So here’s the quandary. It’s summer, you cannot wear the same weight or number of clothes as winter, and yet you still want to present an air of easy elegance. How do you do it? How do you dress well without the flattering cover of a jacket, and avoid that lazy common denominator of T-shirt and shorts?
I would suggest a well-made, tailored linen trouser. Made to measure or at least altered expertly; in an 11oz plain-weave Irish linen; and in a pale colour like cream or beige, or failing that, something equally natural like olive or tobacco. Why should this be the foundation of your hot-weather wardrobe? Because it can be dressed up or down, and serves to elevate even the most casual accompaniments.
At the most casual end of the spectrum, a pair of such trousers could be worn with a simple white T-shirt, canvas trainers and just those little socks that remain hidden within the shoe. The trainers could be a staple like Converse, or something a little more niche like Doek. It would work very nicely with an espadrille, and even with a simple leather sandal. Most men look better when they’re not showing off their toes, and espadrilles are very cool. But there are nice sandals available now too, from Alvaro for example (not least their Antonio leather ones, £195).
Consider how much sharper this looks than the same outfit with shorts, pasty legs poking out of the bottom. The tailored trousers elevate everything, and yet avoid the impression of being overdressed that could come from a jacket, a business shirt or a smart shoe. Consider, too, that trousers, cut with enough room for air to circulate, can be just as cool as shorts as they block the burn of the sun. That’s why your typical desert nomad wears more clothes, not less.
So, moving up the smartness scale, the linen trousers (£380, in the case of the Rubinacci ones pictured here) could also be worn with a shirt, rather than a T-shirt. In fresh white linen it could look very chic, yet relaxed. Particularly with one more button undone than in the winter months.
Personally, this is my favourite combination on a summer holiday. Getting up in the morning to the fresh sun, putting coffee on to brew, in a loose shirt, linen trousers and espadrilles. Then picking up the panama hat and sunglasses to wander into town and pick something up for lunch.
The importance – no, let us say the joy – of that hat and sunglasses combo should also not be underestimated. They are the only accessories we have to play with, so let them further elevate everything else. Glasses in a strongly patterned tortoiseshell, perhaps, and a panama in a fine weave worn slightly to one side. Anderson & Sheppard offers a great range at its Clifford Street haberdashery (including that pictured, £155 – a lightweight sisal hat in sand with chocolate grosgrain band and bow), as of course does Lock & Co. For aficionados, though, a specialist like Optimo in Chicago or Brent Black in Hawaii is the place to go. And there are many options for sunglasses, my favourite being EB Meyrowitz or French expert Maison Bonnet, which recently opened a branch in London.
Having done double duty during the day, the linen trouser then continues to go strong into the evening. Keep the same white shirt, swap the espadrille for a suede loafer [Tod’s celebrated Gommino Driving Shoes, £330 being a go-to option], and top it off with a jacket – perhaps a lightweight cotton, or something tailored in a wool/silk/linen mix. If that’s too much, then a cotton sweater. Cotton is terrible material for knitwear most of the year, but on a hot day when any wool would be too warm, it is excellent. I would hesitate before tying the thing around my shoulders, but that’s personal. If you feel it’s you, go ahead.
Returning to those specifications for the trouser, it’s worth emphasising that without them the piece might lose all its benefits. If the linen is light and floppy, or the fit loose and baggy, you’re more likely to look like a backpacker than a resident of the Riviera. Fit and quality are always important in clothes but they become even more so when you wear fewer of them. There are no other distractions.
So, if you want a good summer style foundation to build from, go ask your tailor about a pair of Irish linen trousers for the summer. Or perhaps even two.