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The essential summer shirts

The essential summer shirts

As the heatwave returns to inspire more “Hotter than Ibiza!” headlines, it’s time your wardrobe got a Mediterranean-style rejig, too. You can’t wear a vest and shorts every day just because it’s as hot as it was on your holiday. But what you can – and should – wear is a shirt designed to beat the heat. Meet the summer shirt, your wardrobe’s perfect blend of form and function.

“The two main things to focus on are the fabric and the fit,” says Thread stylist Toby Standing. Simply put, skin tight options are a no-no. “The whole point of a summer shirt is to be light, breathable and to not feel restrictive. You’ve got to go a little looser to get a layer of air between your body and the shirt.”

That doesn’t mean one size larger in your standard Oxford. If the material’s thick you’ll end up overheating, so swap things like flannel and denim for chambray or linen. Unnatural fabrics are equally good, if you pick the right ones. “Man-made fabrics get a bad name because of polyester,” says Toby, “but tencel, lyocell and viscose are actually made from wood pulp and are extremely breathable.“ Once you’ve nailed fit and fabric, it’s time to pick a design. These four will see you right all summer.


Photographed: All Saints ‘Fuyugi’ Hawaiian shirt (£85)MVP Cavell slim jeans (£36)River Island tortoiseshell sunglasses (£14); New Balance trainers (£149 for similar)

Popularised in Honolulu in the 1950s, the vibrant designs and thin fabric of the Aloha shirt make it ideal for hot climates. “Viscose was the original and still traditional fabric, because it’s really lightweight and can almost feel like silk,” says Toby.

Wearing a shirt this punchy is all about balance. “The florals here are washed out and set against a darker blue background," says Toby. "It’s a more subdued tropical print – an easy entry-level shirt. Just go simple on the rest of your outfit.” A classic pair of jeans or cotton shorts keeps the focus on the shirt, which you could also leave open over a tee.


Photographed: Red Herring striped shirt (£12.60)Fred Perry navy trousers (£90)Monokel Barstol sunglasses (£89)

An eye-catching look that’s easy to pull off, stripes add interest without feeling too daring. Pastel tones look great in summer sunshine and because they’re washed out, they make less of an impact. “Generally stripes always involve white, which will go with anything anyway,” says Toby.

Short-sleeve styles offer increased breathability but be sure to style it right. “Tucked in can be restrictive and look stuffy,” says Toby. “Always keep them untucked.”


Photographed: Officine Generale Japanese selvedge chambray shirt (£169)Sunspel purple t-shirt (£65)MVP Lukin chino shorts (£24)Sun Buddies Cam’ron yellow sunglasses (£115)TOMs deconstructed Alpargata blue espadrilles (£50)

Summer needn’t mean abandoning long sleeves completely. Chambray is a classic, breathable alternative to denim, with its washed out tone pairing perfectly with pastels and deeper neutrals.

“Keep it open over a coloured tee,” says Toby. “Contrast is important and ensures you don’t become a block of light blue. It works well with navy – as it complements whilst adding contrast – and is great with chinos and Derbies if you’re going for smart-casual.”


Photographed: Orlebar Brown pink linen tailored-fit shirt (£175)Fred Perry classic stone twill chinos (£90)MVP canvas plimsolls (£26)Monokel tortoiseshell Robotnik sunglasses (£95)

Designed for summer, linen is from natural flax fibres, which the ancient Egyptians valued so highly they were used as currency. Slip a linen shirt on in summer and you'll understand why; the fabric's full of tiny air holes which offer great aeration, so you stay cooler for longer. “Summer allows you to be more playful, so long-sleeve shirts work well in paler, washed out colours,” says Toby.

Linen’s only downside is the speed at which it creases. “It’s just part of the fabric,” says Toby. “Creases don’t embed much with natural fabrics, so they’re easy to iron out, but it also means they return easily.” We say embrace the sun-kissed, lightly rumpled look. It gives your look character.


Words: Danielle de Wolfe