The Summer Uniform
My riveting, and likely to be Pulitzer Prize-winning, post on uniforms has raised some questions on what my summer uniform will look like. Apparently my brand of 65-year-old-man-caught-in-a-25-year-old-body style of dress has captured the imagination of literally tens of people. Can’t say I blame you.
So, in my unending quest to give the people what they want (not a real thing), I figured I’d talk a bit about my latest obsession: pop-overs.
I’ve been interested in pop-overs for the better part of three years now, when I saw one in a vintage store. To me, they are the perfect balance between more winter-inclined OCBD, and the all-too-often poorly executed polo shirt. They are unique enough that there’s a visual interest, yet conservative enough that people won’t stare.
Seeing as how I’ve long held summer as the official eccentric-Italian-magnate season™ for some time, it comes as no surprise that pop-overs are an ideal go-to. (To clarify, when I say eccentric-Italian-magnate season™, I mean that you can get away with a slightly more FU-sensibility in summer; a more novel and playful approach to a conservative look.) Something about the heat, vacation schedules and shorter work days makes it completely acceptable to focus more on comfort and less on circumstance (for confirmation, please see: seersucker).
The perfect pop-over for me is one that will wholly appear to be a button-down at first glance. I can’t stand the idea of wearing what amounts to a long-sleeved polo shirt with a button-down collar. The placket should have at minimum 4 buttons, at max 5, and should extend just between your pectorals and belly-button. It should also be made of a more casual material. In my case, I prefer a cotton/linen blend, though linen and cotton are both fine as standalones. Just think more chambray and less broadcloth. My color choices will be the standard: white, ecru, sky blue, pale blue and pencil stripe; basically, the colors and combinations that make up the majority of my shirting.
Because this is a casual shirt, it should also have a button-down collar, in my opinion. I’ve long held that unless a shirt is to be worn with a tie, it should have a button-down collar. While the current trend of cutaways and wide spreads can look decent on casual shirts, button-down is the classic at-ease standard and ideal for the warmer months.
I’ll generally pair my pop-overs with linen or twill pants in shades of khaki, beige and cream. It’s best to avoid the usual mid or light grey business pants when wearing a pop-over, as the juxtaposition of a course linen blend and a smooth worsted wool generally appears out-of-place and awkward; stick to lighter, more casual colors. When off-the-clock, they can go with any color of short (from brick red to Kelly green). I also have my pop-overs cut slightly shorter than my usual dress shirts, so that they can be worn tucked or un-tucked with relative ease.
Top everything off with a hoof-pick or needlepoint belt, a pair of suede driving loafers, and perhaps a linen or fresco blazer (if I feel like getting WILD), and you’ve got my summer uniform.
It is worth remembering that spring and summer are inherently more casual times. Unless you work in a truly conservative business environment, there’s no reason to not let your hair down a bit. Just keep things simple, light and casual. And remember, nothing goes with a summer uniform better then a great tan. See you all on the beach.
Image courtesy of NSV Reserve.