The outfits sported by Cary Grant in To Catch A Thief, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 crime thriller, are more often than not held up as the epitome of men’s summer style. The actor zips about the Côte d’Azur in a flannel blazer, high-waisted, pleat-front trousers, cravats, striped pullovers and tassel loafers, alongside the indomitable Grace Kelly – a sartorial vision in her own right. It’s Jude Law in The Talented Mr Ripley, however, who proposes a more realistic standard of tailored summer style: his relaxed shirts, linen trousers and form-fitting trunks are a lesson in holidaywear, and look as relevant today as they did in the 1950s, when the film is set.
It was this tailored ideal of menswear – before tight T-shirts and baggy board shorts staked a claim on pool- and beachside style – that sparked Adam Brown to found Orlebar Brown in 2007. “The original lightbulb moment for the brand came after I was asked to change from my swim shorts to have lunch at a hotel,” says Brown. “I was missing a pair of shorts that I could not only swim in but also head off into town or have lunch in afterwards.”
Brown used a pattern for men’s suit trousers as the starting point for his signature swimming trunks, which feature side adjusters in lieu of an elasticated waistband and darts to create a more fitted look. “Everyone looks better in something that fits them properly, whatever their body shape. Baggy, shapeless and down to the knees is fooling no one and covering nothing.”
Beyond swimwear, brands with flattering summer menswear this season include Frescobol Carioca, which has an array of printed camp-collar shirts and polos, and Trunk Clothiers’ selection of seersucker trousers, lightweight footwear and preppy short shorts – like the kind worn by Harrison Ford in 1982. For crisp, white shirts, look to Loro Piana: the Arthur Coral style, made from a cotton and silk blend, is slim through the waist and looks just as good with the sleeves rolled up as it does underneath a jacket. The yarn-dyed cotton André shirt, meanwhile, takes inspiration from the relaxed air of Neapolitan tailoring, with an open collar and two small side pleats to allow for greater movement.
Although for many of us the chances of seeing the French Riviera are currently slim, men are still dressing the part: MatchesFashion’s vacation category is up 150 per cent year-on-year, while Mr Porter’s buying director, Sam Kershaw, says the retailer’s high summer categories have had an increase in demand, particularly for swimwear, T-shirts and shorts, as well as loafers and espadrilles. “We have seen a natural appetite from our customers for summer apparel as the days get warmer and a relaxed style of dress has become the norm,” he says.
Not too relaxed, of course – just ask Luca Rubinacci, creative director of his family’s Neapolitan tailoring house and an inarguable authority on summer suiting. “I prefer unstructured tailoring, especially in summertime, where the jacket has to be completely unlined, even in the sleeves, and made out of linen or cotton.” The house’s signature jacket has a natural, spalla camicia shoulder, an uncanvassed construction, and is light enough to wear in the height of summer. He also points to the brand’s Manny shorts, which are cut from a hard‑wearing cotton-drill and feature a high waistband, side adjusters and double pleats through the front. “No socks. Everything has to be relaxed and breathable, so you feel comfortable with it.” Cary Grant, take note.
This story was originally posted on 16 June 2020.