With summer officially underway (my marker is always the 4th of July), let’s switch gears and talk about men’s style, the warm-weather edition. And speaking of the 4th, could there be a more democratic or American look than the ubiquitous polo shirt or perfect white tee?
As a child of the ’80s, I tend to worship at the altar of the boys of summer, the preppy edition. In high school, we referred to a somewhat rumpled Waspy cuteness as “sloppy prep,” not to be confused with the full-on prep of, say, an Alex P. Keaton of “Family Ties.” I’m talking more about a JFK Jr, Volvo-wagon kind of vibe. You know — ripped khaki shorts, a golden tan, and a ubiquitous summer top like a classic polo and a pair of LL Bean bluchers or Sperry boat shoes or my beloved Stan Smiths. And as trends go, the whole preppy ’80s vibe meets ’70s tennis team is going beyond the country club this summer and hitting the streets. And though there are modern iterations, leave it to the laid-back polo to keep this classic look alive.
You can’t go wrong with a pique polo. It is the ultimate summer staple and can take you from here to there and back again. It’s neat, it’s clean, it’s easy. I know there are variations with a pocket front, a jersey material, etc. But I’m shouting out the quintessential waffle-like version because that’s the one that summons all my teenage crush moments. The Fred Perry version is great, but it doesn’t invoke the under-the-boardwalk/skee ball/madras shorts moments of my summers spent at the shore on the East Coast.
A good polo is not just for finance dudes or fraternity brothers
Plus, beyond the beach, it’s a great alternative to a button-down on warm days and more dressed up than a simple t-shirt. Don’t be swayed by its uppity reputation. A good polo is not just for finance dudes or fraternity brothers. A good polo is great in its versatility.
For preppy purists, you can’t go wrong with a classic pique polo from the polo king, Ralph Lauren. And if you’re a real OG, the Lacoste polo is the polo to beat. I love it in light colors like powder blue, mint, pink, or lavender. And having heather grey, black, and white versions on hand will round out your weathered wardrobe.
I love this little skull-and-oar-bones moment from nouvelle prepster brand Rowing Blazers for a bit of prep with a punk edge (they have so many great ones it’s hard to choose). And you can’t ignore the Comme des Garcons Play take on the throw-on and go. It gives you a bit of rebellious charm but is also stylish as all get out. Also, worth a look if you like to wear your heart on your chest, these staples from French brand Ami.
If you are a no-logo kind of minimalist man, I love Buck Mason’s updated take on essentials. You can’t go wrong with this sueded cotton polo. Or, for that matter, this one from J. Crew in Egyptian cotton to keep you cool.
I could wax poetic for hours about how much I love a man in a white tee and jeans
This brings me to my next boys-of-summer staple: the humble white tee. I could wax poetic for hours about how much I love a man in a white tee and jeans. There is no better look. I love the rebellious history of the white tee — from James Dean to Marlon Brando to Brad Pitt; it’s the blank canvas your big personality needs. I know that seeking the perfect white tee is a big deal. As for the polo archetypes above, the white tee is impressive because it’s blank. Be classic. Be minimal. Be James Dean meets Tyler Durden. Or better yet, just be you.
According to an informal survey amongst men I know (aka my husband), what makes a summer white tee perfect is having a lived-in but not sloppy look; it needs to fit like it was made for you and fall just right when it blows in the wind. Think second skin but not tight. It needs to look effortless, just like a perfect day at the beach. Pocket or no pocket? That’s on you. Oh, and PS: this is a V-neck-free zone. I’m only here for a crew neck.
I love a man in a James Perse tee. Versatile. Somehow sexy. And always stylish. A guy who wears James Perse is a lover of good basics with a bit of California cool.
Mack Weldon is on my radar lately, and I love their fresh take on basics. They make great essentials (I love their waffle Henley), and their Pima cotton white tees have a major following.
I don’t leave home without an Alex Mill jumpsuit, and their very American-cool aesthetic is so up my alley. Their approach to casual menswear is sans tricks, and their tee game is solid. Incidentally, the founder is the son of Mickey Drexler, he of Gap and J.Crew fame.
For a bit of eco vibes, I’m a fan of Jungmaven’s cotton hemp blend tees. I discovered them a few summers ago at a fabulous boutique in Cape May and have a bunch of their women’s tees and tanks, and the men’s tees are equally as great. I love the washed white one here because it has that easy, breezy well-washed vibe.
My man loves this version of the white tee from Levi’s. I think it’s very Brando and American in the best of ways. He also digs a good Fruit of the Loom tee. If you love a bit more of a heavyweight tee, you can’t go wrong, and the price is perfect.
An American classic that will never, ever go out of style
Behold the Gap Pocket tee. 9 bucks. One and done. Or buy a few for that price. An American classic that will never, ever go out of style.
Cool dudes all over New York wear bits and bobs from local surf brand, Saturdays NYC. If the line outside their store on Crosby Street in Soho is any indicator, their stuff is worth the wait. I dig this Saturdays NYC “Brandon” Pima t-shirt tee. Straightforward and oh so soft.
So with summer in full, sultry swing, keep the classics at hand and in your drawer. Throwing on something simple and breezy is one of the joys of the season. Let’s hear it for the boys.