The Linen Shirt
The de facto choice for keeping cool in the heat, linen is highly breathable due to a low thread count. It’s also quick to wick away moisture, making it tough to beat come high summer. But these qualities do come with a downside: linen lacks the crisp structure of cotton – hence its propensity to wrinkle – making it less suitable to buttoned-up formal events.
Styling the linen shirt is best done by taking your cues from the Riviera; dress like you’re spending the day on the shores of the South of France or Tuscany and you can’t go too far wrong. Think light neutral colours paired with chinos, tailored shorts, unstructured blazers and tasselled loafers – very Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief (1955) or Alain Delon in Plein Soleil (1960).
Upholding its reputation for fabric innovation, Japanese retailer Uniqlo offers a slew of styles for those on a stricter budget. The brand’s linen line is typically outstanding, and this year it has expanded it to include a wealth of new colourways and cuts.
On the slightly pricier end of the scale, preppy stalwart Ralph Lauren rarely misses a beat when it comes to linen shirts, and neither does American-inspired Parisian label Hartford.
The Short-Sleeved Shirt
Once the reserve of the school playground and holidaying politician, this divisive shirt style is now a key fair-weather piece. But it does come with certain caveats – and failure to observe them won’t do you any favours, so pens at the ready.
First up, watch out for sleeves that are too big. If they’re ‘triangling’ out, look to bring them under control with a roll up or two. This will frame your arms well as opposed to dwarfing them with ballooning fabric.
Following on from that, make sure you reserve them for casual or smart-casual wear. Like a linen shirt, a short-sleeved design just doesn’t cut it when it comes to looking suitably spruced up for a formal occasion. Yes, you could disguise it with a blazer, but what if the jacket has to come off? Best not to run the risk of embarrassing yourself and keep this one for off-duty outings.
As for styling – perhaps a little ironically – short-sleeved shirts tend to look best when married with the more refined pieces in your wardrobe. Slim-cut chinos, tailored shorts, leather sandals and suede loafers will all do nicely. Try them with denim shorts, trainers, distressed jeans and the like and they tend to lose their lustre, so stick to the rakish Riviera as your primary source of inspiration, rather than Blackpool Pier.
Although a crisp white or sky blue short-sleeved shirt will never go out of fashion, don’t restrict yourself to plain coloured versions; a patterned design offers an easy way of injecting a shot of interest to your summer look, bringing a standout element at a time of year when everything’s being pared-back.
Alternatively, if you’re adverse to making such an overt statement, consider a Cuban collared version for a dash of 1950s Americana. The open, almost notch lapel-like collars are proving popular this season and will bring a touch of old school sophistication to any warm-weather wardrobe.
Reiss have been setting the standard for short-sleeved shirts for a couple of years now, offering a range of high quality plain and printed options that are cut slim and will adapt to the majority of occasions. For the more adventurous dressers, Topman is the place to go for trend-led designs, offering everything from psychedelic patterns to bold floral motifs.
The Collarless Shirt
Want a style that’s less conventional but still keeps you cool? Then consider adding a band-collar or granddad shirt to your sartorial arsenal.
Surprisingly versatile, it’ll work well in both smart and casual settings this season, providing a subtle point of difference whether worn on its own or layered under a lightweight blazer.
While it definitely looks at home in the beating sun, it’d be remiss of us to suggest that the mere lack of a collar is enough to make this style summer-friendly. You’ll still need to heed the fabric advice detailed earlier, prioritising linens and chambray for dressing down and lightweight 100 per cent cotton options for smarter events.
Speaking of smart, a tie evidently won’t be much good for trussing up in this case, but you could consider the ‘air tie’ – i.e. doing your collarless shirt up to the top, which gives you a buttoned-up look in every sense of the word.
All-American brands Club Monaco and J.Crew stock a range of quality band-collar styles, from smarter Oxford-like takes to season-appropriate chambray and linen designs. However, if your budget won’t stretch, ASOS’ characteristically extensive range offers more than enough to fit your needs.
The Smart Shirt
Just like your heavier suits, traditional smart long-sleeved shirts should be given a sabbatical following a hard winter’s work, packed away until the autumn leaves start to turn.
But what should you do if you’ve got a formal event or work in an office where failure to wear a smart shirt is a disciplinary offence? Pure linen may be out of the question but long-sleeved designs in cotton-linen blends can work. Failing that, lighter weight cotton shirts (particularly Egyptian cotton styles) are a godsend, saving you from relentlessly battling for control of the office air-con.
While fabric is your main focus for staving off sweat, don’t forget to keep your colours seasonal. Summer is the perfect time to bring a new hue into your usual workwear rotation; sky blue is an obvious and timeless choice, while lilac, washed yellow or pistachio green are all surprisingly versatile options too.
If pastel shades are too much for you (or your office dress code), gingham offers the ideal middle ground – injecting some seasonal personality without sacrificing formality or, indeed, verging into the used car-salesman territory that stripes so often do.
Try SuitSupply and Charles Tyrwhitt for an array of high quality Egyptian cotton shirts at extremely reasonable price points. What’s more, SuitSupply even allows you to design your own shirt if none of the existing styles pique your interest.