How to wear shorts at work
What you should know before wearing shorts to the office
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The temperatures have spiked, the outside is pulling you towards it, and you’re cooped up in an office. We feel your pain. To bring up another unpleasant truth, your commute is toastier than you (and most humans) are comfortable with, and your office is relentlessly blasted with AC. It’s a confusing time to get dressed, and it often results in looking like you either took a quick detour through the tropics or are in the midst of an icy apocalypse. The good news is there are clever ways to work around summer’s temperature fluctuations and arrive at your 9 am meeting looking seasonally appropriate, smart, and relatively sweat-free. Here’s how it’s done.
Layering isn’t limited to the cold-weather months. "Sticking with light fabrics and looser shapes means you can continue layering even when it's hot,” says Thread stylist Freddie Kemp. “It can be as simple as styling a khaki popover shirt over a pale, summery t-shirt, or a blazer over a polo shirt." Layering also helps brace you for the aforementioned temperature fluctuations and enables you to dial things up or down depending on your schedule. If you have an important presentation in the morning, for instance, throw on a suit jacket over your t-shirt – then remove it for a more smart-casual look during the afternoon.
“Colour choice is key during the warm-weather months, and there are seasonal shades you should be looking for,” Freddie says. “Light colours and pastels are a great place to start, as they feel summery and pair well with your core work-wear neutrals.” But selecting light colours pays off for another reason too. Dark shades tend to absorb more rays, so stick to lighter hues if you want to keep the heat at bay on your commute into work. An ivory suit or pair of white trousers not only look fresh, but they’ll also feel much cooler in the sun.
When it comes to bright colours, incorporate them in moderation. “Vibrant colours like purple, yellow, and orange can look smart in the office when styled thoughtfully,” Freddie says. Offset them with neutrals and avoid wearing more than one eye-catching shade per look, unless you want them to steal the attention away from your killer PowerPoint.
The time for wool, tweeds, and cashmere is past us, and for good reason. These fabrics lack breathability, they’re heavy, and they fail to evoke an airy summer feel. What to reach for instead? Linens, cottons, and seersucker. These lightweight fabrics will make heat waves more bearable, especially if you’re someone who wears a suit to work every day.
If that’s the case, you’ll want to avoid jackets that are fully lined – even a lined linen suit can be sweaty. Instead, invest in an unstructured suit (one designed with minimal canvas and lining). They feel considerably lighter and are now deemed appropriate in most formal settings. As are looser trousers, which will be a welcome choice come peak summer when wearing anything tight-fitting is unfathomable.
If you have your heart set on wearing shorts all summer (and we don’t blame you), know that there are easy ways to differentiate them from your off-duty look. “Offices tend to be a lot more casual these days, but that doesn’t mean you should put on the same shorts you wear on the weekends,” Freddie says. “Look for smarter styles in lighter fabrics and less structured cuts.” You can also easily dress up a short-sleeved shirt, like your favourite patterned camp collar, with a pair of tapered chinos and handsome driving shoes.
If you’re not keen on wearing heavy brogues all season, opt for trainers, like a pair of low-top Veja or Vans. They’ve been given the greenlight in most offices, and they look particularly good with a linen suit or a blazer over a t-shirt. If trainers are still too casual for your office dress code, consider a moccasin or woven slip-on instead. They’re unstuffy, lightweight, and comfortable, while still feeling put-together. Plus they’ll guide you from work to happy hour in style. Because whether you’re working hard or playing hard, your work-wear should keep you looking and feeling cool.
Words: Allison Pavlick
Photography: Jamie Stoker
Styling: Freddie Kemp
Styling assistant: Toby Standing
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