A few summers ago, I was watching The Rum Diary with Johnny Depp.
I almost missed the plot because I was mesmerized by the aesthetics of Puerto Rico during the 1960s.
The way the characters in the movie dressed like gentlemen, despite the extreme heat and humidity, intrigued me.
As someone who absolutely loathes the heat, my summer wardrobe had always been rather underwhelming.
Similar to most guys, my warm weather attire consisted primarily of khaki shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops.
But I was so inspired after watching this movie, I immediately got to work acquiring clothes made of summer-weight fabrics with vintage patterns (and also had a brief period of drinking far too much rum).
One of the major pieces that helped me elevate my summer look, without sacrificing any of the heat management I needed, was the short sleeve button down.
Their main advantage is that they look more put-together than the usual t-shirt, but are equally, if not more, breathable.
Here's how to pick the right shirts to keep you looking your best, despite the heat.
Style of the short sleeve button down
In contrast to baggy short sleeve dress shirts (think of the movie Office Space), modern casual short sleeve button downs are a new breed of cool.
They come in refreshingly bold patterns and modern fits that let you leave the office headaches behind and express an excitement for warmer days.
Pattern of the short sleeve button down
I'm not a fan of traditional Hawaiian shirts. But these new patterns are exciting without screaming, “I'm an American tourist abroad!”
My personal favorite is smaller, repeating patterns in geometric shapes, checks, or florals.
Ah, my teenage self never would've believed I'd one day be expressing my affection for shirts with flowers on them. And yet, here we are.
Another welcome addition to my closet are shirts with bold stripes. They have an interesting American Southwest quality about them that's cool and rugged.
Fit of the short sleeve button down
A modern short sleeve button down will be cut a little closer to the body, have smaller sleeve openings, and will be a little shorter to facilitate untucked, casual wear.
Material of the short sleeve button down
Linen is the name of the game.
If you aren't familiar with it, allow me to give you a brief primer on this king of summer fabric.
Linen is a natural fiber from the flax plant. It excels in high heat and humidity due to its ability to absorb more perspiration than cotton before feeling damp.
Once it does become damp, it releases that moisture faster than other fabrics.
It generally has a looser weave than other fabrics and is also a little stiffer. Combine those two qualities and you're left with a fabric that doesn't cling to your skin.
The “downside” to linen is its high propensity to wrinkle. But since this is unavoidable, it's embraced as part of the fabric's charm. Much like the creases and color variations on leather pieces.
Cotton can also be a solid option for the summer heat, but make sure you select a thinner fabric with a looser weave. Try holding the shirt up to the light. You should be able to see through it.
If you can't easily see through it, that means air won't be able to pass through.
A tightly woven cotton shirt will cling to your sweaty skin like a plastic bag.
Cotton/Linen blends are another great choice. This marriage combines the heat management characteristics of linen with the wrinkle resistance of cotton. Win-win.
How to wear your short sleeve button down
Night out – Short sleeve button downs are great for occasions when you need to dress up a little, but still want to maintain that care-free summer vibe. Wear a pair of lightweight dress pants with loafers. Skip the socks.
Summer wedding – If you're going to wear a jacket, opting for a short sleeve button down can help keep you cool by eliminating a layer on your arms. Match your lightweight jacket with a pair of linen dress pants and lace-ups.
Where to buy
Target – One of my favorite stores for affordable basics and also where I bought the blue floral shirt pictured above.
Zappos – With free shipping and returns, Zappos is the worry-free way to buy clothes online.
Urban Outfitters – Great summer shirts in bold patterns.
Just as Mr. Depp and Co. inspired me, I hope this post has inspired you to liberate yourself from the bland summer uniform of previous years.
Let me know what kind of patterns you're digging this summer.