Seemingly against all odds, it looks like the United States will reopen by July 4th. Once again, we’ll be able to gather in restaurants, go to parties, and perhaps even return to the office. In the last year, getting dressed has been so unsatisfying if you’re only putting on clothes for a few hours.
But soon, millions of Americans will return to public life. For the clothing obsessed, this means the opportunity to truly get dressed again. If you yearn for the feeling of wearing real clothes, but have settled into a routine of putting on sweatpants and three-day-old t-shirts, here’s a guide on how to dress for the spaces and occasions that have disappeared from our lives in the last year. From the formal to casual, this guide covers everything from how to dress for fine dining restaurants to pool parties.
Settings: Dinner and drinks at upscale establishments, seated performances in the evening, and any time you want to dress up
There are only a handful of restaurants left in the United States that require patrons to wear a coat-and-tie. Even in New York City, arguably the largest fine dining scene in the country, there are fewer than ten such places. Even among those establishments, the rules are rarely enforced. But if you’re going somewhere fancy for the evening — say, to a ticketed show, an upscale restaurant, or a fancy bar — it still feels nice to dress up. For most men, there are so few opportunities anymore to wear a suit for celebratory reasons. Why not take advantage of the occasion?
A wool-mohair suit is perfect for this kind of thing. Mohair is a crisp, dry fiber with a slight sheen. It catches the light in all the right ways and looks tremendous at night, especially under artificial light in dimly lit bars and restaurants. When you close your eyes and image restaurant scenes in the 1960s or ‘80s, you often think of mohair suits even if you don’t know the term. Plus, mohair fabrics are typically made with an open weave. They’re favored in the summertime because of how well they deal with the heat and humidity. I also like them for crowded indoor events for this reason. Along with being the perfect restaurant or bar suit, it’s great for things such as art shows, film screenings, after parties, or any time you want to dress up for an indoor event.
Settings: Upscale restaurants and bars, art shows, museums, film screenings, seated events, day trips in the city, shopping downtown, and any time you want to dress up
If a suit feels too formal, you can always dress things down with a sport coat. By now, most Put This On readers will be familiar with the language of tailored clothing. Sport coats are inherently more casual than suits, and can be made to look more casual still if they’re
For a fun afternoon outfit, try dialing back all the colors. You can wear a tan checked sport coat instead of your usual navy, ivory trousers instead of grey, and tan shoes instead of dark brown. In this way, the colors in your outfit reflect the season (spring/summer) and time of day (afternoon). It will also look more interesting than your usual grey-and-navy combinations.
No Man Walks Alone has two great options right now:
The tan gun club would do well in the early spring months, when you want some of the echos of autumnal tweed, but rendered in a fabric that’s lighter and more comfortable to wear. The Fox Air sport coat, on the other hand, would be better in the summertime when you’ll appreciate the breathability of that open-weave wool. Both can be worn with these
Settings: Going to the city with expectations to get dinner or drinks in the evening, attending seated events, a night on the town, hotel bars, rooftop bars, fancy parties, and any time you want to dress up for the evening
Since the suit was born in London, we get our language of classic men’s dress from Britain. Historically, British men of a certain social class had a wardrobe that was divided between town and country. When relaxing or hunting in the countryside, they sported tweeds, brogues, and tattersall shirts. When doing business in the city, they wore dark worsted suits, black oxfords, and white shirts. This is where we get the phrase, “no brown in town” (town meaning London). These items used to be so firmly planted in their social environments, they never crossed that dividing line.
No one really follows these rules anymore, but this history casts a long shadow on how we interpret colors, patterns, and textures. This is why smooth, black calf leather is considered more formal than brown pebble grain. Or why navy sport coats look smarter than brown tweeds. When putting together a tailored outfit, an understanding of this history can help you create coherent combinations and achieve different effects.
For example, when going out in the evening in a sport coat, it can be nice to wear something more “citified.” Evening events often feel a little more formal than their afternoon counterparts, so it can good to wear something that feels a little more refined.
Settings: Museums, art galleries, film screenings, first dates, shopping, seated performances, and eating or drinking at upscale, but casual establishments
A step down further on the formality spectrum is what some call “smart casual.” This look often gets expressed in very conservative ways — a light blue oxford cloth shirt or long-sleeved polo paired with linen or tropical wool trousers. Shoes are usually classic, such as loafers or derbies. To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with this outfit, but it often feels a little too close to business casual to be inspiring. To help elevate things, try layering a shirt jacket or a safari jacket. In the last five years, clothiers such as
You can push things further by wearing slightly more directional pieces without losing the refinement many people find appealing in “dressy” clothes. For example,
For something a little more adventurous, try a pair of drapey, wide-legged trousers.
Settings: Outdoor performances, festivals, dive bars, spectator sports, picnics in the park, flea markets, zoos, aquariums, and lazy days when you don’t want to worry about your clothes
“Smart casual” can be great when you want a more casual alternative to sport coats. But dressy casualwear often requires some maintenance, such as ironing and dry cleaning. Depending on your activities for the day, you may also not want to have to worry about dirty hands, grass stains, or errant food drippings. For fuss-free clothes you can wear and feel good about, workwear makes for a great casual uniform. These better-with-age clothes are rugged, durable, geographically neutral, and play well into most people’s lifestyles. You can wear these for outdoor festivals, picnics in the park, or spectator sports. Since workwear jackets often have ample pocket space, they’re also good for rummaging through flea markets (a great summertime activity).
There are a few staples that go into this uniform. It helps to have
There are also some unique outerwear options this season.
Settings: Beach towns, pool parties, BBQs, outdoorsy activities, hanging out in the neighborhood on hot days, and any time you just want to relax
Finally, we have shorts. There’s no topic in the world of men’s style more controversial than whether men should be allowed to show skin below the waistline. Shorts are considered a no-no because they reveal men’s gams; sandals are frowned upon because they show toes. Even today, people still debate whether it’s OK for a man to not wear socks. I think these things are contextual. If you’re going to a pool party, BBQ, or hanging out at a beach town, I can’t think of anything better than a pair of shorts. Even on sweltering hot days, everything else seems second-best. Suits and sport coats are too formal, smart casual risks getting stained, and heavy workwear can feel stifling.
The good news is that shorts can be worn well. Avoid things that look like slim chinos that have been carefully hemmed at the knee. When shorts look too slim, long, or otherwise perfectly tailored, the outfit ends up looking too uptight. Instead, if you’re going to wear shorts, lean into the look. Shorts often do better when they end mid-thigh, which tends to be somewhere between a five- and seven-inch inseam (inclusive) for most men.
There are countless options for good shorts.
Alternatively, you can throw this look in different directions.