Living in Britain, an English summer brings with it its very own fashion crises; Raincoat or umbrella? Shorts? Open necked shirts? Short sleeved shirts? Shirt in or out? Socks or not? Sandals?
The answers are as varied as the questions and every men’s magazine lining the newsagents’ shelves offers its own fashionable take. I am no sartorial expert but as we do design and make men’s bespoke shoes, which get worn with clothing (we hope) I do hold a few opinions on the subject of men’s style. (Please note that the views shared below are mine and mine alone and may not necessarily be those shared by my colleagues in bespoke tailoring at Gieves & Hawkes, or indeed by my dear business partner Mr Ducker).
Anyway, let’s get the non-shoe related questions out of the way first:
Should a man carry an umbrella or wear a raincoat?
This is an easy one. If the gentleman in question is a careful ‘driver’ of his umbrella then it should certainly be an option…but on no account should it be a golfing umbrella in a city environment. We just don’t have the pavement space…unless you are going to do a brolly share!
That said, a raincoat is a much smarter choice but what happens with the head? A hood is a no-no for the over 5s and I remain unconvinced about men in rain hats – unless they are of a classic style…so back to the umbrella?
Or just catch a cab – always my first choice!
Are shorts allowed or should legs remain covered?
I saw one of the finest dressed gentlemen I have seen in recent times wearing shorts. They were French Navy, knee length and tailored. He was a mid 50s ‘silver fox’ and wore them with the most beautiful antiqued loafers and a shirt and jacket. (All this noted from a train hurtling through Clapham Junction – so he must have been looking fine to catch my eye so memorably!)
I can only think that he was perhaps Italian, so my tip if you are in any doubt is to ask whether your proposed outfit would look well on the Riviera. And there’s the clue…if yours is a relaxed, creative work environment then enjoy. If not, then avoid at all costs and keep them for the weekend.
Open necked shirts?
Oh why not live a little. There is nothing more uncomfortable looking than a gentleman in a short, suit and tie looking overly warm. Our warm, sunny days are so few and far between that we should go all out and embrace them when they happen (this does not go for shorts!). But no more than three buttons please!
Short sleeved shirts?
Please no! Bearing in mind my comments above, this reaction may come as a surprise, but I actually have a short sleeve shirt phobia…and it has much to do with the elbow. Much like knees these are an area best left covered, in my opinion. I much prefer a folded shirt sleeve, preferably buttoned up…smart but cool and no unfortunate comparisons with turkeys!
Shirt in or out?
Simple: IN in town and OUT at the beach/park only.
Now, on to home turf and to foot related conundrums.
Socks or not?
My general rule is if the shoe is closed then yes to socks if the shoe is open then no. Loafers can be the exception if worn with trousers NOT shorts.
But don’t panic if you fear over-heating, you don’t have to wear long socks all year around. Thanks to the amazing developments in women’s hosiery gentlemen can now enjoy that life-enhancing thing that is the invisible sock or footsie. The socks remain hidden within your shoes whilst permitting a flash of ankle and you will look and feel much cooler. (A good pedicure, a light tan and liberal use of moisturiser will quickly bring your lower pins up to standards worthy of exposure).
Sandals are a great summer option as long as they are NEVER worn with socks!
It doesn’t matter if you are William H. Macy and married to Felicity Huffman (my husband often sites a picture of Mr Macy in a fetching sandal/sock combo as a good argument for the fashion), if you are wearing carréducker sandals or if you are sporting the finest cashmere socks. The answer is still the same…NO!
As someone who sees a great many feet during the year I can assure you that every foot can be made beautiful if only they are lavished with a little TLC. And a sandal is designed to enhance the naked foot – to hide the less attractive areas (yes gentlemen they do exist), to enhance the positive areas and to allow some air to circulate.
So this summer, if you are tempted to try a sandal then here’s my top tips:
- Have a pedicure every two weeks (that’s what Gentlemen’s Tonic is here for)
- Moisturise your feet and ankles after you shower
- Strengthen your feet by walking barefoot more
- Get a light tan if possible
And when you are finally ready to ‘get them out’, again take the Riviera as your inspiration and choose a shoe or sandal that is smart, that still covers much of the foot (i.e. no open heels) and is crafted in canvas or woven leather. We have a fine pair of derby shoes that would suit.