Advanced Style Tip: Learning to See The Details That Define Great, Simple Summer Style

Advanced Style Tip:

Learning to See The Details That Define Great, Simple Summer Style

Summer heat requires our outfits to be made up of only a short sleeve shirt and shorts – instead of getting frustrated by a lack of variety and layers, it's the perfect time to grow your ability to see and appreciate small details on style essentials that make a big impact.

men summer outfit olive henley

Learning good style is a bit like learning about whiskey. In the beginning, it can all taste the same and feel overwhelming. Then, you’ll pick up on broad attributes that help define one from another – bourbon is sweeter and rye is spicier. As your palate gains the ability to distinguish differences and your specific preferences take shape, it’s the most subtle of details that determine your personal tastes and how you experience new whiskies. 

Things like “finish” and “legs” factor in to your analysis, when in the beginning it all tasted like fire.  Style is exactly the same. When you’re first starting out, it’s hard to know what you’re looking at.  You’ll soon be able to see different styles broadly – preppy, street style, menswear – and as you gravitate to one, your likes and dislikes emerge. “I don’t like this pattern, I like this kind of fit, this is too colorful.” The farther down you go, your appreciation for specific details start to define your own style.

Consider the outfit Shane is wearing: Broadly speaking, it’s a t-shirt and chino shorts. But place it next to some bro at a bbq and the tiny – but essential – nuances of these specific items become abundantly clear.

men tshirt chino shorts

This is one of the most essential principles when dressing well with affordable brands. With an unlimited budget, it’s easy to find staples that have stylish details – that is exactly what fashion designers do. In fact, it’d probably be harder to find expensive designer options that don’t have unique attributes that make them stand out. Things like the width of collars, shapes of hems, intentionally longer, slimmer, or baggier cuts, unique textures, and so on.

When on a budget, these are the types of details to look out for when shopping for simple basics that have a more nuanced style, and consequently look more expensive than they are. This is because people will assume your attention to detail has led you to overpriced designers.

The struggle for beginners is balancing uniqueness with flashiness. Those new to dressing well often over-correct with picking unique items that stand out in a louder way. There’s nothing wrong with wearing items like this, but the eccentricity of a garment is directly proportional to how long you can wear it. The trendier or flashier an item is, the shorter it will be stylish, generally speaking. To nail this style principle it’s all about finding items that play on the classic elements of a closet staple in very subtle ways.

Take this short-sleeve henley from L.A.-based Buck Mason, for example. Four buttons at the collar create a longer, vintage-inspired placket, while the banded sleeves and curved hem add trendy, stylish touches which sets it apart from your basic tee that gets lost in your dresser drawer. At $50, it’s not much more than a henley you’d find at competing mall retailers, but it sports far greater quality. The soft and durable pima cotton is a solid investment, as it will instantly become one of the most durable, versatile pieces in your summer wardrobe. (Shane has since bought 2 more.)

→ Read more: Buck Mason is one of our 32 Best Men's Clothing Brands

Here are some other henleys with unique details:

goodthreads mens henley shirt

Basic Casual Henley

Amazon, $21

Three-button placket and raglan sleeves

man wearing green short sleeve henley style shirt

Short Sleeve Henley Shirt

Thread, $119

Double fabric edged cuffs

Image of Garment dyed slub cotton short sleeve henley

Garment dyed Slub Cotton Short Sleeve Henley

J.Crew, $39.50

Worn, faded texture

men summer fashion tips henley shorts white sneakers

Same goes for the perfect pair of summer shorts. We all know how shorts should fit, and with a pair of camp shorts you get a unique take on something basic. Camp shorts are chino shorts with an exterior pocket seam. It adds an extra element of subtle visual texture, resulting in a more rugged, less business casual feel for the rest of the outfit.

Two options include this $25 pair from Goodthreads or this upgrade from J.Crew's Wallace & Barnes line.

A man standing in a parking lot with a short sleeve henley

That’s the awesome thing about good design. Brands don’t always have to reach out and grab you with a bold logo. Good design is all about presenting a fresh take on the details of our favorite pieces, especially if (like so many of us) you need to be conscious of how much money you’re spending.  Sometimes, something as simple as a widened band around your bicep can instantly transform a mundane part of your wardrobe into a subtle, impressive asset.

What are some details you like to pay attention to? Chat with us in the comments below!

This post may contain affiliate links, read about our editorial promise
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.