Classic men’s summer fashion: how to look stylish on holiday (and why fabrics and fit are key)

Give your wardrobe a boost by sporting some classic men’s clothing with a twist, whether it be shorts, shirts or shoes. By style blogger Grey Fox

Sartorial hazards lurk around every corner when it comes to holiday wear. In any holiday spot, the British male (indeed, any northern European male) can be easily spotted.

He’ll be wearing sensible nylon walking shoes, cargo trousers in an easy-wash fabric (he only has to take one pair on holiday – great!) and hi-tech polo shirt. Nothing will fit properly (except the shoes).

Alternatively he’ll be in flip-flops, cropped trousers and football shirt.

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The southern European knows how to dress – his mama told him how

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Around him are the Italians, Spanish and (to an extent) the French looking cool in tailored linen jackets and trousers, neatly-pressed shirts and exquisite shoes.

Sitting in a café with an espresso, they look well-dressed and elegant, even in 35-degree heat. The difference is that, in general, the southern European knows how to dress – his mama told him how. The British and northern European male doesn’t – his mum didn’t.

The last thing I want to do is be prescriptive, but I want to give a few pointers to help you, an older man, look good on holiday. Were you watching The Trip in Italy? If Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon can do it, so can you.

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Left to right: striped shirt by Nigel Hall; Berwick jacket by Oliver Spencer; Mancora Panama hat by Monsieur London; Harris Tweed dispatch bag by Marks & Spencer; red polo shirt by John Lewis

Get clothes that fit!

Comfort doesn’t rely on clothes which are oversized and roomy. This is the most common sartorial mistake and leaves many men looking as if their mum has just bought them a new school uniform expecting them to grow into it over the next few months.

Fit must always be the first consideration when buying clothes. Ensure that a jacket fits well across the shoulders and isn’t too long in the arm or body. Trousers and shorts look best if they are reasonably slim-fitting and of the correct length. Make sure they fit around your backside. Ladies like a neat bottom, not one that looks as though it’s wrapped in a huge bin-bag.

There are alterations tailors in every town: use them to get things to fit.

Forget about miracle modern fabrics

You know the ones, they claim to defeat sweat and stop you getting sunburned. Few elegant clothes are made in hi-tech materials; they are for practical use; camping or cycling holidays only. Clothes that look good are made from natural cloths. The most comfortable fabrics for casual town or country wear are natural – cotton, lightweight merino wool, linen or silk – or mixtures of these.

Shorts can be a worry for the older man

Buy those that are tailored and come to just above the knee; not too baggy, short, long or sporty. Avoid cropped-trousers – they’re not elegant.

Shoes: flip-flops are for poolside only 

Sandals and socks rarely succeed together sartorially. Anything from brogues (I prefer these with socks) through to loafers, deck shoes, Converse and well-made sandals (all of which work with or without socks) are suitable, depending on temperature and walking conditions.

To retain a degree of sophistication, I suggest you leave trainers for sport and only use flip-flops by the pool. If you feel you have horrible feet, cover them up.

Embrace a colour pop

Now we’re older we can show our confidence by experimenting a bit with colour. The days of raising eyebrows at pink socks are long gone, so show some colour in chinos, socks, jackets, knitwear.

Calm pale yellows, pinks, bright blues and reds are common. But be careful; try to avoid a riot of clashing slabs of colour. I go for muted shades accented with the odd splash of colour.

Style is in the details

How often do you find yourself admiring a small detail of someone’s wardrobe – a watch, belt, tie or cufflinks? You can really lift a look with, say, a vintage watch on a bright nylon strap, a silk pocket square or bright pair of socks. Don’t overdo gold chains and bangles, unless you’re a mobster on holiday.

The essential holiday wardrobe

Finally, here’s a minimum holiday list for the sartorially inclined who are going to a warm destination.

  • Jacket (unstructured linen, seersucker, cotton or very light flannel)
  • Shirts (long- and short-sleeved), linen and cotton, formal and polo
  • Trousers, cotton or linen chinos
  • Tie, pocket square, socks, hat (folding Panama), a good belt
  • Lightweight jumper (cotton or linen mix, fine merino wool)
  • Summer mac
  • Shoes x2 (brogues, loafers, Converse, something for pool/gym)
  • Shoulder bag (to carry camera, money, phone, iPad etc each day).
  • Swimming gear (no Speedos!)

And remember, if it doesn’t fit, don’t buy it.

Enjoy your holiday: sea, sun, sand and sartorialism.

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