Five Ways To Wear White In Summer

How to use the lightest tone to best effect this season.

It’s getting hot out there. And loud. In the more adventurous corners of the menswear world, colour, pattern and print, um, mixing has been turned up to 11. This is a great thing for the people-watchers among us. Eye candy is delicious, but it’s candy nonetheless and sometimes you just need a little palate cleanser. To this end, white is the way to go. Not just because it more or less goes with everything, but because it deflects heat, too. Used wisely, it’s a great way to energise both tried-and-true and more ambitious summer outfits. To demonstrate this fact, here are some tips from the men who wear it well.

Be Bold with Colour

Wearing a white jacket is a lot like opening a bottle of champagne. It makes any old day a bit more of an occasion. And if wearing white is inescapably attention-getting, well, don’t try to escape it. As anyone who watched Mr Michael Mann’s pastel-heavy crime show Miami Vice in the late 1980s knows, the high wattage of a white top layer will help to balance out your more essentially spring tones beneath. So, seeing as it is now a party, take the opportunity to pull out the pink, the pistachio. Sonny Crockett would approve.

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Pick a Pair of Brown Shoes

Light linen in the bright summer sun tends to act a lot like a reflector, bringing out the lustre, depth and texture of your complementary clothes. Admire, for example, how these chocolate spectator shoes (the official name for two-tone brogues) stand out against the generous cuff of some immaculate linen trousers. Now that we mention it, time for a little colour theory. Do these subtly off-white trousers – call them ivory, or egg-shell, or ecru, even – go particularly well with brown shoes because they are on the same earthen spectrum, from dust to dusty fudge, or because they both look like they fell out of Gatsby’s wardrobe? Yes.

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Try White on White

As our friend Mr Nick Wooster ably illustrates here, all of the affinity you have developed for tonal dressing does not stop at the pearly gates of white garments. As well as allowing you to cut a very Lawrence Of Arabia-esque figure in whatever modern desert you happen to find yourself, pairing pieces in subtly different but complementary shades of white and just off-white softens the all-white-everything effect to create something greater than the sum of its parts. For a bit more cool, skip the socks and go for some slip-on sneakers.

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Create Contrast

We don’t wear white jeans and trousers year round because we are all dashing Dickie Greenleafs in our minds, though, obviously, we are. We do it because they look great, in any season. And part of white jeans’ particular charm comes in the contrast they create with, say, your de rigueur navy blazer or black biker jacket. Or even, as Mr Alessandro Squarzi proposes here, a blue patchwork waistcoat. If you are making concessions for the summer swelter at this time of year, a pair of trim cotton chinos in place of your standby white jeans can help dress down a smarter jacket, dress up sneakers, or both.

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Do the Mid-Century Thing

There’s a reason all the dissolute anti-heroes of mid-century fiction – and their similarly dissolute creators – wore featherweight suits in white, ivory or cream during their sun-filled and intrigue-sodden days in Hong Kong, Saigon or Alexandria. With their lighter tones and materials, these suits beat the subtropical summer heat, while the dandy-ish elegance of white makes an impression anywhere, whether it’s at the Hotel Metropole for afternoon G&Ts or on your rather rougher assignations – such as, you know, business meetings – about the city. Whenever you’re expatriating to somewhere balmy, or only pretending to, throw on a white suit and an unapologetically out-of-office straw panama hat and go full bamboo.

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