Part I: Priorities
What matters when it’s hot, and what doesn’t. The things you should think about when you buy hot-weather clothing.
Looks are always important, but the line has to be drawn somewhere. When the mercury climbs up above 80 degrees (26.6 C) you need functional clothing. Consider these the most essential characteristics for hot weather menswear:
This should really go without saying. You want cloth that is physically light. The less ounces/grams of textile piled up on your skin, the less work you’re doing and the easier it is for air to circulate.
Wool is the only cloth that you can almost always get a weight for in specific ounces. You’ll see it for cotton and linen some of the time, but frequently you’ll need to try on a garment, or at least pick it up, to see how heavy it’s going to be.
Whenever possible, try hot weather clothes on before buying. Ten minutes of gently moving around the store or changing room will give you a very good idea of how easy it is to carry the weight. If you’re sweating after that, it’s definitely not going to be fun to wear on a hot day in the sun.
This is just as important as light weight, if not more so!
You need air circulating over your body to stay cool. Fabric that doesn’t breathe well will trap both sweat and hot air near your skin, leading to rapid overheating.
Finer threads, looser weaves, and more porous materials all help add to a textile’s breathability. Artificial fibers are typically non-breathable, and will make a garment more likely to keep sweat and air in.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of a good weave as well as a good fabric. A lot of cheaper manufacturers will sell anything cotton as “summer wear,” regardless of whether it’s any good in hot weather or not. A tight cotton weave holds both air and moisture in — it’ll be pure torture to wear on an 80-degree day.
Most men spend less time thinking about sun protection than they should. Even dark-skinned men will feel the heat more in the sun, regardless of whether their skin can burn or not, and lighter-skinned men can find themselves in a lot of pain if they’re not careful.
Happily, classic men’s styles lend themselves well to full-body protection. Long sleeves and full trouser legs can be more cooling than a T-shirt and shorts in the right conditions. Hats and sunglasses play their role as well. And light colors will reflect far more sunlight than darker shades, keeping your clothes themselves from growing warmer in the sun.
Every warm-weather outfit should include a moment or two of thought for whether it can cover more skin comfortably or not. The less direct sun you’re soaking up the happier you’ll be, so long as it can be done with light and breathable fabrics.