Spring and summer brings to mind images of love, vacations, walks on the beach and evenings by the pool. But you need to get a job in an office. Or you already have a job and you want to move up the ladder of success. What to wear? Contrary to the popular myth, unless you are in a glamor or very artistic industry there is no such thing as summer work casual. You can, though, fine tune your attire for the summer season though. Here are a few ideas.
First, unless you are a pediatrician, a chemist or a barber – ban short sleeve shirts from your spring and Summer wardrobe. Long sleeves are the only acceptable style. A variety of fabrics and colors are acceptable. Pure cotton shirts are best (I prefer pima cotton but oxford cloth and poplin are popular too). Polyester can get warm. The collar is more a function of formality and style. English spread collar is the most formal. The American straight collar in the next most formal. The button-down collar is the least formal. Tab and collar pin styles are traditional but on again – off again styles. As for colors – white and pale blue are best. A fine mute blue or gray stripe is next best. Pale yellow and pink are best left to preppy outfits such as law firms and white shoe Wall Street enclaves. French cuffs are best left to the more senior executives and the power brokers.
Every spring men put on a whole rain forest of bright splashy ties. Avoid the trend. Go with small patterns (neat diamonds or circles) or regularly spaced wide stripes (regimental or old school) in natural colors. While darker colors are more popular in fall and winter, spring and summer open the door to: yellows, purples, reds (vs. burgundy), sky blue (vs. navy) and salmon or pink. Big tropical prints, words, graphics or pictures (with the horsy exception of very small snaffles or stirrups) and heavy fabrics are OUT for spring and summer. Think light weight silk and cotton madras vs. Wools and heavy drapery fabric silk. Now that MSNBC's Tucker Carlson has shunned bow ties – as have the leadership of Nation of Islam – perhaps you should take a wait and see attitude on the classic too.
The cut for spring and summer suits are the same as for fall and winter suits. The wools should be lighter weight. The colors are the same: medium gray, gray pinstripe, navy blue and blue chalk stripe. Stay away from plaids and more fancy stripes unless you have at least six basic suits in the combinations noted above. The suits should be either two or three button depending on your build. Trousers can be either pleated or flat front depending on build but must be properly hemmed with cuffs. No spring or summer vests. Cotton suits of tan, olive and navy are acceptable once you are in the work force. The question of seersucker should be based on observation of those around you at least one level above on the corporate ladder. Most likely they will fit in on Wall Street or at preppy law firms. Finally, the blazer and trousers is not the spring and summer replacement for the suit. Keep them for the country club and dinner parties.
There is no such thing as fall and winter vs. Spring and summer shoes for men. Sometimes there should be but there is not. No white shoes except for classic bucks to wear to the club or parties. No sandals with suits and no woven leather shoes – ever. They are just too tacky for words. The classics are for year-round wear: cap toed lacced shoes in black and dark brown, tassel loafers (expensive dress ones – not the outlet store types) in black and dark brown, expensive dress loafers of either the penny or snaffle style or the European-styled monk strap shoe in black and dark brown with the buckle on the side (very popular with non-Asian businessmen in Asia by the way). Shoes should be well maintained and polished at all times. No clunky shoes, no flip flops, no sandals, no boat shoes and no white plastic loafers – regardless of what the salesmen say. And if your shoes look more like running shoes than dress shoes then they are wrong for both interviews and work without you aspire to a career in law enforcement.
Two belts for suits. Classic leather, thin with brass or silver metal small buckles in black and dark brown to match the shoes. Period. No white. No cute logo belts. And always wear a belt (except you choose to wear classic braces also called suspenders – and never clip on ones and never with a belt).
You are a grown-up now. Pick your own underwear. But in the spring and summer you must wear a white tee shirt under you shirt. No one wants to see your nipples or you sweat stains. As for socks – wear dark ones. They should be black or navy blue or dark gray depending on your suit. No white or tan or creatively colored socks. And unless you are a genius or you work for the most preppy of Wall Street law firms – socks are required at all times.
Putting it all together
We wear a crisp cotton shirt, a spring toned but traditional tie, a classic suit in light weight fabric, traditional shoes and belt and the right underwear will not necessarily get you hired or get promoted once you are employed. But it will not hurt you either. Follow these steps on spring and summer attire and you will have an advantage over 90% of men wherever you want to get hired or be considered for the big promotion.