ad, gently kneading grains of sand between your toes as waves lap at the shoreline. It’s another thing when the substances between your toes are cigarette butts and air conditioning run-off. You don’t have to be a Howard Hughes-level germophobe to get that parading around an urban environment with only thin slivers of rubber to protect your feed isn’t the most sanitary of pursuits. Then there are the sartorial concerns. Wearing flip-flops with pants comes off less “surf bum” and more just “bum.”
2. Thou shall keep thy knees covered at the office
The rules of workplace attire have been greatly relaxed in recent years, but there’s no reason for them to go completely limp. Sneakers in the office are cool. Same for T-shirts, as long as it’s a “work” tee and not some hole-ridden liquor company shirt you got for free from a shot girl at a bar. But the line has to be drawn at shorts. The comfort argument doesn’t really hold up. By that logic, we’d all be wearing mumus to the office. Besides, it’s not as though your lower legs are the body part that gets sweaty when the temperature starts to climb. It’s much better to maintain a sense of decorum. The easiest way to not be viewed as one of the “kids” in the office is to not dress like one.
3. Thou shall keep thy knees exposed when wearing shorts
There are shorts and there are pants. There is no need for a meet-in-the-middle hybrid. For those occasions when it is acceptable to wear shorts (see #2), make sure that the garment you are putting on is, in fact, a pair of shorts. That means they should fall above the knee (not too far above—one to two inches should be sufficient). Otherwise, you’re wearing Capri pants, and men should not wear Capri pants.
4. Thou shall keep collars unpopped
Plenty of 80s trends are being resuscitated, but the popped collar on the polo shirt is one that needs to stay dead. It’s guaranteed to make you look like the preppy bad guy in every movie and just screams “bro” in all the ways you don’t want it to.
5. Thou shall recycle white tees regularly
The plain white T-shirt is a summer staple, suitable for just about every occasion that you find yourself in between Memorial Day and Labor Day. But a shirt that is called upon for that much duty is going to show signs of wear, so it’s important that you consistently rotate in new options. Fortunately, white tees are cheap, so you can keep them looking fresh without subsisting on a diet of the summer equivalent of ramen (which is actually just more ramen). As soon as you notice a drop of ketchup or the first inkling of a pit stain, it’s time to retire the shirt in favor of a new one.
6. Thou shall never be without deodorant
Nothing can ruin a good outfit quicker than some bad B.O. Your entire look can be on point, but if you stink you might as well have a force field surrounding you. So put on deodorant, and then put on some more. Applying deodorant is not like cologne, where too much is a bad thing. Even though most brands promise “24-hour protection,” adding a second swipe of the stick midway during the day is rarely a bad call. Everyone you come in contact with will appreciate it.
7. Thou shall wear socks as infrequently as possible
While a man should keep his toes sheathed unless he’s at the beach (see #1), his ankles are a different story. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a suit or jeans, wingtips or sneakers, flashing a little ankle conveys a perfectly casual vibe while still feeling pulled together. And if you are worried about your shoes stinking (a perfectly valid concern, especially with sneakers), invest in a few pairs of no-show socks. They achieve the same ankle-baring result but also keep your feet cooler and dryer.
8. Thou shall shower outside whenever the opportunity arises
Summer has its own grooming routine that could merit its own 10 commandments list, but here’s the most important thing you need to know: If there’s an outdoor shower, use it. The liberating cleansing experience is kind of like skinny dipping but less exhibitionist. And for some reason, the water just feels more refreshing when it’s falling down on you outside, kind of like the way a hot dog tastes better when it’s cooked outdoors. For most folks, the outdoor shower is something to do when you come back from a midday trip to a place like the beach, but there’s no reason to limit it. If you wake up in the morning and have the chance to bathe outside, go for it.
9. Thou shall move beyond raw denim
We are huge fans of raw denim. If forced to pick one pair of pants to wear for an extended period of time, that’s what we’re going with. But summer (hopefully) is a time to be more relaxed and your jeans should follow suit. Who wants to be in 90-degree heat trying to break in a pair of stiff denim? Go for a softer pair in either light blue, grey, or white instead. It’s a lighter look that will fit in perfectly at a sunset BBQ.
10. Thou shall not wear sunglasses indoors
Jack Nicholson is the only man who can get away with wearing sunglasses at all times and not look like a caricature of himself. So unless you starred in The Shining, kindly remove your shades whenever you step inside a place where you’ll be for more than five minutes. Push them up on top of your head, fold them over the collar of your shirt. Hell, even a lanyard attached to your glasses can work. As long as you’re avoiding the “too cool for school” look, you should be in good shape.
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