As winter slowly gives way to spring and summer, there comes a time for men to shed their sartorial layers and switch out sweaters, jeans, and boots for lighter alternatives. Here are five timeless warm-weather essentials illustrated by a host of icons who wore them well, that will keep you looking cool and feeling even cooler in the months to come.
A ubiquitous warm weather staple, the polo shirt was first worn by French tennis pro Rene Lacoste in the 1920s, and in 1933, he founded a company to bring his collared cotton creation to the masses. Nearly a century later, the polo shirt remains a spring and summer staple both on the court and off. Its simple design makes it easy to wear, while the collar raises its level of distinction past that of a plain t-shirt. Find a version that’s trim-fitting, stock your closet with a few in solid colors, and you’ll have the perfect casual go-to option from March to September.
Inspiration: Arnold Palmer, Clint Eastwood, JFK
With nice weather comes sunshine, and with the sun comes ultraviolet rays. Leave wrap-around eyewear to baseball players and football coaches, and opt instead for a pair of classic shades. Aviators have been helping pilots scan the skies above for over half a century, while the wayfarer’s signature style has shielded a host of iconic eyes from JFK to Muhammad Ali. Whichever you choose, you’ll be well on your way to channeling decades of stylish authority.
Inspiration: Paul Newman, Don Draper (Jon Hamm), JFK, Muhammad Ali
Despite their name, shorts these days seem to be anything but. Forgo those over-long, multi-pocketed styles in favor of a streamlined version in breathable cotton. The right pair should taper slightly like your favorite chinos and hit just above the knee (for most men, that means an 8 to 10-inch inseam). Go with classic colors like kaki and navy, and they’ll look just as sharp with a simple t-shirt or polo as they will with a worn-in oxford.
Inspiration: Ralph Lauren, Take Ivy, The Talented Mr. Ripley
In a time when modern board shorts tend to be cut wider, longer, and weigh you down in the water, trunks offer a more sophisticated alternative. They’re a swimsuit as it was originally worn: trim-fitting and cut above the knee. Think less spring break 2015 and more Waikiki Surf Club circa 1959. While there’s nothing wrong with playing it safe, swim trunks offer an opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and experiment with color and pattern. Nailing the fit gives you leeway to experiment with something bolder, while still looking refined.
Inspiration: The Endless Summer, The Kennedy Brothers, Paul Newman
When temperatures start to rise, you’ll want to reach for footwear that’s lightweight and versatile. Low-top canvas sneakers are a timeless solution. Like the polo shirt, these warm-weather classics originated in the world of athletics. Early tennis and badminton players wore them for their breathability and durability on the court, and nearly a century later, they offer the same attributes whether you’re walking to class or relaxing on vacation. Don’t be afraid to beat them up; as Steve, Paul, and John show above, these shoes only get better with age.
Inspiration: Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, JFK