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How to Create the Ultimate Summer Wardrobe, According to Experts

Two menswear professionals weigh in on what to buy to build the perfect summer wardrobe.

Summer looks from Trunk. Trunk

An ideal summer wardrobe should be equal parts comfortable, versatile and stylish. As the temperature rises, keeping cool becomes a serious concern—but summer is also the perfect time to experiment with color and cut. Whether working or taking a break, traveling internationally or staying by the pool, the warmer months are an opportunity to try new things and find lighter, crisper versions of old favorites.

What, exactly, does the stylish man’s May-to-September shopping list look like? For guidance, we asked two menswear experts to share their tips on building the perfect summer wardrobe. Bruce Pask is the men’s fashion director for Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, where he curates the innovative in-store boutique, B. And for a European perspective, Mats Klingberg is the founder of Trunk Clothiers, the celebrated menswear retailer with outposts in London and Zürich. Here are their insights.

Lighten Up

It may seem obvious that summer’s not the time for heavy layers, but don’t abandon the jacket entirely. Whether you’re inclined to classic tailoring or a more casual look, a jacket gives you variation in color and texture. You just have to pick the right one.

“I wear a jacket pretty much every day,” says Pask, “but something very lightweight. I prefer the structure of wearing some version of a jacket along with a shirt.” His current favorites include blazers in fine Madras cotton and a lightweight Craig Green worker jacket.

A Brunello Cucinelli pinstriped linen suit and Beams Plus Madras sport jacket.

A Brunello Cucinelli pinstriped linen suit, $3,995, and Beams Plus Madras sport jacket, $445 Bergdorf Goodman

Tailoring, in particular, has become a lot more summer-friendly in recent years. Thanks to a surge of international appreciation for Neapolitan tailoring, it’s much easier to find unstructured, unlined jackets that are ideal for hot days. Pask cites Brunello Cucinelli’s and Massimo Alba’s linen suits as reliable go-to’s. Klingberg points to the breezy tropical wool offerings from Ring Jacket, a brand that has outfitted businessmen through decades of humid Japanese summers.

Read the Fine Print

While it’s tempting to pick the lightest cloth for the hottest weather, a crisp, breathable fabric will outperform others at any weight, while consistently looking better and resisting creasing for longer.

As Klingberg says, this makes linen the quintessential summer fabric. It’s airy and breathable, plus it offers the kind of texture and visual interest that’s often missing from a summer wardrobe. (Derek Guy’s “summer tweed,” beloved by tailoring aficionados, is a 60/40 combo of linen and silk.) Pure linen is prone to curling and creasing, but that’s part of its relaxed charm—don’t fight it! Trunk’s signature summer shirt is made in washed Italian linen, and designed to work with everything from casual suits to swimwear.

More overlooked are blended fabrics, which harness textile alchemy to create superlative materials for summer’s unique needs. Silk blends provide strength and a luxurious, smooth hand—a fine cotton-silk mix is perfect for refined casualwear, from knits to shirts. For tailoring, Pask says linen-wool blends are ideal, since they retain the airy advantages of linen but limit wrinkling.

Trunk's 'George' linen shirt

Trunk’s ‘George’ linen shirt, $155 Trunk

Walk On The Wild(er) Side

Sunny summer days mean a chance to break away from the typical navy and grey of menswear without looking like a peacock. Warm weather is an invitation to color outside the lines. Pask applauds Kiton for their use of bright hues and pattern, noting how the Kiton collection in Bergdorf Goodman has evolved over the years to embrace corals and greens as well as the familiar blues.

As Klingberg points out, casual pieces such as t-shirts and swimwear are a great place to experiment with color. They fit the vibrant, easygoing contexts of summer: the beach, the poolside, cocktails on long, warm evenings.

Trust In The Classics

There are some perennial summer menswear silhouettes that can always be relied upon. In practical terms, this is the best time of year to go for roomier cuts, which allow air to circulate. Drawstring pants in linen and cotton voile are a relaxed summer answer to the luxury sweatpants of winter. And unlike their fleecy counterparts, drawstring trousers can easily be dressed up for the office or head out to an elegant dinner.

Many classic summer designs combine utility and style. The camp (or “Cuban”) collar shirt has gained popularity again in recent years for its casual and cooling open neck. It’s a piece of classic resort wear, executed brilliantly this season in luxury fabrics. Consider Casablanca’s silk shirts in gold, pink and electric blue.

A Casablanca silk shirt and Orlebar Brown 'Bulldog' swim shorts.

A Casablanca silk shirt, €500, and Orlebar Brown ‘Bulldog’ swim shorts, $245 Casablanca, Orlebar Brown

Nothing is quite as versatile (or necessary) in summer as a good pair of shorts. Pask champions a mid-thigh, classic length model such as Orlebar Brown’s tailored swim short. It has a trim profile, 2 mesh pockets and is made up in quick dry polyamide. “It will take you from surf to turf,” says Pask, and it works with a linen shirt and loafers as well as it does with a t-shirt and pool slides. But you can even wear them more formally. “I love a lightweight tailored jacket with a pair of shorts.”

Finally, if you’re traveling for both business and pleasure, pick clothes you can dress up and down. Klingberg recommends a washed cotton suit, which can be broken up, mixed and matched, ready for a meeting in the morning, an afternoon swim and an evening drink. Pair with a soft loafer like Baudoin & Lange’s Ginkgo model and life’s a breeze.

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