You’ve got the swimming shorts and T-shirts covered – now it’s time to address that tricky problem of going formal in summer
For the past 400 years or so, males of the species smoked, wore hats, and settled themselves in pubs and clubs to talk about how cool it is to be running the world. Until around 1959 this was the order of things, punctuated only by the odd war. Neither, if the truth be known, will be sorely missed. Obviously being blown apart by machine-gun fire, no matter how great your derring-do, isn’t a great life choice. And unless you’re the most dyed-in-the wool sexist, why on earth wouldn’t you want women to drive, vote, run multinationals, become big-league politicians and basically help make the modern world a more agreeable place to live?
Nonetheless, in an age where the sexes are coming together like never before, and indeed when sexuality itself is becoming blurred and teenagers are proclaiming themselves gay, bi, trans or, frankly, anything so long as it isn’t as fuddy-duddy as male and female, it is comforting for the modern man once in a while to be able to drift into a wholly masculine environment. And that place is St James’s. It isn’t just that St James’s Street itself boasts Lock’s the hatters, Davidoff’s cigars and Berry Brothers & Rudd wine merchants, it’s simply that there is nothing here for women, unless they decide that what they’re really missing in life is a solid pair of brogues from Tricker’s of Jermyn St.
You won’t find a queue for the tills in St James’s (in some shops you won’t even find something so vulgar as a till)
The area has its charms in any season, but it’s particularly pleasant in summer: quiet, almost dreamy. You won’t find a queue for the tills (in some shops you won’t even find something so vulgar as a till) at any time of year, but now there’s a drowsiness to the place. It’s also time to pick up a summer bargain.
Men don’t buy spring/summer clothes until spring/summer, and after we’ve made sure we’ve stocked up with a couple of T-shirts and a new pair of swimming shorts, often we don’t actually get around to buying more substantial items until now, when we address that tricky problem of buying more formal summerwear.
Retailers are bemoaning how they’re overburdened with stock following a summer that’s been as grey as the North Circular, and now is the time to stroll through the empty streets of St James’s, nose into the shoe shops and shirt shops of Jermyn street and cross over Piccadilly to Savile Row.
A browse down the Row during school holiday period is both delightful and beneficent. One of my favourite suits was a summer number from Gieves & Hawkes, bought – around this time of year – for around £250. (Remember, by the way, the Gieves is with a hard G unless you want to look like a complete provincial.) Right now, The Savile Row Company (above) is offering huge reductions on its shirts, taking them down for £70-£80 to £17.50-£27.50 – even three for £60 – and offering up some pretty decent suits for £250. OK, they are not quite your Gieves or Huntsman, say, but they offer an impressive choice of materials and styles.
Into the wider world, and on to the high street, Marks & Spencer is serving up some functional and good-looking summer blazers that belie their price. Its linen blend tailored-fit two-button jacket (below) is in a lovely shade of pale blue, yours for £89, and a good-looking two-button jacket in charcoal is the same price. (It’s also offering a pair of free flip-flops for any order over £35, but we’re talking formal here, so let’s park that.)
More upmarket, but if you have the money probably worth the spend, is a collaboration between Club Monaco and the American shirt-makers Gitman brothers. The Gitman check Oxford takes more than 80 minutes to make, apparently, so should last a while for your £202.35, but almost more interesting is a suit, sold separately with the Gitman Twill suit blazer costing £607.05 and the trousers £306.59. (Club Monaco, by the way has some rather nice summer pieces on sale at Mr Porter, including button-down collar cotton-flannel shirts at £36, below.)
For traditional formalwear – fit for summer weddings, parties, etc – Oliver Brown is a one-stop shop for everything from morning suits to floral poplin shirts, handmade in good old England, and a reasonable £79. The company started off as a women’s wear company, but when the current proprietor Kristian Robson bought the company he put the emphasis on menswear. Maybe it’s because he started his career selling top hats, which must be a gap in the market so narrow as to be invisible to the human eye.
Going the other way, for the casual side of men’s formal wear, Whistles is doing for men what it’s been doing for women for a long time, producing nicely turned out clobber that stands out from the crowd without being pretentious. There are some bargains to be had there, too, with the likes of its Mixed Striped Linen Shirt (below) half price at £55.
If even that’s a bit outré then culture magazine Monocle, run by Tyler Brûlé, can help you out. It’s launched a new clothing range called Voyage that has one of everything. So there’s a blue Oxford shirt for £150 (below), an ‘All-Rounder’ jacket inspired by French workwear, £275, chinos for £170 and knitted cotton shorts for £155. Tyler’s taste doesn’t come cheap, but you know it will be well made and won’t scare the horses, or the new boss, or the mother-in-law, or your own mother, come to that.
Wearing shorts slightly more formally presents a tricky shoes problem, but Marks & Spencer can help with a nice range of sandals. Its M&S Collection Leather Crossover Sandals are rather cool, and only £49.50, or you could go for leather flip-flops – or Toe Post Sandals, as it prefers to call them – for the same price. Russell & Bromley’s buckle-up sandal (below) is fun in a light tan with a photo insole, but you’ll need £125 going spare to land them.
If you’re looking for a summer bargain, then Grenson’s classic Ashley moccasins in burgundy (above) are down from £145 to £120. Grenson shoes are a class act, and this is a loafer that would go with any of the above, from shorts to suits. Wear them with confidence at work, at a party, at a sporting occasion, and certainly in St James’s.
Main image: Savile Row Company