Gents, it’s hot out.

The minute you step outside, you feel the oppressive sun beating down and the moisture floating in the air. You’re doing your best to not  melt down into a sweaty puddle on the ground.

You’re wiping your brow constantly; your clothes stick to your back, forming abstract sweat blots like a Rorschach test.

How’s an effortless gent like you supposed to dress well and stay cool? This, my friend, is one of those situations where you can have your cake and eat it too.

In this guide, I’m going to lay out everything you need to know to dress sharp in hot weather—the best summer clothes for men, how they should fit, the ideal fabrics and colors—while staying as cool and sweat-free as possible.

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Colors, Fabric, and Fit

summer clothes for men - effortlessgent

You know how the clothing we wear in winter is generally heavier, darker, and more substantial? Same goes for the summer, except the complete opposite: everything is lighter, brighter, and lacking in heft and bulk.

Let’s break each one down:

The best colors for summer clothes

In general, you’ll want to wear light colors in the summer. Lighter colors will keep you cool as they reflect the most light. So white, light blue, light grey, and tan / khaki are all “neutrals” (i.e. colors that can serve as your base and go well with all other colors in an outfit).

Navy and olive also fall into the neutrals category, but since they’re not light colors, we’ll ignore them for now.

Summer is a great time to add brighter pops of color as well.

If you’re just learning how to incorporate more color, start by adding them in with smaller outfit details like pocket squares, bracelets, sunglasses, and watch straps.

If you’re more advanced and experimental, throw in a vibrant, stand-out piece, like a sport coat or colorful chinos.

The best fabrics for summer clothes

In warm weather, summer-weight or lightweight wool, linen, and cotton will be your best friends. Loosely-woven fabrics such as these will keep the air flowing freely while still looking sharp.

In case you’re worried about linen and wrinkling… yes, linen tends to wrinkle, but that’s OK. I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Embrace the wrinkles!

Plus, when you’re in hot, humid weather, the fabric will relax and some of the wrinkles will fall off anyway. It’s natural to see wrinkles with this fabric, so it’s not a big issue.

How summer clothes should fit

In general, clothes should fit how they always do, no matter the season. However, in the summer, I prefer things a bit looser.

Don’t get me wrong, your outfits should still be sharp, and should still have a nice, fitted silhouette… but if you want to go a tad bit looser, do it. More room between your skin and the fabric will allow for more air to circulate, which will keep you cooler, longer.

summer style guide download

In a hurry? Why not email yourself a copy to read later?

Just so you know, this article will be incredibly useful, but it’s a long one with lots of info to digest!

If you want to save it for later, I created a free bonus PDF that you can save to your phone, tablet, or wherever else you read digital things.

Outfit Specifics: “What clothes should I add to my closet?”

Before recommending specific summer clothes or capsule wardrobes for you, first decide how you need to dress.

Do you need to dress more formally (maybe you have an office job that requires you to suit up) or casually (every other situation, from running errands around town to getting drinks and dinner with your Sig O)?

Formal and Business: How to wear a suit and tie in hot weather

If you’re required to wear a suit to work, you will get hot. Hopefully the AC doesn’t break down on your way to the office so you don’t cross the Sweat Threshold (my term for when you start sweating, and once reaching that point, you can’t stop).

I don’t think there’s a way around it, but there are ways to minimize how hot you get in your suit and tie. You’ll have to pay attention to the cloth and the color.

“What kind of fabric should my summer suit be made from?”

Suits can be made from a number of different cloths. To keep it simple, for a summer suit, you want to find something in a lightweight wool, cotton, linen, or a blend of those three.

Ideally, your suit will be partially lined and unstructured. Suit jackets can come unlined, half lined (front panel, shoulders, and sleeves), or quarter lined (sleeves and shoulders, or sleeves only).

Why this matters: Having a partially-lined jacket means there’s one less layer trapping the heat in, and less sweating for you.

If you head to SuitSupply (or any shop that knows suits) right now and ask to see their summer-weight suits, they will know what you’re talking about. Generally, the suits are lighter, both in weight and in color, and the weaves of summer-specific fabrics are more open.

Why this matters: They breathe better, more air gets through, and you stay cooler.

“Are some colors better than others for summer suits?”

As far as specific fabric color, if appropriate for the event or the venue, I’d go with a light to medium grey suit, tan, cream, or brighter blues. Again, it’s going to depend on where you’re headed, as far as what’s appropriate, so you’ll have to make a judgment call there.

Your classic charcoal and navy could also work, but I tend to get hotter in darker colors and I imagine most others feel the same way. Then again, they’re classics for a reason, and you can’t go wrong with muted, somber colors such as these. If you stick with lighter-weight fabrics like I discussed in the previous section, you should be okay, temperature-wise.

“What about shirts, ties, and shoes?”

Same goes for your shirts. There are plenty of dress shirt fabric options, but find one made from a lightweight, open weave cloth. The most common and easiest ones to find will probably be lightweight oxford and linen cotton blend shirts.

Shirt colors: The staple white and light blue, of course. You can also go with a subtle stripe in blue / white or grey / white if you’re aiming for maximum versatility. As far as stripe width, I personally prefer the candy and awning stripe widths, though it’s up to you. You can also go with more vibrant colors, which work great against a neutral grey, navy, or tan.

For ties, what’s most important is to keep it seasonally consistent. So no thick wool ties. Go with something lighter weight in wool, cotton, and silk. Knits are also a good option.

As far as shoes for business or formal wear, stick to an oxford in brown or black. If you have a bit of leeway, you can go with a tassel loafer.

Smart, Sharp Casual: How to dress sharp in hot weather

Smart, sharp casual describes outfits you’d wear in everyday life situations that aren’t any of the two extremes:

  1. Formal: black tie, white tie, or business environments
  2. Casual or Activity-specific: lounging at home, performing manual labor, or participating in a physical activity (sports, the gym)

So if you’re not sitting on the couch, mowing the lawn, or doing 5 sets of 5 in the squat rack, you would be dressing smart sharp casual.

A bare-bones, capsule wardrobe for summer

If you’re looking to buy summer clothes and want a smart, sharp casual style, look no further! Here are some suggestions below.

Shorts

shorts - summer clothes for men - effortless gent

3 pairs of shorts, either in linen (or linen blend) or cotton chino. Best colors would be a lighter blue, darker blue, and one in a brighter color, like this faded red. Standard khaki-colored chino shorts are also great to own, of course.

Suggestions: Todd Snyder, BonobosJ.Crew

Chinos

chinos - summer clothes for men - effortless gent

2-3 pairs of chinos. These look sharp and are much better in warm weather than heavy denim. You can’t go wrong with navy, medium grey, khaki, and one fun color like faded red or mint green.

Suggestions: Todd Snyder khaki, navy chinos, and Bonobos fun color chinos

Shirts

shirts - summer clothes for men - effortless gent

2-4 shirts. I love linen shirts in the summer. I also wear a lot of OCBDs (year round, really) in white and light blue, or a light stripe (grey and white, blue and white).

Suggestions: Todd Snyder in white linen and light blue linen, Uniqlo OCBDs, J.Crew linen options

Short Sleeve Shirts

short sleeve shirts - summer clothes for men - effortless gent

2-4 short sleeve shirts: I’d go with linen, cotton, or a blend, in either short-sleeve button-ups or polos. For polos, slub cotton is my favorite (which is what you see above), but basic pique works too. Can’t go wrong with a white, navy, or gray, and two others in fun color and pattern combinations.

Remember, with a lean wardrobe, having one stand-out piece is easy to incorporate because it will go well with all your other neutral colors.

Suggestions: Todd Snyder polos, Bonobos fun short sleeve shirts, Banana Republic polos, J.Crew short sleeve shirts

Shoes

 

shoes - summer clothes for men - effortless gent

3 pairs of shoes: One white leather sneaker, a tan or brown driving shoe, a grey or tan loafer

Suggestions: Greats white sneakers, M.Gemi drivers, Allen Edmonds loafers

Sportcoat

jackets - summer clothes for men - effortless gent

These are three examples of super versatile sport coats: one in a medium grey, one in a brighter blue, and lastly, one in a brown check.

Ideally, you’d have all three, but depending on your specific situation, you may not need all three (or maybe you need more, who knows). The best sport coats for summer are linen or a linen blend, usually with cotton, wool, or silk. They’re also half-lined, unstructured, 2-button single-breasted, and double-vented. Double vents are my preference, though it’s not imperative yours be double-vented.

If you have your classics covered, don’t be afraid to experiment with pattern and texture, even if it’s subtle.

By the way, these jackets are from SuitSupply. Check out the cloth close up in the image below:

jacket fabrics - summer clothes for men - effortless gent

Suggestions: SuitSupply medium grey, brighter blue, brown check jackets

If you wanted to go the Made-to-Measure or Custom route, Oliver Wicks has a grey windowpane wool and linen jacket, and also a traditional seersucker jacket. You can buy both as full suits.

Finally, here’s a nice choice from Black Lapel.

Socks

socks - summer clothes for men - effortless gent

In the summer, I go with no-show socks or shoe inserts. The ones you see above are my favorites.

Suggestions: For inserts, I go with Zederna cedar inserts, or Pedag Deo-Fresh inserts. For no-show socks, I like Falke and Uniqlo’s no-show socks.

Undershirts

undershirts - summer clothes for men - effortless gent

I like my undershirts to be invisible; I don’t even want to know I’m wearing one.

I look for shirts made from a thin cotton or cotton blend (sometimes synthetic too, i.e. the shirt on the right), in light grey, with a V-neck. This is the style you want to wear underneath light-colored and lightweight shirts; they won’t show through like white undershirts tend to do.

These are my two favorites.

Suggestions: RibbedTee’s Retro Fit Tri Blend in Heather Grey, Uniqlo’s Airism line

Accessories (optional)

Sunglasses

sunglasses - summer clothes for men - effortless gent

If you already have a standard pair of black or brown tortoise shell frame sunglasses, go with something fun and colorful for summer.

Suggestions: Chimi Eyewear, Ray-ban Clubmaster w/ reflective lenses

Hats

fedoras - summer clothes for men - effortless gent

In the summer, I usually travel with a straw fedora. They look great, provide sun protection, and best of all, are packable… assuming you buy the right ones.

Suggestions: Goorin Bros. packable fedoras (here and here)

Belts

belts - summer clothes for men - effortless gent

A dark brown leather belt is always good to have; it will match all your shoe options. Sometimes, though, you want something a little more fun, especially in the summer when you want to wear more color. So, something like these braided, webbed belts are perfect.

Suggestions: Anson, Todd Snyder (one belt, two belt)

NATO straps

nato straps - summer clothes for men - effortless gent

You can usually swap out the factory band on your watch and replace it with a colorful NATO strap. It’s an easy way to add a bit more color to your outfit without going full pink seersucker or something equally in-yo-face.

Suggestions: Amazon carries two brands that have a wide selection, BluShark and ClockworkSynergy. Men’s stores like J.Crew carry their own watch straps as well.

Putting together a summer outfit

I think the best advice I can give for putting together great outfits every day can be summed up in three words: Don’t Be Scared.

Every question I receive from guys about how to put together outfits always sound so anxious and apprehensive, like if they wear the “wrong” combination, they’re going to set off a bomb or something equally terrible will happen.

The most common questions are usually something like, “How do I wear X with Y?” and “Does A go with Z?”

  • The answer to #1 is: Put on X first, then put on Y.
  • The answer to #2 is YES

You simply can’t go wrong with a wardrobe full of neutrals, and 1-2 pops of bright, vibrant color… nor can you go wrong with an outfit of solid colors, and 1-2 patterns.

I don’t mean to sound harsh, but look, you’re supposed to have fun with dressing well. If you put together a less-than-ideal look, and you don’t realize it until later, who cares? It’s just clothing. Put stuff on, have fun with your look, go on with your day.

And by the way, YES, you can wear a long-sleeve linen or OCBD with shorts. Just roll up your sleeves if you’re hot. Don’t be so buttoned up, it’s summer, for god’s sake.

Summer outfit examples

Anyway, because I love you, here are a few outfits I threw together from the pieces I suggested for your summer capsule wardrobe in the previous section.

Outfit 1: Laid-Back Dressed Up

summer clothes for men - effortless gent

This is a good example of a laid-back version of “dressed up”. The khaki chinos and light blue linen shirt are an easy pair, and with the brown drivers, is a great outfit on its own. The multi-colored brown webbed belt is a subtle color addition, along with the shades.

If you’re headed to a nice venue (dinner at a classy restaurant, drinks at a fancy bar), throw on your blue sport coat, and you’re all set.

Outfit 2: Poolside Happy Hour

summer clothes for men - effortless gent

This outfit reminds me of a night out in Miami; it’s something I’d wear if I’m going out to grab happy hour drinks and bites at Cecconi’s (best HH in Miami Beach).

Notice how the chinos are the only bright pop of color (not including the shades, but that’s OK); everything else is subtle and neutral.

Outfit 3: Sharp in Shorts

summer clothes for men - effortless gent

Shorts can be sharp! Find a dark pair in linen or cotton, pair it with a white linen shirt, clean white sneakers, and a tan fedora. Sunglasses optional (but it’s summer, so you probably are carrying them around everyday regardless).

Outfit 4: Understated and No-Nonsense

summer clothes for men - effortless gent

If you’re a fan of understated, no-nonsense looks, this outfit is for you. Dusty navy chinos, a grey slub cotton polo, and tan loafers. Super easy, you look sharp, and you still have a bit of color in that outfit with the awesome belt and shades.

Outfit 5: Al Fresco Dinner

summer clothes for men - effortless gent

I wanted to throw this example in to show you how to dress up colorful chinos. Essentially, you treat them as if they were your standard khaki or navy, but the key is to make sure everything else is subtle and neutral. I’m a fan of fun shades, so if that’s another pop of color you happen to be wearing, that’s totally fine.

Wrapping Up

If you’ve made it this far, you’re ready to dress sharp in hot weather!

Now you have a good idea of what fabrics and colors to choose, and how your clothes should fit when it’s warm out. You also have a solid list of clothing recommendations and ideas for how to put them together into different outfits.

Dressing well isn’t tough, regardless of the season. You just have to be strategic with what you wear and the cloth you choose, so you can look great while still remaining as cool as a cucumber.

Hope this helps! Anything else I can answer? Leave your questions in the comments below.

summer style guide download

Enjoy this guide? Why not email yourself a copy to read again later?

Did you find this guide incredibly useful? It’s long with lots of info to digest, so why not save a copy to take with you on the go?

I created a free bonus PDF that you can save to your phone, tablet, or wherever else you read digital things.

If you found this article useful, make sure to check out our Lean Wardrobe resources page.

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