Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Keeping cool in the 30s

Serving me well on my 30th birthday last year
While I (and, I suspect, many others) have been enduring the heat of a glorious British summer as this country continues to swelter in temperatures consistently in the high twenties (centigrade) - and sometimes uncomfortably into the 30s - I find my mind turning to more casual, lightweight vintage fashions for the chap.

My go-to wardrobe staple in warmer weather is my trusty and well-worn brown linen suit, purchased from Primark (as a two-piece; alas neither of my local branches had the waistcoat in stock!) and which has served me well for what must be coming up to eight years now.  Paired with a linen or cotton shirt, a cravat, brown leather shoes and Panama hat, such an ensemble has helped to keep me cool through various summers while giving me a semblance of vintage style in what have been some lean times.

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The light-coloured, lightweight suit has long been the standard outfit for gentlemen during the hotter months and such a look is still my ultimate goal - although with my lemonade budget it may yet be some time before I reach it!  Fortunately, as has been noted before, menswear has by and large changed little over 100 years so it is still possible to approximate a certain decade's look using some high street items.  For example, I have several pairs of cream cotton trousers (chinos, as they are known today) acquired over the years that I like to mix with the linen jacket, or a navy blue single-breasted blazer - the latter of which is one of my favourite current outfits.  Again in the longer term I would dearly love a proper brass-buttoned double-breasted number as sported by Bertie Wooster and Captain Hastings.


Further inspiration for ideal summer wear is drawn from my Pinterest board Gentlemanly Attire, where light suits and Twenties & Thirties styles are dotted throughout.

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A spiffing illustration of a couple of Jazz Age summer suits, double- and single-breasted with peak lapels, finished off with some topping hats and - of course! - co-respondent shoes.  Here's an actual example from 1931, too:

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Brioni S/S '12
As I've mentioned before the only problem with white, cream or off-white suits - at least in my experience in Britain - is the danger of being likened to Michael Jackson, Martin Bell or The Man From Del Monte by those who haven't been exposed to their wider use and for whom standard summer attire consists of shorts and flip-flops.  Still, that hasn't put me off and nor should it you.

The peak of today's white-suited sartorialism comes courtesy of high-end names like Brioni and Polo by Ralph Lauren - clothing that I fear will forever remain aspirational to the likes of me(!):

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Ralph Lauren S/S '13
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Ralph Lauren S/S '12

Of course white isn't the only cool, summer colour.  Linen doesn't always have to be white, cream or beige.  Blues and browns look just as good.

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Lightweight clothing is, after all, more about the weight of the fabric than the colour and even a suit in a lighter wool fabric - say, 8oz or so - can have cooling properties. 

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Boating blazers are another summer option that can come in a bewildering array of colours.  Some tend to be more gaudy than others so it can be a matter of personal taste what colours you prefer, if any. 

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Jasper Conran navy college stripe blazer
£49.50 @ Debenhams
Jasper Conran navy narrow stripe blazer
£29.70 @ Debenhams (currently sold out)












One of the best places I have found for decent boating blazers in recent years is Debenhams, whose Jasper Conran concession usually has a couple of styles each year.  Their current stock includes two rather fetching blues and I can attest to their quality, having tried couple on in my local branch last weekend.  Alas sizes are limited and my humble purse cannot quite stretch even to sale prices, so I've yet to own one of these beauties.

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Finally I want to touch upon the more casual vintage summer look - an area that I freely admit to having little knowledge of.  In the back of my mind I feel sure I have seen pictures at some time of men in the 1930s (including Noël Coward, Fred Astaire et al.) wearing open-necked short-sleeved shirts while at the beach or on holiday.  Yet my most recent researches can throw up precious little imagery or information beyond the usual sporting [tennis] wear, such as that in my 1940s Fashion Sourcebook.  Certainly this is an aspect of vintage menswear that deserves further investigation, as it would be nice to get a more casual Thirties look before I wilt in the next heatwave.

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On the subject of tennis shirts, my parting offering comes courtesy of Miss Rayne's Vintage Chic blog, which I have followed for some time and which Google happened to throw up as a result during my searching.  This knitted tennis shirt from the 1930s looks a pip, doesn't it?  I've tried getting mater to have a bash at it but she remains firmly unconvinced, not least because we can't work out from the pattern whether the needle size is correct, which needles to cast on with and what wool to use - any suggestions?

There, then, are my thoughts and desires on what the vintage-loving chap can wear to survive global warming.  As it's forecast to remain warm for at least another month (and in the long term get warmer still if climate change scientists are to be believed) I hope to be able to employ some of these smashing styles.  I'd love to know what you think, and what you're doing to keep cool!  Anyone for Pimms?!

2 comments:

  1. My husband loves his lightweight linen suits - he lives in them through the summer. He gets the odd 'ice cream man' joke from his workmates, but I think he looks great.

    I'll have a think about the knitting pattern and see if I can come up with any suggestions.

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  2. I do like a bit of linen, although the crease factor is a bit of a pest.
    I have a skirt suit myself, two separate pieces which just happen to marry well, I have to sit very carefully when wearing it so that I don't end up looking like I rolled out of bed!
    I hope you can treat yourself before too long.

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