Style Basics

Wearing sport coats in the summer (what you need to know to stay cool)

By on August 13th, 2015

Summer is not over yet, fellas. You may be looking forward to Labor Day, but as I write this, I’m glancing at the weather forecast and seeing some 90 degree days, that’s right, we have several more weeks of summer left. And for those of you that may be familiar with Colorado’s fall weather, you’ll know that our fall can often feel like summer, all the way up until October! That means your sport coats in the summer can still be useful.

And as a follow up on one of my more recent blog posts on staying cool during the summer time, I wanted to give you some pointers on wearing a jacket or sport coat during the warm months of summer.

If you’re out and about in Denver during the lunch hour, you’ll notice a lot of guys briskly walking from one air conditioned environment to another. For good reason too, because a lot of these guys are wearing their go-to suits, the woolen jackets that they reach for year round. Very little breathability and usually in a dark hue. As you may know from personal experience, it doesn’t take many city blocks to grow uncomfortably warm in a fall or winter-weight suit or jacket.

Even I was caught off guard a few weeks back. I was heading out for a cocktail on 14th street in Denver one evening at about 9:00 pm. The temperature was still in the 80s and the city sidewalk was still quite warm from the daytime sun. Although I had a linen/wool blend sport coat on, I made two big mistakes: (1) I wore a high thread count cotton shirt and (2) wool pants. Ugh. In my defense, it was a great looking summer outfit, and no one would have been the wiser had it not been for the beads of sweat on my forehead after walking two blocks. Needless to say, I skipped the neck tie, but the open collar simply wasn’t enough to ventilate.

What should I have done differently, you ask?

Sport coats in the summer: the jacket

There was nothing inherently wrong with the jacket. After all, it was a linen blend and I have worn it before and been just fine (although I didn’t have a heavy cotton shirt on). But an even better choice would have been a seersucker or 100% linen coat. Linen breathes like a screen door and the puckered fabric of a seersucker jacket helps to create little air channels to keep you cool. Wearing sport coats in the summer smartly is all about choosing the right fabric.

Combine a linen cloth with an unstructured jacket construction and you’ll barely realize you’re wearing a jacket at all.

pick stitching on a custom jacket and an example of sport coats in the summer

The shirt

When the mercury really begins to rise, you almost have to go short sleeves. Now, everyone is different, and for you, maybe a seersucker dress shirt or linen shirt will work just fine. You can also leave the shirt sleeves unbuttoned to aid in ventilation and definitely go sans neck tie.

But what I want you to understand is that it’s completely OK for guys to wear a short sleeve button up or polo under a sport coat, or even a suit if done properly. If it’s a polo, just make sure it’s clean and that the collar hasn’t begun to roll up on itself. For a short sleeve button up, make sure that the collar is strong enough to stand up to the weight of the jacket lapel. And well ironed, too.

Bear in mind, that when you go the short sleeve route, you’re walking a little closer to the line of “too casual,” so you need to be sure that everything is spot on.

The pants

I love linen pants. I think they are the coolest thing ever. They feel like pajamas, and once you learn to accept them, the wrinkles are actually part of what makes linen pants so cool. However, you need to be careful that you don’t look like you actually are wearing pajamas. You can do this by building linen pants that are in a traditional pant style. You can also find linen/wool blends that will provide a more refined look – something that will pair better with a sport coat, than say, my favorite linen pants that have a drawstring (hence the reason I wasn’t wearing them during my night out).

Odds and ends

A few other helpful things to bear in mind when wearing a sport coats in the summer:

1. Regardless of what you’re wearing, if it begins to get too warm, take off the jacket. I think you’re better off carrying your jacket like a gentleman than you are sweating in your clothes. Sometimes it’s just too damn hot for a jacket, and that’s OK.

2. Skip the socks. And try to wear some breathable shoes to help ventilate your feet.

3. No neck tie. The last thing you should do when it’s 80 deg and above is tighten up your shirt collar and put another layer of fabric around your neck. But for those instances when you need to wear a tie, go with cotton. Save silk and knit varieties for the cooler months.

Wrap up: Sport coats in the summer

The key takeaway of this blog post is to realize that there’s nothing inherently wrong about sport coats in the summer. It’s just an opportunity to wear the lighter fabrics – cotton and linen. Heavier fabrics like wool are just going to be too warm when it gets really hot. Even the high quality merino wool – which actually breaths pretty darn well – is only going to take you so far.

And when you figure out how to dress appropriately for the warm weather, you’ll probably find that you’re the only one dressed up – this is especially true when you’re going out at night. On another evening, I was walking around downtown Boulder and in passing, overhead a group of guys exclaim, “ah man, we should have dressed up more.”

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