Summer essentials for men 2010

Don Draper in madras

How to pull off summer plaid, Don Draper style.

By Kaitlin Resler

Summer essentials for men are, I think, somewhat harder than for women.

There is no sun-dress to turn to with endless silhouette options, and so the summer uniform for guys turns into shorts and some variant of shirt.

Rather than attempting to find sartorial inspiration for summer that delves outside of this, I went on the search for summer's essential basic items for guys that are somehow more than just the usual.

Boat Shoes

topsiders journeys.jpg
These are not just for the dorky kid who also tucks his polo shirt into this pants and somehow manages to dress like he's 40 when he's 15. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the classic boat shoe--similar to the classic loafer but a bit less fusty--pairs up with just about any summer combination of shorts, pants, dress shirts, or casual tees. Corks and Caftans has sung the praises of the Sperry, and the appeal of the nostalgia factor in dressing. But whether you go for the classic Sperry in navy, brown, or some of the madras patterns, or other brands found at DSW and Land's End, boat shoes work. They're comfy, and ad a bit of old-school charm to the least-planned outfit. (Pictured: Sperry's found at Journey's running around $69.99, prices vary).

Non-cargo shorts

shorts banana.jpg
I wasn't sure what to name these sleeker shorts that have finally popped up in stores like J. Crew, Banana Republic, H&M, and almost any other store with a men's section. These aren't strangely tailored and oddly tight, nor are they the walking futon monstrosities that hang down near one's ankle's and make some wonder, why not just wear pants? Shorts ought not to flap in the wind, and these sleeker versions for summer work pared with just about anything on top. A version with a tiny seersucker print (so that it simply looks blue from afar) adds a sleek line to a silly t-shirt, and neatens up an outfit that might otherwise be defined as sloppy. (Pictured: neat shorts from Banana Republic, normally priced at 49.50 and available in slightly more worn-washes, as well as a few marked around the store as on sale and promo-ed for a smaller price).

The 'work shirt'

workshirts GAP.jpg
I have seen a lot of fuss over the 'work shirt'. I am not entirely sure what it means, but it usually involves pockets on the front and little buttoned things on the shoulders. It's possibly a relative of the safari-shirt, especially when it's in chino, but either way it's a cool summer alternative to the pressed oxford or button-up. Worn a little rumpled, it's not messy, but effortless. The GAP version here is quite nice in fabrics and colors akin to chambray--that ultimate of summer textiles--and although it's tricky to work into a wardrobe rife with denim, it forces one to try for the jean-alternative pant (shirts at GAP: 39.50-49.50).

The madras/plaid shirt

There are strong opinions on this kind of shirt. For one thing, it involves buttons up the front and short-sleeves, bringing to mind strange blousy shorts and someone with a pocket protector. On the other hand, when handled correctly, the shirt becomes a cool (literally--most of the fabrics of these shirts are significantly lighter than many of their counterparts) vintage-inspired version of the summer shirt. If the short-sleeves are simply too much to bear, many retailers are offering long-sleeved versions that can be rolled to the elbow. And for anyone who says madras and plaid aren't cool, I have two words for you: Don Draper.

madmen a.jpg

The tee

beards f21.jpg
It doesn't get anymore basic than this. A myriad of colors is always an option, but if the plain tee isn't your thing there are plenty of graphic options running rampant through the shopping world.

owl and bike f21.jpg

My favorites (I may or may not have grabbed one for myself in an over-sized version) were in the Forever21 men's section. This may be due in part to their prices--12 to 14.90 hits just about right for my wallet, and the occasional shirt in the sale section runs about 6.99. But the graphics themselves are neat--bearded men, dogs wearing ties, a strange versions of The Son of Man, and various other images. The tees are the right price, interesting, and good for adding something new to a summer uniform. I'm a bit suspicious though, that some of these might be rip-offs, as Forever21 has been an offender here before.

Mad Men photos via AMC


The preppy look is back in. You got it right with the boat shoes and shorts, but left out the polo shirt to complete the look - collar turned down please.

YES!!! The shoes, the shorts, and the shirts. Since the early 1960's. Always were and always will be.

boat shoes, home-made cutoffs, and a v-neck does it for me.

thank you. men past the age of 22 should not be wearing cargo shorts.

Every man needs one Hawaiian Shirt in a bold kitschy print. A purist will look for vintage, but I've found surprisingly good quality ones at Wal Mart for $10.00

You had me at "Don Draper". I'm sold.

I think for the next "women's essentials" you should let a man do the outfit choices. If it were up to me you'd all be wearing boy shorts, wife beaters and heels. We would definitely be staying away from those blousy shirt/dress things because they make you all look pregnant or fat.

I'll have to say that while I agree with the anti-cargo shorts rule and the boat shoes, the graphic t-shirt/madras fad crested about 2 years ago.

As for me, I'm still waiting for men to go back to suits. I mean like everyday suits. Let's bring some class back to this country.

1. True prep never dies in New England. Everywhere else it is cyclical.

2. Hopefully no one over 18 still wears cargo shorts. To quote Superbad: "Nobody has gotten a handjob in cargo shorts since 'Nam." This should also be applicable to the ubiquitous JORTS.

3. Take it easy denim Dan. No one likes the Canadian tuxedo. Leave that stuff for the ranch hands in Wyo.

4. Real men wear sleeves. None of that short sleeve shirt stuff.

5. T-shirts? Really? No (straight) man would ever buy one at Forever 21, nor be seen in that store unless being towed behind his girlfriend. If you wear a t-shirt it better be from a race/event or college.

Lastly, I agree with 'Save Pine Hills' - as NPH would say "Suit up!"

Good to see I was already on the boat with the shoes. The secret is that Marshalls usually has topsiders if you're willing to be adventrous about color or pattern.

White shorts are a thing.

Now, without all those cargo pockets, how do we carry all of our stuff? We're gonna need man bags. Satchels, if you will. Indiana Jones had one. How about a roundup of those?

I see there's no love for the manpri. Maybe next year.

There are some great deals at the GAP at Colonie in our back section. Plus, our Product Red line has recently been updated so most of these tees have been marked down to anywhere from $7.97 to $19.99.

I agree with SavePH. Except switch out the wife beater with a basic v neck. The lower the cut the better. I'd say flats or some kinda vans/chucks would be ok too, but who doesn't look good in heels?

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