A Stylist’s Guide to Men’s Summer Essentials

June 28, 2024

Looking for a no-BS guide to men’s summer essentials? You’ve come to the right place. 

Unlike your run-of-the-mill influencer who’s just trying to sell you on affiliate products, we’re actual stylists. We’ve worked one-on-one with male clients for years so we know what guys are looking for and their style struggles. 

(And no, we don’t work off commission, so we always deliver our 100% honest opinion).

We ensure that you’re buying the right items and know how to put them together, no matter the occasion. That’s why we created this men’s summer style guide.

If you want to learn how to dress for summer without:

  • Overheating and sweating profusely
  • Looking like you’re trying too hard
  • Any stress

…then keep reading.

Why Is It So Hard to Dress for Summer?

Because men’s summer clothes just aren’t as cool as winter styles. 

We said we were going to be honest, remember?

The fact is, it’s easy to look good when it’s cold out. You can play with more layers and all those great textures offered by knits and sweaters. You can change up your look with boots and different types of pants. 

But in the summer, it’s too damn hot to do any of that. 

So what do you do? Throw in the towel? Not an option.

Let’s face it: no matter where you live, summers just keep getting hotter and hotter. You need to find a way to look presentable without getting sunstroke. Here’s how.

2 Stylist Secrets for Looking Polished this Summer

Two ways that you can achieve a men’s summer wardrobe that’s comfortable and stylish are:

  • Lightening up your color palette. 
  • Opting for looser clothes. 

Let’s dive into each of these so you can see what we mean.

1. Lighten Up with Summer Colors for Men

One of the easiest ways to create effortless summer outfits is to lighten up your color choices. Why? 

  • For one, it’s practical.
    Lighter colors absorb less heat than dark hues like black, so you’ll feel cooler. 
  • For another, these lighter tones fit the aesthetics of the season.
    When you think of spring and summer, you think of blue skies, bright sun, and blossoming colors in nature. It’s a time of experimentation and relaxation. That goes for how people dress, too.

So when it’s hot out, reach for colors like white, heather grey, and light blue. You can even throw bold patterns into the mix to show off your fun side.

But how do you do all this without looking like a mess? By following Next Level Wardrobe’s Hierarchy of Color.

This hierarchy emphasizes highly versatile colors. That’s why the biggest part of the pyramid (the foundation of your wardrobe) focuses on neutrals. Black, white, navy, and grey go with everything and fit all dress codes. 

However, as we mentioned, during warm months, some of those darker colors may be too harsh. That’s where you lean into tonal colors and prints. Tonal colors are close neighbors of core colors. They’re tones, tints, and textures of neutral colors, like beige, olive green, and light blue.

By following this ratio, you’ll keep your men’s summer essentials for guys balanced and focused. 

2. Loosen Up

We’ve covered summer colors for men, so now let’s talk fit.

There’s nothing worse than that tacky, suffocating feeling you get from wearing tight clothes when it’s hot outside. You’re uncomfortable and you’re likely showing sweat stains galore. 

The solution is simple: go for looser-fitting pieces. 

But just like with color, there’s some nuance here. We’re not saying to throw on T-shirts that are three sizes too big and baggy cargo shorts. 

(In fact, if you have cargo shorts in your closet, get up right now and throw them out. Trust us, your wardrobe just got a whole lot better.)

What we do recommend, is opting for relaxed silhouettes. Take a look at Ryan Reynolds in the photo above, for example. His blue short-sleeve button-down shirt isn’t form-fitting, but it’s not falling off his body. That’s the sort of fit to aim for.

Same with bottoms. Try straight or slim-straight cuts instead of skinny or true slim-cut. These will still complement your build while allowing for more airflow.

Feeling good about where to start with your summer wardrobe, fellas? Great. Now let’s move on to our list of men’s summer essentials.

5 Menswear Summer Essentials You Actually Need

As with any season, there are essentials that every guy needs in his wardrobe. The five essentials guys need for summer are:

  1. Tees
  2. Layering Pieces
  3. Sportcoats
  4. Loafers
  5. Sneakers

These men’s summer essentials will ensure you’re creating versatility with your wardrobe (creating more summer outfits, with less stuff in your closet), investing in a timeless style, and loving what you’re wearing.

The best part is that you can wear most of these pieces year-round! Yes, you read that right.

Read on for why these five items make our list and what products we recommend.

1. Breathable Tees

Product by The Men’s Store at Bloomingdales, shop here.

We’re willing to bet that if you’re reading this, you have a T-shirt in your closet if not several. Good! Tees are a style essential for just about everyone. They’re a basic building block that you can use in millions of outfits. 

Since they’re such a go-to, it’s easy for guys to just buy a pack of Tees from Amazon or Walmart and call it a day. 

We ask you to graduate from that fruit of the loom value pack to something more high-quality.

Especially for summer, you want to make sure you’re buying shirts that are breathable, built to last, and comfortable. That’s why we recommend going for a Supima Cotton Tee, like this one from Bloomingdale’s. 

Get these in core colors like navy blue and white. Then go for a tonal color like the robin’s egg blue or the beige.

2. Lightweight Layers

Product by Rodd & Gunn, shop here.

At the start, we talked about how you can’t get away with layering as much in the summer. But, there still may come a time when you need something over your short sleeves and Tees. 

For example, your work might blast the AC a little too forcefully, turning your workstation into the North Pole. Or, you may be among the lucky ones who live in a climate where the temperature drops significantly at nightfall. 

For those moments, you’ll need a lightweight layer made of one or two of our favorite summerweight fabrics: cotton and linen.

This tan bomber from Rodd & Gunn is a perfect option. The color plays into a warm-weather palette, and the materials are breezy. 

3. Summery Sports Coats

Product by Eleventy, shop here.

Summertime isn’t always just barbecues and beach trips. Whether you work in a formal office or have upscale events to RSVP to, you’ll need a good sports coat. 

If you regularly attend formal events, you probably have sports coats and jackets in black and navy. You might even have a grey or brown suit to mix things up. 

But if you haven’t already, this is the time to buy into something more summery. Shades of light blue like this denim-toned piece from Eleventy fit the bill. It’s got personality while still being highly versatile. 

You can wear this Cotton Pique sports coat with jeans, trousers, or dress pants.

4. Laidback Loafers

Product by To Boot New York, shop here.

Loafers have always been the must-have summer shoe, but they’ve been having even more of a renaissance lately. While we’re not big on trends, the positive side of this is that you have way more options to choose from.

We recommend staying classic to maximize your loafer’s wearability and versatility. You already know what we’re going to say: stick to tonal colors and neutrals. 

These taupe penny loafers from To Boot New York are easy to wear with anything in your summer wardrobe. 

Something we love about loafers is that they’re a great opportunity to play with textures and finishing touches. You could opt for a pair with a tassel, or a metal buckle detail. Or you can experiment with leather, suede, or even woven styles.

Have fun picking out your perfect pair of loafers, slide them on, and enjoy the ease of this summer shoe.

5. Sneakers

Product by Boss, shop here.

Last but never least, we’re rounding out our list of the best men’s summer essentials with another year-round style. The white sneaker.

A solid pair of white sneakers never goes out of style. Since they’re white, they go with everything, and the light bright color fits summer perfectly. 

If you don’t already have a pair (or you could use an upgrade), give these lace-ups from Boss a spin. These low-profile trainers look right at home with shorts or trousers. So don’t hold back on wearing them to your heart’s content this season. 

You’ve got the basics of men’s summer style locked and loaded. Now, let’s get into how to dress for summer with some outfit inspo.

Men’s Summer Outfit Inspiration for Every Dress Code and Occasion 

From styling men over the years, we know that the hardest part of understanding style is actually putting outfits together. And, knowing what to wear for different occasions. So, we’ve broken things down into six outfits you can easily recreate regardless of where you’re going.

1. Casual Dress Code

Do you work in a no-dress code office or just want something smart yet comfy for off-the-clock days? Then this is your look. Combine a soft-knit tee with chinos or tech trousers and finish it with white sneakers to brighten your ensemble. 

The secret to this look’s success is in the details. Sure, style influencer Brock McGoff is following our other recommendations: he’s opted for looser-fitting pieces and a lighter color palette.

But notice that he also tucks in his shirt. 

Tucking in your shirt is the quickest way to go from shlubby to polished and it doesn’t take extra time or money. It instantly defines your build and shows that you care how you present yourself. 

2. Business Casual Dress Code

Of course, not all of us work from home or have lax work dress policies. If your office follows business casual, try something like this cool combo from Chris Kabeya.

On the surface it’s pretty simple: pair a polo with pants and sneakers. But let’s take a closer look.

For one, the polo isn’t your standard frat-boy fare. What makes this polo business casual is the color, fabric, and fit. The cream color is more mature than out-of-date pastels and the fabric is a luxurious knit. Finally, the fit is just right: not too tight, not oversized.

For another, the color palette is on point. If Chris had combined his polo with black pants, the look might have come off as too harsh. Instead, he’s going with tonal colors. 

Matching his cream polo with cinnamon pants, and tying that into the suede of his shoes makes this an effortless A+.

3. Formal Dress Code

Power Casual not cutting it? Then it’s time to settle into a formal dress code.

The way to make a suit go from stuffy to summer-ready is, again, through fit, color, and fabric. 

For fit, go for wider pants. No need to get bell bottoms, just something like what designer Farid Sadrudin is sporting above. The relaxed fit of his pants also goes well with the longer look of his coat. Just by going for a lightly oversized silhouette, he’s already made his outfit feel more updated.

Next up: the colors. The beautiful stone blue of his blazer is perfect for summer and much more approachable than a conventional black suit.

Lastly, let’s touch on fabrics. Fabrics are one of the best ways to make your outfit feel more summer-appropriate. This is the time for lightweight, breathable textiles like cotton, linen, chambray, and silk. These won’t weigh you down like cheap polyester or heavy wool.

4. Day to Night

The best thing about summers? All the fun that comes after work. Once you’ve turned off your Slack notifications, it’s time for barbecues, outdoor concerts, and patio dinners. 

But no one wants to do a full outfit change after work.

That’s where the perfect day-to-night outfit comes in handy.

Barron Cuadro of the Effortless Gent nails this look with a Cuban collar shirt with classic vertical stripes. He then leans into more tonal colors with olive green pants and taupe loafers. 

All of his items are in the same color family and feel perfectly summer-coded. 

Recreate this look with a loose-fitting short-sleeve button-down and straight-fit chinos or pants. 

For your shirt, don’t be afraid to try out a different texture or pattern than you’d usually reach for. Or you can mix things up with something as subtle as shirts with pockets at the torso. 

Grab a pair of neutral loafers, and feel free to accessorize with your favorite watch.

5. Weekends

Okay, the actual best thing about summer: is the weekends. You actually turned off your Slack and slammed your laptop closed until Monday.

This is the time for your shorts to shine. Shorts are the men’s summer essentials. (Just not the cargo ones. And no jorts either.)

Here, we recommend letting your legs out with a pair of chino or trouser-fabric shorts. A good cotton pair will never let you down. However, for those who like to venture into the great outdoors, a tech fabric is just fine as well.

So how do you make shorts look put-together

Try a Monochromatic fit like what Joe Ottaway did above. The style consultant wears shades of blue from head to toe, starting with his chambray long-sleeve and ending with his navy espadrilles.

Whenever you’re unsure of what to wear this summer, pick one color and wear it from head to toe. You can keep it classic with the exact same hue or go advanced with different shades and textures.

6. Formal Event in Summer 

What would a summer be without a formal event or two? 

Whether you’re attending a wedding or gala, you’ll likely need a few formal summer essentials for guys.

As with formal eventwear for any season, we don’t suggest overbuying in this category. Unless you have a lot of formal engagements, only invest in one or two seasonal suits. 

For summer, we’re taking inspiration from Brian Sacawa of He Spoke Style. His classic cream linen suit is a go-to. He plays with other summer tonal colors by adding a blue poplin shirt, a knit navy tie, and brown loafers.

Recreate this ensemble for your next formal event and you’re sure to score all the style points.

The Finishing Touches

Part of our philosophy is that great style extends beyond the clothes you wear. It also includes how you present the rest of yourself. Everything from your haircut to your clothes to your skincare is all part of your personal brand.

That’s why you shouldn’t forget the details. Like making sure you wear sunscreen every day, even if you’re not going outside. Or bring a hat to give your face some extra shade. 

And please, if you’re going to have your toes out this summer, invest in a pedicure. 

You don’t have to add polish if you don’t want to. Just get a professional to clip those nails and take care of any calluses or rough heels. You want to put your best foot forward, don’t you? 

While you’re at it, why not get a manicure as well? There’s nothing wrong with having clean, well-kept nails, especially if you’re going to be shaking hands.

Want expert help maintaining your personal brand or having great style? Apply for Next Level Wardrobe’s Men’s Styling Services

Build your personal brand with timeless style essentials

Apply for Next Level Wardrobe’s Men’s Styling Services. We’ll clean out your closet, design a personalized shopping plan, set you up with all the men’s summer essentials you need, and connect you with services for any finishing touches.

About the Author - Cassandra Sethi
About the Author - Cassandra Sethi

Personal Stylist & Image Consultant

Cassandra Sethi is a Personal Stylist and Founder of Next Level Wardrobe, a luxury Personal Styling and Shopping Service that helps successful professionals of all ages and sizes. After working in the fashion industry for over 25 years, she used her expert knowledge to create a proprietary styling system called ‘The Next Level Wardrobe Style System' which guarantees clients more outfits with less items in their closet. NLW has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Tamron Hall Show, NY Mag, Huffington Post and more.

*Disclosure: Next Level Wardrobe only recommends products that we’d suggest to our clients or personally wear ourselves. All opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, Next Level Wardrobe may earn a small commission. Read the full privacy policy here.

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Cassandra Sethi

is a NYC Personal Stylist and Image Consultant. She is the Founder of Next Level Wardrobe and 'The NLW Style System' that guarantees clients more outfits with less items.

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