5 Secrets To Dressing Well Without Layers

5 Secrets To Dressing Well Without Layers
Too hot for all those stylish layers? You don't need 'em! We'll show you how to look sharp and stay comfortable in the heat.
5 Secrets to Dressing Well Without Layers

There’s no time like summer to have fun with your wardrobe. The warm weather and full social calendar is ripe for creative clothing options, and just because the heat means we’re short on layers doesn’t mean we’re short on options. Summer is a time to unwind and have fun, why shouldn’t you do the same with your clothes?

With fewer pieces to work with, your style choices become more critical in the summer months, but whether you’re at the beach, the bar, or the office, there are plenty of ways to keep your looks fresh without the usual benefits of layering.

Here are some important tips to keep in mind when crafting that perfect summer outfit.

Focus on the Fit, Now More Than Ever

men's spring summer fashion white button up short sleeve shirt blue shorts above the knee

Shirt: Gap, $28 / Shorts: AE, $45 / Sneakers: Nike, $90 – Check out our guide: How Men's Shorts Should Fit

Wearing clothes that actually fit you is the most important style tip you can ever receive. That doesn’t mean everyone, regardless of body type, needs to be walking around in a pair of skinny jeans and snug shirts. Not everything works for everyone. Know your body!

A wardrobe that fits is so simple, but far too often men go for the added comfort of “going a size up.” A fitted look gives off the appearance that you’re in some sort of shape even if you haven’t spent the past six months in the gym working on your summer body. While this is a style tenet no matter the time of year, it is especially paramount in the summer when you have less layers to work with.

Let’s start with some shirts. A casual short-sleeve button-down shirt is a must for every summer BBQ and outdoor party. Make sure to avoid boxy shirts that are unnecessarily wide in the torso and in the sleeves.

J Crew Factory: Short-Sleeve Seersucker Shirt, $34.50

Image of mens short sleeve shirt

Opt for this slim-fit option from J. Crew Factory for a casual, trim look. The sides are tapered down to your waist and the sleeves fall right into place in the middle of your biceps.

Gap: 10” Chino Shorts in Linen, $30

Image of man wearing chino shorts

The same line of thinking goes for your shorts. Avoid the baggy look of cargo shorts and opt for a pair of vintage wash shorts or these linen chino shorts from Gap (currently 40% off).

Hunting for an even better deal? Check out these Ultimate Slim Ripstop shorts from Old Navy for just $15.

Old Navy: Ultimate Slim Ripstop Shorts, $15

Image of mens Old Navy shorts

Always remember to keep your short length above your knee. Same goes for your swim trunks and gym apparel. Ditch the oversized basketball shorts and scoop up a pair of light, versatile baggies from Patagonia or running shorts from Nike.

Gap: Brushed Tech Jersey Shorts, $25

Marled gray work out shorts

Still unsure of the right length for you? Check out Primer’s detailed guide to men's shorts breakdown post here and watch the visual guide on YouTube for tips on colors, lengths and things to avoid when buying shorts.

Get Creative With the Basics

Classics are classics for a reason. Your closet is probably already well-stocked with summer essentials like t-shirts, button-down shirts and polos that fit just right, but every now and then it’s okay to shake things up.

J. Crew Factory: Slim Washed Pocket T-Shirt, $15

Image of mens pocket t shirt

For example, my favorite summer t-shirt is the basic pocket tee from J. Crew Factory. It’s a slim cut without being uncomfortable, it comes in a ton of colors and at $15, it’s certainly priced right. It works dressed down with shorts and sneakers or dressed up with chinos and loafers. It’s a versatile piece whether in the original cotton or the slightly more expensive garment-dyed version.

Gap: Chest Stripe Crewneck T-Shirt, $15

Image of striped crewneck shirtBut in the summer we’re going to try and break up the monotony from time to time. When you need a break from solid colors, opt for a crew neck with a bold stripe across the chest, like this one from Gap.

J.Crew Factory: Slub Garment-Dyed Henley, $24.50

Image of mens Henley shirt

When looking for a new cut, a slub garment-dyed henley from J. Crew Factory does the trick.

Banana Republic: Slim-Fit Linen Work Shirt, $64.50

Image of mens short sleeve work shirtIf you want a different feel for the night, this linen work shirt from Banana Republic is a great option when paired with chinos. If you want to break away from your same solids and stale patterns, opt for a floral print button-down like this camp collar shirt from J.Crew Factory. Summer is the perfect time to take style chances and pick pieces that pop, and brands have taken notice.

J. Crew Factory: Slim-fit Printed Camp Collar Shirt, $32.50

Image of mens printed camp collar shirt

Incorporate Bold Colors

In the winter, some monochromatic looks are unavoidable. How many times have you worn black jeans with your favorite black or dark grey tee? Or what about your dark wash jeans and a navy button-down? In the summer, we have the luxury of injecting our wardrobes with a dash of color, sometimes even some flavors you wouldn’t normally think to rock.

That said, don’t spend your summer walking around in bright yellow from head to toe. Think of bold color in a summer wardrobe like your favorite hot sauce, just throw in a dash to spice things up.

Nike: Air Max 270, $150

Image of Nike Air Max shoes

If you’re feeling that bright volt yellow touch, invest it in a pair of Nike Air Max 270s and wear them with your basic black, white and grey gym ensemble.

If you really like the mango t-shirt from Old Navy but don’t feel comfortable flaunting all that color without some protection, throw on a denim button-down over it when you head out for the night.

Bonobos: Oxford Stretch Chino, $128

Image of mens stretch chino pants

Occasionally swap out your typical khaki chinos with a faded red chino from Bonobos.

Gap: Linen Bomber Jacket, $89.95 (plus 40% off)

Image of mens bomber jacket

Chilly summer night? Break out this pastel blue bomber from Gap and throw it over a t-shirt and jeans. This way you can get the pop you want without any unwanted attention. Clothing can be bold without being an eyesore and there’s no time like summer to prove it.

Take Advantage of Accessories

Summer is a really underrated fashion time because there are so many accessories we can take advantage of. While we may not be able to consistently wear jackets and layers, the accessories more than make up for it. Let’s start at the head and work our way down.

Amazon: A.J. Morgan Castro Round Sunglasses, $12.57

You don’t have to spend your summer on the beach to invest in some sharp sunglasses.

For a fantastic bargain, grab these AJ Morgan Castro Round frames from Amazon for just $12.57 and the added bonus of Prime shipping. Read more about how they stack up against your favorite brands here.

Aviators and wayfarers are established iconic eyewear and you can find brands like Ray-Ban discounted at Nordstrom Rack.

Amazon: S-Zone Waxed Canvas Duffel Bag, $46.99

Image of waxed canvas bag

This time of year we find ourselves packing a bag for the gym and to head out of town for a last-minute weekend. Grab the S-Zone Waxed Canvas Duffel from Amazon for durability and style. Check out Primer’s video of this upgraded duffel here for a full breakdown of its benefits.

Still not impressed? Browse Primer’s Best Weekender Bags Under $125 to find the perfect pick for you.

Amazon: Timex Weekender Watch, $26.99

timex weekender

In the summer, keep your watches versatile, like the Timex Weekender. It’s super affordable ($30-$40) and available in a slew of colors via Amazon.

Don’t hesitate to dress down your belts, either. Leather belts are great, but incorporate a fresh woven cloth belt on your shorts or chinos this summer, like this patterned cream belt from Levi’s, this navy and white belt from J. Crew or this colorblocked option from Gap.

Invest in Footwear

Image of Adidas shoes

Photo by Highsnobiety

Footwear should be an important part of any outfit, no matter the season. Right now sneakers are probably our most versatile wardrobe item, and they take on an added importance in the summer.

Everyone should have the classics: white tennis shoes like adidas Stan Smiths (in a breathable primeknit), Chuck Taylors, slip-ons from Vans and Sperry boat shoes. Any combination of those is a must for any man’s wardrobe and necessary for summer. But don’t limit yourself. Footwear is a wardrobe segment always worthy of a significant investment.

J. Crew: Nike Killshot II, $90

Image of Nike Killshot II shoes

If you’re tired of your boat shoes, swap them out for a pair of Nike for J.Crew Killshots (if you can get to them before they sell out), a perfect versatile summer shoe that gives you some added style without breaking the bank. Check Primer's guide to gum sole sneakers for some more affordable options.

Stan Smiths looking busted? Switch it up and go with the Grand Crosscourt II from Cole Haan. It’s a simple, classic silhouette that works with shorts or chinos, and is available on Amazon in a variety of colors.

Amazon: Calvin Klein Forbes Slip-On Loafer, $90

Image of Calvin Klein calf suede slip on loafers

Also, don’t hesitate to invest in a good pair of loafers. This suede option from Calvin Klein is available on Amazon and should go a long way towards dressing up your shorts and short-sleeve button down on those summer nights.

Bonus Tip: Don’t Pack Up the Long Pants Just Yet

Shorts, no matter what color or material, are going to get the lion’s share of wardrobe reps in the summertime. But just because the season changes that doesn’t mean you should throw all of your long pants into storage. Nothing’s better for cool summer nights at an outdoor bar in a beach town or on a rooftop deck in the city than slim-fit chinos or light-washed denim. Pair them with a sneaker or loafer, roll the cuff up and let your ankles breathe!

Stephen Albertini

Stephen Albertini is a freelance writer covering sports, fashion, music and culture. His work has been featured on a variety of outlets, including Grailed, Complex, Bleacher Report and Primer.