A Man's Guide To Dressing For Summer

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I’m sitting on a Virgin train from London to Oxenholme. I thought Oxenholme was near Cape Town, but it turns out to be in the Lake District. A little disappointing. The train is overcrowded and understaffed; I bought a banana and a Jaffa Cake for the journey, but the heating is so high that the banana turned brown soon after Milton Keynes and the Jaffa has involuntarily morphed into a smoothie.

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To distract myself from my sorrowful plight, and the fact that the Velma-from-Scooby-Doo look-alike sitting next to me is reading Fifty Shades of Grey on her Kindle Fire, I decide to flick through my Instagram feed.

Here, it seems, everyone is holidaying in either Zanzibar, Oman or Marrakesh; while I’m staring at a sea of grey passengers, sniffling or whining, the Instagram world is peering out at clear blue oceans and perky cocktails.

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I decide what fun it will be to analyse what everyone is wearing on their holidays. Oh how the time flies.

But, strangely, I do begin to cheer up. Of course, the sight of all that blue sky and white sand helps; but so does the fact that almost every bloke on holiday has happily clad himself in oodles of pattern and colour.

We’ve always allowed ourselves to be a little more experimental on holiday: patterned trunks have been a mainstay for decades (thus the success of Vilebrequin, the French swimwear brand worn by everyone from playboys to prime ministers), but in the last year or two, this has spread to tops (the Hawaiian shirt made a comeback), trousers and even shoes (think Kanye in his red Balenciaga high-tops).

Now, climate, sunsets and a switched-off BlackBerry help make a colourful wardrobe seem appropriate, and jolly, but I think it’s time we started to look to a brighter palette to cheer us up for the rest of the year, too.

There’s no point waiting for the sun to shine before reaching for those canary yellow trousers, or that pillar-box red blazer, or that lime green T-shirt, because we don’t have summers any more — unless, of course, you’re a squillionaire, married to Stephanie Seymour and in the habit of nipping over to St Barts every other weekend.

Happily, many of you have already taken the lead: last summer, despite the miserable weather, department stores here and in the US reported that brightly-coloured chinos were one of the season’s best-sellers; as were print shirts. And very dashing they looked, too. This spring/summer, however, the designers are suggesting we go one step further: the brightly-coloured suit. It’s a brave move. Or is it?

Is it that much bolder to wear a matching jacket with those coloured chinos? Is it so crazy to look back to the Sixties, or even the 18th century (pre-Brummell), when men wore an array of jewel-coloured garments without the slightest hesitation — and in the case of the Grenadier Guards, in their bright red jackets, while charging into battle?

And bear in mind that many of the designers suggesting we go the whole hog aren’t the most avant-garde: Savile Row tailor Richard James has come up with an electric blue suit, Gucci’s Frida Giannini sent apple green ones down the catwalk, while Paul Smith has some in a very handsome brick red.

The trick is to push any thoughts of Jim Carrey in The Mask, or Jack Nicholson in Batman out of your mind, and to think instead of Colin Tennant, the man who put Mustique on the party map back in the Seventies wearing his elegant bright turquoise suit with a big straw hat, or David Bowie, the subject of a retrospective at the V&A, in his baggy Eighties yellow “Modern Love” ensemble, or more recently, Ryan Gosling, who’s stepped out on the red carpet wearing suits in sage green, claret and electric blue.

A strange sound, two rows behind me on the train, has rudely jolted me back from my dreams of colourful Caribbean idylls to the stop just before Warrington Bank Quay. A child has just vomited all over his seat: his dad has rushed him, dripping with barf, to the loo; a kindly passenger has gone in search of a cleaner, and someone else, misguidedly, has just sprayed the seat with Lynx.

It’s suddenly all gone very Benidorm: more Tennent’s lager than Colin Tennant. Do you see why an element of escapism, even if it’s just a pop of colour, might be just the ticket this spring?

Jeremy Langmead is the editor-in-chief of mrporter.com.