As many of us can attest, as of late, it feels like New England only has two seasons … summer and winter. With summer’s often enveloping heat and humidity, many of us are struggling with how to dress while looking appropriate for a corporate environment, but without being left a sweaty mess in meetings.
The answer is corporate casual.
Simply put, dressing corporate casually means a little less formal, but still neat, clean, pressed and presentable.
Nobody wants to wear a suit in the summertime. Layers and layers of clothing, no matter how breathable the fabric, will inevitably become a sweatbox in the heat of the season. However, if you allow yourself to have a little fun with dressing, you can still look corporate casual, presentable, and able to forego the suit – at least for the season.
Rules to live by when dressing for the summer heat:
The better the fit, the more comfortable and presentable the look.
• Always wear clothing that fits you correctly; clothing that’s too big or too tight will automatically make your temperature rise. The result of excess fabric is obvious, but when clothing is too tight, it restricts your body, decreases ventilation and invariably increases your body temperature.
Despite the commercials, cotton is not always the fabric of our lives.
• In the summer, we have been taught to believe that cotton is king. However, while it is truly a wonderful material for some fabrications, lightweight wool is much cooler and breathable for sport coats and the days that nothing short of a suit will do.
No matter how tempting, don’t wear tech fabrics in the office.
• Tech fabrics are found in a host of workout and golf wear, and they’ve unfortunately started cropping up in more mainstream men’s clothing. While these fabrics supposedly keep you cooler, they are completely inappropriate for the office.
Layering can be a summertime office friend.
• Wearing a cool, cotton T-shirt under a dress shirt will keep you cooler and will also help to avoid those unfortunate sweat stains that many men and women face in the height of the season. A bonus is that it will help keep the oils from your skin off your expensive shirts and they will last longer.
• Always choose a long-sleeved dress shirt. It’s NEVER OK for a man to wear a short-sleeved dress shirt.
Deconstructed workwear is easy, breezy and professional.
• Europeans have long embraced a more-deconstructed sport coat without a shoulder pad and restrictive liner, but Americans have been slower to adapt to this trend. However, in the heat of the season, a less-constructed coat will be more breathable and comfortable while still allowing you to remain polished and professional.
Blending is for more than contour makeup.
• Blending is an important element of business dressing – particularly in pants. For smart, summer trousers, look for fabrics blended with linen, like cotton/linen, silk/linen and wool/linen.
From the top of your head to the tips of your toes.
• While baseball hats are the men’s uniform of the summer season, for the office, a straw hat will protect your head and face from the sun and will keep you looking cool, confident and collected as you stroll outside to grab lunch or walk to a meeting.
• And, as tempting as it is to don your favorite sandals or flip flops, never bring this type of footwear into a corporate environment. A casual loafer in brown, not black, is a man’s best friend this season.
Marc A. Streisand is the owner of Marc Allen Fine Clothiers in Providence and Newport.