You're Not Ready for Summer. But You Will Be

·6-min read
Photo credit: Paramount Pictures
Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

I would go out tonight, but I haven’t got a stitch to wear. Everything has been suction-bagged and stuffed to the back of the big cupboard, or rehoused via Depop. Or it's lingering mustily on a charity shop rail, cast out in a fit of cathartic philanthropy. During lockdown 1.0, I was stranded for the summer with just a grab bag of clothes, so after years of sartorial submersion, I was forced to rotate a meagre capsule collection of essentials – I wrote about that hardship here, in case you want to read me playing the world’s smallest violin – and I think it has irrevocably altered my outlook on clothes.

Everything stopped. All I had to do was drag my corpse around the park in the morning, drag it to my makeshift desk in the day, and then at around 4pm, drag it to the kitchen for the first of slightly-too-many drinks. Clothes didn’t really feature in that (admittedly glorious) existence. It also felt wrong to be hunting for and writing about expensive, trendy clothes when the world was falling apart. What is the point of garment-dyed linen or shawl collar tailoring when the Armageddon looms? Like Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs, I had removed all sartorial consideration from my life, and if it was good enough for those nerds, it was probably too good for me, but I did it nonetheless.

I was reunited with my full wardrobe in the Autumn, and it was an eerie get-together – like I’d been to space, and the beloved wife and child I'd left on Earth suddenly seemed like strangers. I pined for the easy irresponsibility of the lunar module; the simplicity of the weekend bag. Now I had to choose an “outfit” every day. One that would somehow match the physical comfort I had become accustomed to over the past six months, but also express my impeccable taste. (If there’s one thing this industry has taught me, it's that you can be comfy or stylish, but rarely both.) Luckily, the weather was getting moody, so I could just chuck on an overcoat and all was well. And then Lockdown 2.0 kicked in, which was a social, psychological and epidemiological nightmare, but something of a sartorial godsend. No more clothes, just time to sit.

Fast-forward to the present, and as “Freedom Day” impends, I’m not sure I’m ready to wear nice clothes in the real world again? Are you? How do trousers work? What is a “shirt”?

Summer style is a fiddly game, really. For a brief, halcyon moment, all you needed was a camp-collar shirt and you were Dickie Greenleaf; you were Pharrell Williams on a yacht, at once evoking the elegance of classic menswear while simultaneously subverting the nature of masculinity itself. But now that shirt doesn’t quite cut it. It’s gone the way of the white tennis shoe, which is to say, perfectly passable but offering zero vim. We need that vim, lads. And though I may have been a willing hermit for the past year, I have kept my eye in (I’d get fired if I didn’t), and that research has allowed me to compile the following list of five key pieces to see you through the existential panic of getting dressed in the summer of 2021. Consider them passports to a cooler, less agoraphobic world.

Big Shirts

As discussed, we’ve drifted out of the camp-collar shirt phase and into the era of big, billowy button downs. Sleeves are back, but the Riviera vibe remains. It’s great news, because vintage shops are chock-a-block with regular fit shirts from Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger etc, and all you need is one of those, worn loose over a vest. Something vintage (or second-hand, which is the same thing) will, be nicely softened by time, which is key to the billowy-ness. But if you want something new, head to Jacquemus, Marni, LEJ, Loewe. A fine pastel stripe would be nice.

Little Shorts

Like Avengers: Endgame (I assume), an argument over the ideal length of men’s shorts has been raging for some time now. Traditionalists (the purple fella with the big glove?) like a hem to graze the knee, but there’s a clutch of partisans (He-Man and Thundercat etc?) that carry the flag for something considerably shorter. I’m with the latter gang on this one, and it seems that other style people agree. Hence the current obsession with five-inch inseams. It’s nice to get your thighs out, innit? And shorter shorts make you legs look longer and go very well with the big shirt you’re about to buy. Patagonia is the go-to, but there are good shorts at Mr Marvis, Gap or Drake's.

River Shoes

Just hear me out. Trail running shoes have rightly had their day in the sun, but the trend was bound to evolve at some point and the natural progression is down the mountain to the creek beneath. By that I mean you should hunt down some shoes you can wear in the water, and on the land. Amphibious vibes. The clear winner is the Uneek by Keen, which is already being worn by hype kids and ageing ravers alike. (They just did a collab with The Grateful Dead and it’s super wavy, in a good way.) But you could get some Suicoke sandals, too, or even some Merrell Hydro Mocs, OR EVEN SOME CROCS. If that’s a bit rich for your blood, just get some nice pale suede lace-ups. I really like those by French brand Soloviere.


It’s still big, and rings are still all the rage. But this summer, good neck bling is key, too. If you’re going to be doing the big-open-shirt thing, you need something to fill the gap, and nothing works better than a simple, low-profile chain with something dangling off the end of it. I like the strange, almost organic shapes of the pendants at Alighieri, or the clean industrial finish of those at Alice Made This. But you could even just hang one of your favourite rings from the chain. We do have a finite number of fingers, after all.

Dad Hat

I nearly bought a vintage Dallas Cowboys hat this week, but then hesitated as I am neither from Dallas nor a fan of American Football. I do quite like cowboys, as a concept, but either way, it didn’t feel authentic to me. (Therefore, if anyone can source me a handsome Yeovil Town FC hat, I’d be very grateful.) But sod authenticity, we’re here for materialism and aesthetics, and so you need to pay probably-too-much money for an old hat that was likely to have been free, originally. I’m talking a Rolex golf hat, a Yorkshire bait-shop hat, a hat that a trucker won in a raffle at the petrol station and wore every day until he retired. (The grail!) Failing that, get Dunhill’s new logo hat, which is alarmingly cool for something so completely simple.

A Mask

The best thing you can wear, IMHO.

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