Style Advice
The Finest Summer Shirt Fabrics and How to Wear Them
By Benedict Browne
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My summer wardrobe last year was depressingly mundane. It was certainly not what you’d expect from a style editor – particularly in the shirting department – but I managed to get away with it. I don’t know about you, but I spent the majority of June, July and August out of sight on my roof terrace, reading, chain-smoking (since quit) and drinking cans of bizarrely branded IPA in comfy shorts and a white cotton ribbed vest – every bit a north London based Rab C. Nesbitt (give him a Google if you’ve not heard the name before).

Don’t believe me? Ask any of London’s treasured green parakeets, who perform a flyby twice daily, and proved to be my sole company. This summer, however, things will be different. I’m planning on going all-out, and an array of shirting options in different fabrics – from crispy linens to popping seersuckers – will be my co-conspirators in making the most of it.

I’ve always maintained that the camp collar shirt is Cuba’s second greatest gift to the world after rum (cigars are overrated). It provides a brilliant template for variety in fabrics and designs to experiment with – printed, knitted, embroidered, piped, you name it, they all work. A fail-safe option, though, will always be a camp-collar shirt in solid linen. Thomas Mason’s Sahara Linen (available in the brand’s Bespoke collection) should be your first port of call here. It has options aplenty and I’m quite taken by the dark indigo, which would look fantastic as a camp-collar. It has, of course, all of the warm-weather benefits that linen provides thanks to its smooth yarn and open weave structure. It is indeed featherlight and pleasingly airy this stuff, yet that indigo colour has a moody and mysterious elegance that’s rather charming, especially when worn with a pair of high-rise, white cotton twill chinos and unlined loafers out for an alfresco dinner in town.

If you’d like something that’s a bit more decorative and also functional this summer, you could opt for another Cuban classic, the Guayabera. With its workwear roots (the shirt’s name comes from the Spanish word for guava fruit, ‘guayaba’) the four medium-sized front pockets, which were originally used for carrying guava, give it purpose, and its pleats and embroidery demonstrate considered design. With long sleeves, Guayabera shirts are a chic option for warm weather formalwear, if rendered in conservatively coloured fabrics. The plain navy from Thomas Mason’s Gold Linen bunch would do the job perfectly here.

Conservative options aside, if this summer is all about going for it then Thomas Mason’s new range of seersucker shirting fabrics are just the ticket. Try one in a retro safari shirt style and the cloth’s puckered surface will keep you cool no matter the heat of the day. The mint green colourway feels fresh and zingy, and you’ll stand out from the crowd in it. Accessorise with some drapey linen trousers and a violent orange cocktail (or three).

Now for a suggestion that’s a little different, inspired in part by the wardrobe of cult summertime classic, Call Me By Your Name. One style I’m all for this coming season is the oversized, loose-fitting Oxford cotton button-down shirt. Oversized shirts bring with them an uplifting sense of freedom, and after the last year or so’s restrictions, that’s needed. Having a few ‘OCBDs’ on rotation will serve you well this summer.

Plain white will anchor those lairy Madras shorts you’ve been longing to wear, but if that’s too boring and you’re after something more fruity, within Thomas Mason’s Royal Oxford collection there’s dusty pink Oxford and lavender. These pastel hues are super-refreshing alternatives to the usual suspects and I couldn’t recommend them enough. With a generous amount of buttons undone, a white cotton vest beneath, a simple chain for decoration and heavy-duty sunglasses up top, it’s a look that says you’re unfazed by life and on your way to somewhere better.

More than anything, you should embrace wearing colour this summer. Historically, I’ve always been averse to it, but I’m going to try this year, not just for myself but for the people around me. After all, colour peps you up, boost your mood, and makes for a refreshing talking point at a party. Conveniently, there’s plenty of colour in Thomas Mason’s acclaimed Zephir 1818 collection which is, of course, perfect for the warmer months. These zesty cloths are light, soft and silky without any kind of ‘look at me’ sheen.

There’s a variety of punchy Gingham checks in Zephir 1818 too. These range in scale and would work well as army short sleeve shirts, to throw on and off throughout the summer. I can’t resist the bright orange hue. Not only do I have zero items of orange clothing in my life, but it reminds me of Aperol – tragic, I know. With travel temporarily out of the question, a louche orange Gingham check shirt will help to transport me away from London to somewhere that has a warm breeze, salty air, and sun-baked pavements, even for a mere 15 minutes.

All in all, summer fabrics shouldn’t be over-thought or over-complicated. To keep you cool, composed and comfortable, linen, seersucker or Zephir will each excel themselves. All that remains is to pick some colours and patterns that make you feel good and want to have fun – heaven knows we all need it this year.

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