Last week, we introduced the first entry in a series of posts on how, this summer, the right made-to-measure shirt can get you from the office tabletop to the hotel rooftop, without breaking a sweat. We emphasized the importance of the right fabric as the basis for any warm weather shirting, and concluded with some fabric picks from our style advisor Julie. This week, we interviewed Julie about a shirt she designed using one of those fabrics, and she explains how the right styling can have you feeling even cooler than you’ll look.
MR: Good morning, Julie. If you want to introduce yourself to our readers, that’s a good place to begin.
J: Hi everyone! I’m a style advisor at the ManuelRacim boutique, and I have a background in fashion merchandising, which is similar in many ways to how we approach men’s shirts.
MR: How so?
J: Well I recommended some of my favorite summer fabrics last week, and I love that they balance a lot of different things. They respond to the same kind of challenge you face in merchandising, where you want to take current trends and make them more relatable. Womenswear is often about pushing boundaries and risk taking, but guys aren’t so fussy. A good shirt can be simple: classic, functional design with a few details that show a man is paying attention, flattering fit and that’s it. For men, they don’t need people to be distracted by their clothing; the clothing should make people focus on the man wearing it. I designed a shirt, the one I’m holding in the picture, with one of last week’s fabrics, and its very approachable and cool at the same time.
MR: Most men can probably relate to that. You don’t want to look like you are ready to walk the runway at the office, but you don’t want to look sloppy either. Before we get to your shirt, can you tell us a bit more about the fabrics you chose?
J: Sure. Last week I recommended three lightweight poplins, a classic pinstripe, a gingham (a kind of checkered pattern), and a plaid. Poplin is great because even though it has a smooth hand, if you look very close the surface has a dimpled texture, and that creates air pockets to keep you cool. The evenness of the weave also makes patterns look very crisp. The patterns I chose are all very “now,” but down-to-earth enough that any man can pull them off. So the aim is to balance a bit of style with a bit of functionality.
MR: A lot of guys tend to avoid patterns, particularly bright ones, especially at the office.
J: And that’s usually something I encourage, but summer is a bit different. In the summer, it’s not inappropriate to wear more interesting patterns in the workplace because it has a functional, scientific purpose: Brighter colors reflect light instead of absorbing, so you won’t be meeting clients in a sweat stained shirt. [laughs] I chose lighter versions of all the colors that you commonly see in the workplace – pink, blue, purple, with a white base so we aren’t doing anything too crazy here. The patterns are also a bit smaller, the stripes are thin and the checkers are finer, which is a bit more sophisticated than something you would wear on the weekend.
J: I designed a shirt in the purple plaid. It’s interesting because up close it seems very vibrant and season-appropriate, but it’s a subtle pattern and not a deep purple, so from more than an arm’s length away it doesn’t catch your eye at all. There’s something very sharp about a man who takes those kinds of small details into account. The rest of the design follows suit, it all feels very summery to the wearer but it doesn’t attract unwanted attention.
MR: Nothing stands out as exceptionally summery, what details are there with the specific purpose of faring warmer weather?
J: Everything, basically. [laughs] The tailoring is the perfect middle ground between fitted and loose. There’s a bit more room with this cut so some air can circulate, like when you wear a baggy t-shirt to do yardwork, but because it’s made-to-measure everything still fits impeccably – the length of the sleeves, the size of the collar – it doesn’t look sloppy. It isn’t oversized, it’s clearly intentional. There’s also a single pleat down the back that gives maybe a half-inch more room so that if you have to throw on a jacket for a quick meeting, there’s a little insulation from the heat there.
MR: That sounds like it comes in handy. Besides a bit of breathability, what else is going on here?
J: The collar is a full cutaway, which keeps the neckline more open; with the top button undone it doesn’t feel stuffy at all. But it’s also a very strong collar for tieknots, so if you keep a tie in your desk you’ll be ready for basically any situation. The cuffs are also softer, most cuffs have a rigid interfacing material in them but this one has a very pliable one. It’s not something visually noticeable but for the wearer, it won’t be as chafing and also if you get to roll up your sleeves, they will rest flat against your arm instead of bunching up in a bulky mess.
MR: Definitely. Does anything else come to mind when designing shirts for staying cool or is this basically everything a man should look for?
J: Well, again I think everything should always be very mature and classic so it shouldn’t stray too far from this. But if you have a little more flexibility in your dress code, a button-down collar is perfect for always going tieless, because it keeps a nice shape. Even when you use a collar with soft interfacing like we used in these cuffs, it’s really comfortable and doesn’t get floppy. Also, if you’re not tucking in your shirt, the length should be adjusted for that. Otherwise, personally for me I mentioned I like little details, so when you’re rolling your sleeves and not wearing a tie, a different fabric on the inside of the collars and cuffs oozes cool. Nothing crazy, for this shirt I would just go with a solid purple that matches the pattern, but otherwise that’s it. If you’re still hot after all that, the only other option is to go linen!
MR: Sounds good. Thanks for your help Julie!
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