As mentioned on my ‘What I pack’ post, I’ve been travelling a lot in high heat recently.

There was Pitti in Florence, where the temperature topped out at 37 degrees. Naples in July was very similar. And Puglia at the end of that month was hotter, if anything.

So what do you wear in such heat, if you want to remain elegant?

Here are my recommendations, based on trial and (sometimes painful) error. They are of course subjective, but I’m sure readers will find them useful.

 

 

1 Keep the ankles bare

There’s a reason splashing cold water on your wrists makes you feel cooler. Veins run close to the surface here, and it is an effective way to cool the blood as a result.

Ankles are similar. Keep them uncovered, to breathe and benefit from the occasional breeze, and it makes a disproportionate difference to how cool you feel.

Most of the time, therefore, I wore loafers or Sagans with only ‘hidden’ socks inside the shoes.

The only limitation to this is formality.

I wouldn’t go sockless with a formal worsted suit, and if one was required I’d wear calf-length socks (albeit a very fine cotton, or linen).

 

 

2 Avoid a tie

This one might be controversial, but I rarely wore a tie.

The two times I did – once in Florence, once in Naples – it was in order to wear a particular suit (and I pretty much never wear a suit without a tie). But I regretted it.

A closed shirt around the neck, further covered by a band of silk, proved to be the biggest heat-inducer after socks.

The neck gains almost as much from exposure as the ankles, and an open shirt allows some circulation of air down the chest.

Again, the only restriction was formality.

 

 

3 Don’t stress about materials

During those trips I wore cotton shirts, linen shirts and cotton/linen shirts in a variety of weaves and weights. I didn’t notice much difference between them.

It’s still worth avoiding the heaviest cotton twills, and brushed cottons obviously, but don’t worry too much about having just linen shirts, for example.

This is almost as true of suitings. I wore linen, cotton and lightweight worsteds, and didn’t notice much difference.

All the worsteds were 9oz or so, and although I do particularly like the comfort of cotton in the heat, the differences between materials were small compared to points 1 and 2 above.

 

 

4 Carry a hat

Hats are a pain.

Unless you have a rolling model (which I don’t generally like the style of), a panama has to be carried onto the plane, and ideally kept in the lap rather than putting elsewhere, where it could get knocked and bent.

It’s also a pain to put down, in a restaurant for example, and then remember to pick up later.

But covering the head does make you cooler if you’re in the direct sun. It’s the same reason traditional Middle Eastern outfits all involve long, body-covering robes. Exposure heats the skin.

Also, hats look great. If you think you don’t have a head that suits a hat, you’re wrong. Everyone used to wear a hat, and they all looked great.

 

 

5 Shorts and untucked shirts for off days

Most of the time on these trips I wanted to remain smart and sartorial; because I considered the appointments important, and because I was meeting craftsmen – tailors, shirtmakers and so on.

I was on duty, in other words.

When I was travelling or relaxing I occasionally wore shorts – still a well-made, precisely tailored short (from Bardelli, Milan) – which was cooler still.

And untucked shirts. Only casual styles, such as polos or camp-collar shirts, and only ones with a length designed to be untucked. But that again was a touch cooler. 

The example pictured here is the Fedeli polo offered by Drake’s this summer (pictured, in blue), which is cut away nicely at the hips to suit being worn untucked.

I find a piece like this is separated from very casual clothing (such as a T-shirt) by virtue of having a collar, by being long-sleeved (even if the sleeves are pushed back) and by its cut – in that order.

 

 

Number 5, however, should be considered something of a side point.

The rest are what would now constitute a summer uniform, and are what I would pack by default for similar high heat: Jackets, open-necked shirts, trousers, sockless loafers and a hat.

And the good news is that even though I may have to do away with some much-loved items of dress – such as a tie – I know I will be perfectly comfortable walking around and working all day in 38 or 40 degrees.

And (I think) look great.

 

 

Clothes worn:

Main outfit: 

  • Vintage linen jacket by Elia Caliendo (covered previously here)
  • One-piece-collar shirt by Luca Avitabile
  • Yellow-silk handkerchief by Rubinacci
  • Brown Crispaire trousers by Dalcuoure (suit covered here)
  • Bark-grey Sagan loafers by Baudoin & Lange (my personal colour – see post here)
  • Sisol hat from Anderson & Sheppard

Cafe outfit:

  • Blue polo shirt by Drake’s x Fedeli
  • Linen ‘Hollywood top’ trousers by Edward Sexton (covered here)
  • Same loafers

Outfit in fitting room:

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

Except for cafe outfit, photography by James Munro for Drake’s

 

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Richard

Hi Simon,

an interesting read as always. What is the best response to people who say “Aren’t you hot?” if I’m wearing a (lightweight) jacket in hot weather. I still don’t have a quick or witty reply! (The people who say it are normally not the most stylishly minded or aware in my experience!)

Anonymous

You do get asked some silly questions. How do you keep a straight face?

Carl

Do you have any recommendations when it comes to shorts? I prefer cargo shorts in the summer as i usually dont wear a jacket in my leisure time and wants a place for mobile phone and sun glasses. I know that cargo shorts isnt the smartest thing to wear but find them very practical.

Matt

“That’s rather forward of you but thanks for the compliment all the same”.

Rui

I reply ‘Only when I smile’.

David

Richard,
Jason King’s response would be:
“That is sexual harassment “

Hristo

I have very good experience with the Falke No9 line of over the calf socks in hot weather. They are so thin and so open weave that I can wear them without any problems in hot weather.
I was this weekend in Kyiv. 32 degrees Celsius. I wore brown oxford shoes (prototype of bespoke Meccariello shoes still in progress), Falke No9 over the calf socks, bespoke tan trousers made from the H&S crispaire fabric and linen shirts and was perfectly fine to have a 15 km walk through the city.

Another thing about socks. I would love to try thin mohair over the calf socks in summer. I have a pair of Mohair socks, but they are too thick and I have not found yet a producer who makes a summer over the calf version.

Don Ferrando

I just came home from Tuscany (40° celsius) and can confirm that your recommendations are 100% right.

Only wearing a jacket sometimes was almost not possible for me sufferung from the great heat!

Justin

Hi Simon,
Excellent piece.
Do you have any other examples of shirts and polos that work well untucked?
I really like the Sunpel jersey s/s polo but am after something with a little more weight.

Winot

Very useful. I would add trousers that are not cut too slim as well.

Any recommendations for half socks? I have tried a Falke pair with loafers but they slip off the heel.

Ian

Levi’s has some good half socks or invisible socks. ones that don’t fall off!

Winot

Have also discovered that Pantherella do invisible socks (‘Footlets’), which seem pretty good.

Jojoandthecats

Useful, well-reasoned article.

And good question ^ above, with a satisfyingly simple and appropriate answer.

shem

Hey simon,

Would you consider the brown crispaire trouser casual enough to wear as an odd trouser (without jacket) with polo shirts in a smart casual environment? Or would a wool-linen blend in a similar colour be more appropriate as an odd trouser? Thanks!

Sean

Thank you Simon, I have been hoping for a post on this topic, it helps in Singapore where the humidity is the biggest source of discomfort and I’m often stuck wondering how to dress smarter without overheating.

Matt

Would certainly agree that there seems to be little perceptible difference between ‘summer’ cloths and light-weight wools / wool blends. I commissioned a fresco suit last year, thinking it would help me beat the heat, but once canvas and padding is added the feeling is largely indistinguishable from my suits cut in a 10z – 11z worsted.

Anonymous

Except, of course, the trousers, where a fresco will show a huge difference………..

Matt

I can’t say I’ve noticed a huge difference, unless I’m outside and there’s a breeze blowing.

And anyway, keeping one’s legs cool is probably less of an issue.

Scott

Great article! I would only disagree concerning wearing shorts. I subscribe to the Tom Ford position that a man should not wear shorts in the city, but only at the resort or tennis court.

Alec

I’m Irish but living in Singapore for the last 14 years so I have some experience on how to dress well in tropical, humid heat. The advice in this post is excellent for managing heat. However in the tropics one must also contend with humidity. It’s vital to avoid perspiration. The most effective strategy is learning to mimic local behaviors. For example, walking along a street, locals will instinctively choose the side offering shade. At pedestrian crossings they will wait where they can find cover. They avoid direct sun wherever possible. Europeans however rush about the streets oblivious to the blazing sun. At restaurants, Europeans too will choose al-fresco while a locals will always eat indoors where there is fan or aircon. It’s also important to learn to walk slowly even when running behind time. Once you’ve learnt to adapt your walking behaviors it’s reasonably comfortable to wear a full suit and tie without becoming a soggy, sweaty mess.

Tim Fleming

Thanks for this info about behaviors – it’s something that seems critical that I haven’t thought of and seems to be generally missed.

Anonymous

I looked at a photo of Steve McQueen yesterday taken in London.It must have been in the summer.See voxsartoria.He was simply wearing jeans,desert boots and a T-shirt on a motorbike in the 1960s.What struck me was how effortlessly cool and simple the whole outfit was.It’s formal counterpart was Sean Connery’s equally pared back suits in the early Bond films.I think your readers should think about that before considering old fashioned shirt jackets,bomber jackets et al.

Nick Inkster

One piece of advice which I offer to those who face very humid conditions, gained directly from locals in those parts of the world where they exist (SE Asia etc), is to wear a vest under your shirt in formal/semi formal situations. It wicks away perspiration, giving your shirt a few extra hours of use before it starts to look like a crumpled rag.

It seems counter-intuitive at first, as you are adding an extra layer, but it really does work.

Johnnydevore

I agree fully

Graham

every cell in the body is within 50 microns of blood flow. True heat exchange is through sweat and evaporation of sweat.

Sam

Simon,
Do you find wearing a jacket in that sort of weather of any benifit in reulating you tempreture or is it just a matter of style? One only has to look at the robes worn in the Gulf states to see that covering oneself in cloth can be an effective way if dealing with high temperatures, but does the theory translate to European tayloring?

Ben

Simon,

With your shorts combo’s, what shoes do you wear?

Ben C

AJ

The trouble is, if you wear a jacket in hot weather, to the majority of people you really are more likely to look hot and uncomfortable than stylish. Added to that, even the lightest weight, most breathable and unlined jacket, does, in my experience, add to the heat.

Given this I prefer to wait until the temperature is firmly below 30 before wearing a jacket for style reasons alone. (I live in Hong Kong, which means waiting until October at the earliest).

David

Sage advice from the style maestro but as somebody who sweats like a butcher’s dog in heat I have only three things to say.
Linen, dark blue and when appropriate a luxury undershirt.
There is nothing more disconcerting than seeing somebody trying to look cool when they have sweated through their clothes. This only looks good in a jungle scene. Jason King would never approve!

Anon

Simon,
On my mobile when clicking the ‘comments’ button above each post the web page does it scroll down to the comments section.

It would be useful if it could (I think it used to before) as I like to come back to articles and read the comments after articles are posted.

Jay

Hi Simon,
Which ‘hidden’ socks do you recommend?

Chris

Try wool or wool blend as well. At least 60% wool. Helps the foot breathe as opposed to cotton or cotton/polyester.

Jay

I’ve been trying to find wool or wool blends. I greatly prefer wool OTC dress socks.

It’s painfully difficult to find wool/wool blend hidden socks. Recommendations are welcome.

Chris

Not sure where you’re located but in the US I use smartwool. Another nice thing about those socks is that some hidden socks are more hidden than others. Meaning when you wear espadrilles they stay completely hidden as opposed to a few CM of sock showing out the top.

ANM

I believe the largest benefit of wearing a hat at all times is the reduction of sun damage to your skin.

I have consistently worn hats, and my dermatologist has confirmed it has, and does make a difference.

Now there is a style benefit that is yours alone, has a low cost (save for the hats).

lydia

hey man what about the classic “seersucker” ???? Only problem is how to match the classic white blue stripe jacket with colour of trousers. I go for grey trousers & white buitton down shirt and you out there ?

KD

Hi, Simon. Great article. Which antiperspirants would you recommend. Been looking at Floris London’s Cefiro deodorant stick because of it’s no alcohol and aluminium content. Please advise, thanks.

Anonymous

Aerosol?

No, the ball type.

With apologies to Kenny Everett.

Anonymous

Actually the Kenny sketch was set in a Swedish chemist shop.

I’d like a deodorant please
Aerosol?
No, for my armpits.

Anonymous

I can recommend the herbal deodorant from Aesop. I love the smell and it’s quite effective, though pricey.

BespokeNYC

Great article, thanks Simon! Definitely agreed with the other commenters on the “tropical walk” and the benefits of the – at first glance counter-intuitive – undershirt.

Would be interested to hear which brands of untucked shirts do you prefer.

Anonymous

Do you usually tuck your polos in?

Anonymous

How exactly do you conclude a polo has been designed to be tucked in or not? If anything, that Fedeli polo is supposed to be tucked in, judging from the curve of the bottom hem, as obvious in the following picture:comment image

Justin

Hello Simon, great article. A side question here – are you planning any type of re-runs of the Friday Polo or the perfect knitware later this year? Thanks!

John

Hi Simon,
Many thanks for this timely post! Very interesting comments posted too!
I just want to know what you would advise when it comes to smart suits under such climes, fabric and tailoring wise.
Imagine you were in Egypt or Morocco, what would you do?
John

Robbie

Hi Simon – I’m a newcomer to your blog and I apologise if I repeat anything you have already covered.
I liked your comments on hats and, from crowd pictures taken before World War Two, its appears that everybody wore them and they all look like movie stars.
It seems to me that Panama is the bellwether for summer headwear and, although I’ve bought many, I’ve never found one I feel suits me – when the brim is too wide I feel like a cowboy, when too small I feel like a Blackpool day-tripper. I will certainly call in on A&S when next in Mayfair.
A final thought on hats. I’ve always hankered for a felt hat, possibly a Fedora, without wishing to look like Indiana Jones. Will you be covering Autumn/Winter hats in the near future?

Antonio

I am an ardent admirer of your blog and I agree almost with your points of view about style. My compliments!
It is not the case with ‘Keep the ankels bare’. I have in mind a chapter in The indispensable book of Bruce Boyer (True Style) about shoe-hosiery (pages 163 and 164). ‘There are compelling, health related reasons for having next to the skin absorbent garments that can be changed and laundered frequently. ……… This blatant attempt at nonchalance seems rather amateurish and weak as a ploy, a much studied and obvious way of showing insouciance………’
I wear Pantherella Cotton Isle socks.

K K

Good general advice overall, but I find that it is not so much the heat as the humidity that makes wearing certain items uncomfortable, and I wholly agree about wearing a cotton undervest to wick away perspiration. In dry heat if you avoid the direct sun you can dress fairly smartly without too much compromise. I would say a straw hat is paramount but alternatively the sadly out-of-fashion parasol (the Prince of Wales uses one) makes a considerable difference to one’s comfort. Another thing I find works well is a tunic shirt with a detachable collar. You can get away with wearing it collarless if it is really stifling and pin the collar and tie back on when absolutely necessary for a business meeting etc. I draw the line at bare ankles; light cotton socks and canvas shoes are usually cool enough and protect you from insect bites.

Antonio

About covering up, putting aside matters of style, as far as I understand:

If the air temperature is smaller than the body’s, 37ºC, it is advisable to avoid covering whenever possible (and also avoid direct sun light exposure). If the air temperature is greater than 37º, the more you go clotheless, the hotter your body gets (with or without direct sunlight), since heat flows from hotter to cooler bodies.

John

Just going to the West coast for a couple of weeks where I hear it’s pretty hot. So will follow your advice religiously. However, it does get cool in the evenings there (much of CA is desert basically) so will pack a couple of ties and a scarf.

Mac

Hi Simon,

The Caliendo linen jacket above, would it work with dark or washed denim? (If at all)

Mac

Thank you Simon.
I always wear button-down shirts with my Caliendo jackets (I almost never wear a tie) but I see that you don’t always do that when going tie-less. Don’t cut-away collars look odd with such casual jackets ?

Mac

Hi Simon

Elia doesn’t have any of the same linen left, what other colour linen would work with denim?

Mac

Hi Simon,

Which is more versatile, cut away or button down? Which one should you have more of in your wardrobe especially for neapolitan jackets when worn without a tie?

Mac

Hi Simon

I do usually go without a tie. My shirts are all made by Luca Avitable, do you think his spread collar is better than the button down without a tie or are they the same?

DKP

Simon – Do you have any recommendations on where I can find some well made RTW fresco trousers in London?

Shem

Hey Simon, drakes has some very nice polos in collaboration with fedeli. However they seem to run very small based on the online chart. What size is your polo shirt? Did you have to size up to fit comfortably? Thanks

Shem

Hey simon would you ever wear a linen shirt with a tie? If so, what type of details/color of the shirt would you want to take note of for this to work?

Daniel

I wonder what shoe colours would work with brown trousers like the Dalcuoure trousers worn here. My impression is that semi brown shoes may lack enough contrast with them, therefore they would require dark brown ones.
Would you wear any others? Does going sockless changes anything?

Linden

You recommened no socks or ‘invisible socks’ to keep the ankles cool. Good advice, yet I once bought some of these and they were a mess, coming off at the heel, and feeling awkward at the toe (perhaps the wrong size?). I tried searching your site for advice on these as I don’t like the idea of putting bare feet into leather for long days in the heat. (The exception is a pair of espradrilles I got from Loro Piana, as somehow the sole seemed to deal with the perspiration and the upper leather is exceptionally soft).

I wonder how you tackle this? Just bare feet? Or have you found invisible socks that work for you? (Happy to buy these from you in the PS Store if you ever add them).

Linden

Thank you for that. I’ve just ordered a pair of Doré-Doré and a pair of Mazarin invisibles from MCR, and bought in store a couple of versions of Uniqlo’s. Will try each out on the same loafers and report back.

DKP

Simon – have you had any untucked shirts made by Luca? If so, other than specifying that it should be of a length for wearing untucked, were there any other instructions you offered that perhaps would make the shirt more heat/casual friendly?

Nicholas Firman

Maybe I’m missing something, but you refer to your blue polo in the cafe picture but it appears to me to be a button down shirt.
Did I miss something?

shem

Hi simon, not wearing socks on both occasions here, does wearing a soft unlined chukka like those offered by drake’s make a difference in how hot one feels as compared to a loafer in hot weather?

Buddy Levy

Why do you not mention mohair when speaking of warm weather fabric?

Shem

Hi simon, i’m wondering if you will consider doing a piece on dressing well while wearing shorts in incredibly hot/humid weather? I know style advocates often expound how one should wear long pants to look stylish but I think this may not be possible/comfortable in some climates (e.g. HK in high summer, Singapore year round etc.), even with wide legged army type trousers if you’re doing some walking around the city on a weekend. I find T shirt and shorts too basic and shirt tucked inside high rise gurkhas nice only with other considerations (e.g. worn with a chorecoat/jacket etc.). Wondering if this is worth exploring a little more in depth?

Shem

Hi simon yes I have actually. I think your style is more of shirts tucked in into shorts which is quite sartorial/polished. I’m wondering if the article can explore/discuss other styles but can still look good (slouchy rayon/workshirts tucked out over shorts/pocket tee tucked out over shorts with a cap etc).

MBB355

When you say “Don’t sweat the materials,” would you exclude oxford cloth from that recommendation? Oxford cloth seems a little too heavy for very hot weather.