Summer clothes should be soft, comfortable and casual, says Esquire's style columnist Jeremy Langmead.
I’m getting a bit bored of seeing men all trussed up in three-piece suits, big silk ties, pocket squares and shiny wingtip brogues. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great look — but in the right place and the right context.
The problem is that these bastard offspring of Gordon Gekko and Will.i.am have become a bit too commonplace: not only do you see them in the City of London (their natural stomping ground), but in late-night cocktail bars, hogging the entrances to fashion shows (while surrounded by eager-beaver bloggers) and on the sofas of TV chat shows (David Beckham, Daniel Radcliffe, et al).
Both Beckham and Radcliffe look damn smart, I admit, but it’s quite an easy win: who doesn’t look good tailored up to the hilt in expertly cut flannel, expensive cotton poplin and a few flourishes of printed silk?
The newfound delight in dandyism has been flattering to wear and fun to behold, but fashion is a fickle mistress — God bless her Bresciani socks — and so it’s time to move on. In any case, this formal, rather stiff approach to dressing is out of tune with the way things are heading: why would you want to look more like the over-bonused head of a failing bank than a socially aware supporter of the Occupy movement?
Even watching the new series of Mad Men hasn’t made me hanker for more tie bars and martinis (well, OK, it has for the latter). For however dapper they might appear, Don Draper and his colleagues are no longer living quite the dream we thought they were in series one. It’s their unbuttoned counterparts on the West Coast who seem to be having more fun now.
And on a practical note — I know, one shouldn’t really mention the practical word in a style column — the warmer months need us all to loosen up a bit: undo a top button, lighten up a shade or two, and soften those shoulders. Don’t throw the three-piece suits away: just keep them for meetings with bosses, headhunters and dates with daughters of Bernie Ecclestone.
I was putting on one of my favourite navy blazers last week — a nice little bespoke number that cost me an arm and a leg, but in return gave me shoulders and a chest — and it just didn’t look right teamed with a pair of this spring’s softly tailored, print trousers.
I looked like one of those picture books where you flip different parts of the page to match the outfit: I was made up of two perfectly nice, but clearly quite separate halves. I tried on two more navy jackets and neither of those looked right either. So I popped on a colleague’s unstructured cotton canvas blazer (ie, no sharp shoulders) by the Italian label Boglioli — garment-dyed and washed so it has a ready-made lived-in look — and suddenly everything fitted into place.
Now, I wouldn’t try to turn the above anecdote into a West End musical, nor even share it with your mates in the pub, but it’s relatively interesting how small details dictated by either climate or fashion can instantly transform something from wrong to right.
There’s a whole host of labels around this spring peddling softly structured designs that have a laid-back feel, while still managing to look stylish rather than slovenly. The Japanese label Kolor has double-breasted knitted cardigans that almost feel as if they’re giving you a gentle massage when you slip them on (they don’t do happy endings though, I’ve already asked), while H&M has a perfectly charming version in navy.
And as well as Boglioli, Incotex and Oliver Spencer, Savile Row brands like Richard James have also come up with an array of unstructured blazers. James, in particular, has a luxurious jersey and cashmere blend version that you barely notice you’re wearing it’s so soft and light.
Team these with some washed denim, loose chinos or cargo pants (J Brand do some good ones; as do Uniqlo usually), pop on a chambray shirt (a chambray shirt goes with everything this season; I’m living in an Our Legacy one) and you are ready to go.
So, it’s more about button-down than buttoned-up this season. And if you’re feeling it, why not pop on a bit of colour, too: perhaps a cotton-twill double-breasted jacket in faded pink from Beams Plus; a light blue cotton seersucker blazer from Kitsuné; washed pink jeans by Ami or a pair of pea green boat shoes by Quoddy.
I guarantee this carefree approach to your wardrobe will (literally) lift the weight off your shoulders this summer. Think of it as sartorial Xanax. And you don’t even need a prescription.
Jeremy Langmead is the editor-in-chief of mrporter.com