The first sartorial signs of spring and summer are here — bare legs, short sleeves, skin kept pale from a winter’s worth of cover — and really, really poor fashion sense on the part of some men.
Spending most of the year under wraps, many guys are fully tuned-in to winter apparel. They know how to dress for the cold weather, layering with flair, accessorizing carefully and using their look to make a firm statement about their persona.
But when the ice thaws and temperatures begin to rise, some of the same guys seem to forget how to dress.
I admit, sometimes I feel the same way. The questions seem endless.
Are flip-flops a fashion faux pas, for example? I wear them and so do a lot of men in Toronto — in L.A. they’re almost formal wear — but what separates a cool pair from those that your grandmother would wear to the beach?
Do I wear shorts or stick to pants at all costs? What’s appropriate summer formal wear? Thankfully I don’t own one, but is the Hawaiian shirt to be avoided at all costs? More on that last question later.
With summer bearing down I needed answers, so I approached Jay Manuel, host of Canada’s Next Top Model, designer and photographer extraordinaire, who has also made note of the seeming summer fashion malaise that tends to befall men in cities across North America.
His first observation is that men in Toronto tend to be frightened to wear colours in summer, instead preferring the monochromatic shades that carried them through fall and winter.
His solution is not only to add a little colour to a wardrobe, but to wear certain items that carry brighter tones well and can be worn for different situations.
“Something that goes easy from day to night is polo shirts, I have a lot of them,” the 34-year-old Toronto-native says. “You can wear them with jeans and then easily go from day to a dinner — obviously not to a formal dinner.”
Manuel gives a conditional thumbs-up to dark tones in summer, but only with warm weather — appropriate materials such as linen, and then strictly when offset by a lighter colour in the rest of the ensemble (think dark on top, light on the bottom, or vice versa).
“I think the other thing that men in general struggle with when they go out in the evenings is they don’t invest in a lightweight summer suit,” Manuel says.
The America’s Next Top Model and Style Her Famous personality — Manuel is extremely busy, if you hadn’t guessed — says that khaki suits are particularly versatile as they typically don’t go out of style and because khaki blazers can easily be paired with jeans for a more casual look.
But of course, a list of style pointers from Jay Manuel wouldn’t be complete without a mention of his fashion pet peeve.
“I’m sick of the Hawaiian shirts,” he scowls.
Right, that sartorial sore point again.