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Menswear Summer Wardrobe Essentials

When we talk about classic capsule wardrobes, recommendations frequently veer toward transitional garments. That’s logical: You want to get the most mileage out of your clothing, and something you can sport for roughly eight months of the year delivers that expectation. Still, balmy, sun-drenched days, temperatures rising higher, and more time spent outdoors call for something lighter weight and lighter coloured. A wool blazer, even in the finest merino, still feels too heavy, if not suffocating, and as soon as the sweat starts to flow, most of your raw denim begins to chafe. Unfortunately, summer collections dredge up resort, if not flimsy festival, imagery. We assume that if we’re not going anywhere, our transitional basics are still good to go. Rather than think of your summer wardrobe as a separate, only-if-I’m-vacationing entity, consider having the following on hand to adjust to these few months of longer daylight hours and more humid conditions:

A Summer Blazer 

Consider the full suit if you know you’ll use it. If not, a blazer with your chinos and a lighter-weight shirt suffices. What’s specific about a summer blazer? For starters, anything described as “summer weight” tends to be lighter and more breathable overall. This translates to a partially-lined or unlined construction that results in a more relaxed, unstructured shape. Avoid the synthetics, for obvious reasons, as well as the winter-ready materials like wool and tweed. Instead, linen – known for letting air pass through – and lighter, finer cotton give you the tools to dress up without having to manage perspiration.


A Solid-Colour T-Shirt 

Most will tell you white offers the most adaptability, but you also know it picks up and highlights every speck of dirt, not to mention stains. For most, T-shirts are a staple of a casual summer wardrobe, ready for anything from shorts to trousers to boardshorts if you opt to venture away from the beach after a swim. Here, while you might be tempted to experiment with patterns and graphics, keep it simple: A crew or V-neck, a regular rather than relaxed or slim fit, and a lighter colour that fits in with most of your seasonal wardrobe. Avoid heavier-weight cotton, unless you live somewhere with cooler summers. 

Lighter-Weight Chinos 

Like blazers, chinos span a spectrum of construction variations. Summer calls for something made of mid- to lighter-weight cotton or even linen, ideally in a light to neutral hue. Steer away from solid white – unless you’re intentionally going for summers on Nantucket vibes – and consider something tan, light grey, or even in a muted, dusty pastel hue. Like T-shirts, something regular fit transcends most trends over the fading-out skinny silhouette or the everywhere-right-now wider cut that sits right above the ankle. 

Short-Sleeve Button-Front Shirts 

Slightly fitted and often with a small-scale print strewn across the surface, short-sleeve button-front shirts are known for going the distance this time of year. The less-casual form means they effortlessly pair with a suit jacket, yet for something dressed down, unbuttoning the collar and grabbing a pair of chino shorts also does the trick. Here, dive into both solid-colour and printed options for variety.


Polo Shirts 

For spring and summer, the polo sits right in between the entrenched informality of a tee and the perceived stiffness of a button-down shirt with its relaxed knit collar and three- or four-button placket extending partially down your chest. These days, polos have drifted away from their thicker, heavy 1990s varieties to sportier versions using stretch material. Head somewhere toward the middle, ideally with cotton fabrication in a solid shade or with moderate colour-blocking. 


Jorts? We wouldn’t encourage it. A seven-inch or shorter inseam? It can work, assuming you’re strictly going for retro Riviera style. While many question if adults should be wearing shorts in the first place – and bulky, bro-centered cargos with overstuffed pockets don’t help matters – something you select should play a secondary role to whatever shirt you’ve picked out for the day. Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with a chino silhouette – slimmer but not too skinny and sitting a couple of inches above the knee – in beige, blue, or a cooler tone. As trouser construction influences how shorts are designed, opt for something mid-rise with a flat front versus a higher waist with pleats. 

Lighter-Coloured Denim 

Jeans feel familiar. It doesn’t matter if they have a touch of spandex, or you’re the raw-or-bust type. Yet, darker hues – be it full-on dyed black or deep indigo – seem to draw the heat in. Lighter-coloured denim has grown as a summertime-adapted version over the past few years. Lighter, in this case, encompasses stark white jeans to tan and pastel hues, as well as denim bleached or faded as if someone soaked it in saltwater and left it in the sun for a few hours. Further consider something with a lighter, thinner construction that feels more natural yet doesn’t weigh you down.



Protect your eyes while finishing off your headed-outdoors ensemble. It doesn’t matter where you’re going – the boardwalk on vacation or just a few steps into the sun on your own porch – something blocking out the UV rays helps with preserving your eyesight down the road and preventing a few wrinkles, too. An anti-glare coating further makes them a must whenever you’re going for a longer drive. Although men’s sunglasses styles periodically evolve – this season, it’s all shield shapes and coloured acetate – a more timeless, neutral construction never looks out of place. Think aviators, wayfarers, and even Clubmasters within the dark to metallic to mock tortoise realm. 


Excluding whatever oxfords, lace-up dress boots, or dress sneakers you wear on the job, practical summertime footwear comes down to two essentials. A lighter trainer – think canvas construction with a less-bulky outsole – lets your feet breathe by default, ensures your toes are sufficiently protected, and adds a bit of traction. The alternative is the boat shoe – basically, a summertime wet-to-dry loafer. While the boat shoe also gives off upper class coastal New England vibes – essentially, unassuming old money – it’s an efficient, slip-on-and-go style that’s enhanced for walking more places. 

A Bag 

Even if your most far-flung destination is the local beach or pool, something to pack up your essentials – trunks, sandals, a shirt, and sunscreen, for starters, plus space for your wallet and phone – should last you a few years without showing signs of wear. Canvas totes, satchels, and messenger bags tend to do the trick, or consider a weekend bag – more space, plus a zipper to keep everything contained – if you find yourself spending less and less time at home.


Ivan Yaskey

Philadelphia’s streetwear scenes and working as a copywriter for a Boston-based menswear brand sparked Ivan's passion for fashion and style more than a decade ago.

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