How to Dress Well in Summer

When the sun comes out, so do Britain’s eccentric style habits. The Rake’s Sartorial Guru, shows us how to dress up as the mercury rises.
Beige wool linen blend, double-breasted suit, Pal Zileri; white and multicolour floral print cotton pyjama shirt, Dolce & Gabbana; orange and turquoise linen, parrot print pocket handkerchief, Calabrese 1924 for The Rake.

The British do not have a good reputation for dressing well in warmer weather. The unpredictability of the English summer has always been our stock excuse, and we never seem to get it right. Either too stuffy and dressed-up or overly casual but without being comfortable. And we seem to be going backwards: in the days of the Empire, we successfully adapted our strict Victorian dress codes to create new conventions that were supremely elegant and are still relevant today. We added cummerbunds and khaki, madras checks and chukka boots. But not much since.

The key to elegant summer dressing is picking the right cloths. Linen is the most comfortable warm-weather shirting and is the perfect vehicle to introduce a little colour to your wardrobe. The Jermyn Street shirtmaker Turnbull & Asser has introduced a collection of linen shirts with neat button-down collars in a sophisticated palette that includes turquoise, lilac, orange and green. The open-weave texture and melange weave makes these usually tricky colours easier to wear than if they were executed in a flat cotton — and the sun should make us all a little braver in our choices. I generally prefer long-sleeved shirts for summer, as they can underpin a smart blazer or be worn with the sleeves rolled up for a sportier look when combined with bathing trunks. An ideal piece for throwing on for lunch or cocktails around the pool.

David Niven in 1958’s Bonjour Tristesse, the Anglo-American movie set on the French Riviera, illustrates how to wear the summer shirt with style: he rolls, scrunches and unbuttons it to perfection. For a modern take on his look, the summer linen shirt could be layered as a jacket over a simple plain-coloured T-shirt and pleated fuller-cut trousers finished with a generous turn-up. And following Niven’s lead, no socks are required with your loafers.


June 2018

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