Staple #21: The Summer Weight Casual Button-Up Shirt
One of the best things about learning to dress better is incorporating different weights and materials into your wardrobe. As counter intuitive as it may seem, wearing a summer weight button-up shirt is both going to look better and be more comfortable than simply throwing on a T-shirt or even a tank top.
The key is selecting fabrics and weights that were specifically designed to help with the heat. Linen and cotton are going to be your goto’s when the mercury starts inching towards triple digits. Not only are they more open weaves that breath better, they’re also lighter, more comfortable, and provide small air pockets to keep you cool throughout the day.
Light is the way to go in color and in weight. On the hottest days you’ll want white or an off white. The color reflects sunlight, rather than absorbing it, keeping your body from having to deal with 100% of the sun’s rays.
If you want to make sure your shirt is never mistaken for anything but casual, a camp shirt is the way to go. Details like flapped chest pockets, soft collars, and epaulets are inappropriate in business and formal settings but perfect in the utilitarian world of casual men’s clothing. You can still pop a jacket on over one of these if you want to dress it up a bit, but on its own, a summer camp shirt is the epitome of casual cool.
Another one of summer’s cloth staples is chambray. To the untrained eye it can look a lot like denim. However, it is softer, lighter, and breathes better. On its own, chambray is a great material for a comfortable fabric with a more rugged vibe, but my favorite way to wear it is to dress it up with a jacket and some chinos.
Chambray is a great way to turn an all High look into a great High/Low ensemble. White chinos, double monks, an unstructured jacket, loud pocket square, and chambray shirt are a great uniform for summer events like weddings, nights out with friends, and first dates. It’s a look that’s very intentional without being cartoonishly over the top.
Summer is also the best time of year to break out the short-sleeved shirts. The trick to wearing these and not looking like you just crawled out of the IT dungeon is to make sure both the body and sleeves are narrowly tailored. This doesn’t mean painted-on tight, but slim enough that they accentuate your build, however slight it may be. You want to be channeling Bond during his stint in the Bahamas in Casino Royale more than Mormon missionary.
One of the best cloth choices for a short-sleeved shirt is Indian Madras. It’s a very light-weight, patterned cotton that has become an East Coast staple for men in the summer. The lightest and most comfortable is the stuff that’s actually imported from India, but imitation cloths that are still loud, light, and soft are great alternatives and much kinder to your wallet. The one I’m wearing cost me less than $20 at Forever 21 a few years ago.
While you still want to focus on your summer weight shirts fitting and looking tailored, I actually recommend you wear them a little bit looser than your dress shirts or winter button ups. Having some space between your body and a breathable material means you’ll experience more airflow, which cools down the air and helps you regulate your temperatures.
One aspect of these lightweight materials is that they are very prone to wrinkling. Rather than spending valuable daylight hours with an iron or a steamer trying to work against the nature of these fibers, you should embrace the casual appearance that comes with the wrinkles and wear them unapologetically. Your mother may disagree, but these shirts look better with their natural flaws than they would if they’d been pressed into submission.
If you liked the photos from this shoot, check out my buddy Chad Keyes. He’s one of Salt Lake’s most promising photographers and was awesome to work with.