Figuring out how to dress for the office in summer without sacrificing your sense of style on the alter of ‘I don’t care anymore, I just want to be comfortable’, is no easy thing. Generally, office dress codes tend to relax a touch when the mercury rises; more open collars appear while ties disappear, suede shoes creep in to replace polished black calf, and separates make an occasional appearance, too.
Even so, there’s more to negotiating rising temperatures than simply taking off your tie and swapping out your shoes – you’re still going to struggle in a winter suit and shirt. What follows then are eight pointers to help you get the best from your warm weather business wardrobe. Here’s hoping they help you to breeze through the rest of summer.
1. Go beyond blue and grey
Navy and grey suits, though the staples of a business wardrobe, are predictable choices for business dress, and once you’ve got a decent take on each in your working wardrobe, it’s time to think outside the box. In a corporate environment, dove grey and RAF blue suits cut in tropical worsted (lightweight, textured wool suiting that’s designed to breathe in the heat) are a safe bet. But, there are also classic summer colours like chocolate, tan and tobacco to experiment with, too. On really hot days, a tan cotton suit is a satisfying thing to wear, styled simply with a sky blue poplin shirt and dark navy textured tie. Try this elegant two-piece from Parisian tailoring house Husbands, which is both well cut and well made.
£1,270, shop now
2. Olive is always appropriate
Taking this idea a little further, if brown isn’t your thing, it’s worth experimenting with desaturated olive and khaki colours. Olive’s never really been out of fashion, but for the past few seasons it’s been particularly prevalent, and feels like a modern choice for business-casual, worked into a relaxed suit or separates. This two-piece suit from Boglioli is just the thing. It’s cut in washed linen and totally unstructured, so it’s relaxed as can be. Moreover, it’s easy to break apart (Mr Porter is actually selling it as separates), so you can dress it with a navy polo and beige chinos, if the full suit’s too much. Speaking of which…
£595 for the jacket, £240 for the trousers, shop now
3. Wear separates
An obvious but often overlooked pointer, this. When the rules relax a little in summer, separates come into their own, and there’s no reason not to experiment with some for the office. A well-cut navy blazer paired with beige chinos, or even tailored denim trousers is a timeless look, and both pieces can slot comfortably into your wardrobe rotation, and be worn on the weekends, too. It’s worth noting that pleated trousers are back in vogue, and Rubinacci’s gurkha pants are a sharp choice for summer. The gurkha waistband buckles up above each hip, for a look that’s both distinguished and practical – they allow you to forgo a belt in the heat.
£360, shop now
4. Lose the tie, but keep your collar interesting
Ties and summer rarely mix well. You may have to wear them for a wedding, but if your office dress code permits an open collar, so much the better. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t sharpen up your look. Caruso’s holiday collar shirt is an interesting hybrid – cut in formal cotton poplin ordinarily used for business shirts, but with a Cuban-style collar that looks cool worn under a tailored jacket. Try this beneath your tan or olive suit for an office-appropriate look with an edge. You could also opt for a smart grandad collar shirt in this weather, too.
£240, shop now
5. If you wear a tie, go big on colour and soft on texture
On the other hand, if you still have to wear a tie, there are some things you can do to make it more bearable. First-off, unlined seven-fold ties feel considerably less heavy on the neck than lined ties cut in thick silk repps, foulards or wool-blends. Instead, choose something blended with cotton or linen, or opt for thin silk prints or lightweight knitted ties. Sounds silly, but lighter fabrics and constructions do make a big difference when you’re feeling hot and bothered. Colour-wise, keep things plain but bright – summer is the time to dress optimistically, after all. We like this confident green silk, wool and cashmere number from Drake’s, which is soft, smooth and will help to lift a dark suit.
£135, shop now
6. You can get away with a work jacket
Again, this isn’t something for a corporate environment, but boxy work jackets can work perfectly well in business-casual contexts, if chosen wisely. This piece from Massimo Alba is a good example. The notched lapels, three-button closure and fitted silhouette reference a summer suit jacket, while the garment-dyed cotton/linen fabric feels rugged and relaxed. This is another piece that will work well over a T-shirt and tailored shorts on the weekends, too; maximising wearability. Here, the boffins at Mr Porter have styled it to a tee, with slim white chinos and a sharp navy butcher’s stripe grandad shirt. Nice.
£450, shop now
7. Forget heavy soles. Choose suede slippers, instead
It’s a given that formal English shoes aren’t ideally suited to warm weather, but, when your winter monkstraps start to feel uncomfortable, it can be tricky to know what to choose for the warmer months ahead. Our vote goes to soft suede slippers, which take all the weight out of formal English shoes, but remain smart enough for work. Baudoin & Lange makes Jackal favourite the ‘Sagan’, but we’re also smitten with Edward Green’s range of suede slippers, too. This ‘Polperro’ design elegantly references a penny loafer, and in elephant grey it’ll pair comfortably with navy, mid-grey or earthy colours. Of course, we’re big fans of smart sneakers, too, but perhaps not if you’re working in the City.
£475, shop now
8. Pay attention to the finishing touches
Whether you’re working in a traditional, creative or business-casual office, it’s always the little things that let down a tailored look. So, a few ground rules for the road. Don’t forget a pocket hanky but make sure it’s suitably discreet (no lurid flowery things please), wear fine plain cotton socks that are suitably cool for summer (Anderson & Sheppard’s are perfect), and match your shoes, belt and watch strap. If you’re racing between meetings, make sure your portfolio is up to scratch, too. Ettinger’s envelope portfolio is a timeless classic, simple and sleek. It comes in black and dark brown, but we’re rather smitten with this English tan version, which is that bit lighter for summer. Just make sure you match it to some tan suede loafers.
£675, shop now