Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Perhaps less has been written on the topic of summer evening dress than on any other subject connected to menswear. This may be because until recently the English have had no summer (I believe it was Byron who wrote that winter in England ends in July and begins in August) but whatever the reason we are for the most part left to adapt cool weather customs to the heat on our own.
Summer of course is the time for lighter colors, and that is something that can be applied to evening with some success as well. When men still dressed for dinner, they wore cream or white jackets in the Caribbean and other colonies, and though the opportunities for semi-formal summer dress are relatively rare, one option as I wrote in May is the white or off-white double breasted jacket in linen, gabardine or silk depending on the climate in which it will be worn. The traditional summer semi-formal jacket does not have silk lapels and by substituting peak for shawl a man has himself a coat that can be dressed up with a bow tie, pleated shirt and dinner trousers or dressed down with less formal accessories.
That line of reasoning leads one inevitably into the topic of odd jackets for evening, and though I am generally against them for fall and winter lighter color odd jackets have a place in the heat. Properly accessorized, light blue or tan solids or semi-solids with silk or mohair in the weave have much the same flavor as a cream dinner jacket, and those colors were once seen in shawl collared versions as well. The combination of a light jacket and dark trousers is to my eye a better look for evening than a matching jacket and trousers in any of those same lighter colors.
Now I will say that none of this precludes the same dark lounge suits and dinner jackets that are worn the rest of the year, in lighter cloth to suit the temperature. In fact, the more densely urban the environment, the better those dark colors look. Just as the white dinner jacket was worn at the sea shore or for open air events, todays' lighter color odd jackets are more appropriate in the Hamptons than Manhattan.