TORONTO - With temperatures on the uptick, men are tucking away the wool suits, pullovers and overcoats to make way for apparel in lighter fabrics and colourful shades.
Jeremy Freed is editor-in-chief of Sharp Magazine and "Sharp: The Book For Men." The spring/summer edition is a seasonal style manual outlining the latest trends for the warmer months.
In an interview at the Bay's downtown Toronto flagship store, Freed offers a breakdown of summer wardrobe must-haves — including some that can pair with pieces that may already be in men's closets.
Pattern power: Some popular patterns for the new season are already summertime mainstays. Freed said plaid and gingham continue to be favourites, and the horizontal Breton stripe shirt is also establishing a presence.
"That's a piece that Picasso used to wear in the 50s and James Dean ... and Andy Warhol and all of these iconic guys. It has been around, but now men are really starting to embrace it and feel that like, 'I'm not an artist or an actor or anything like that, but I can still wear this and it can still look good on me.'"
Vintage-inspired windbreakers are emerging in brighter shades, as are colourful pants and chinos in vibrant hues like red.
To ease colour-shy men into embracing bolder shades, Freed suggests incorporating a bright pair of socks, a pocket square or colourful tie. Instead of a blue-and-white gingham neckpiece, consider one in a pink-and-white or pink-and-tan pattern.
"You can wear a colourful gingham with a very conservative suit and then, all of a sudden, you take a conservative suit and it becomes a little bit more fun and a little bit more stylish."
Tone-on-tone: Can't get enough of your go-to hue? Why not opt for items of the same colour but in different shades — and all in the same ensemble?
Freed said one consideration could be to team a darker blue shirt with a lighter-shade tie and blazer of the same hue. Tone-on-tone is a great option for summer as it allows for a creative and playful use of colour, he noted.
Freed said the top-to-bottom denim look — dubbed "the Canadian tuxedo" — is a great example of how tone-on-tone works, but is typically more of spring and fall ensemble than one for summer. Consider wearing a lighter-coloured shirt and keeping the jeans in a darker shade, he suggested.
"I think it keeps you from looking top-heavy. It makes you look a little more grounded... if you have the darker, heavier colours towards the bottom."
Suiting up: Freed said one of his favourite summer trends is another classic look making a comeback: the double-breasted suit. Its latest incarnation features a trimmer, tapered silhouette.
"Everybody remembers those big, boxy 'Miami Vice' blazers and it was a very particular look for that era," Freed said, a reference to the hit '80s TV crime drama which popularized the pairing of T-shirts with suits.
"Now that look has been updated. It's more tailored, less boxy, less structured, but it is a very good look for men this spring and summer."
If you opt for a more conservative look for work by wearing a double-breasted suit in navy blue, grey or pinstripes, you can infuse a little more personality in the after-hours attire.
"You can then take that and put on a pair of lightweight jeans ... a pair of khakis, or a pair of colourful khakis if you want to make an extra statement and wear that out in the evening. It's a very versatile look."
Best foot forward: Even if you're not planning to set sail on an island cruise, the boat shoe can still etch out a place in your summer wardrobe.
Freed said the famed footwear — also dubbed deck shoes — pair well with virtually everything.
"You can wear it with khakis for a little bit more of a dressed-up look, but for a more casual guy, you can wear it with a polo (shirt). You can even wear an Oxford-collared shirt tucked in or untucked to class up your look at bit."
Other footwear alternatives include suede loafers and monk straps — shoes without laces fastened by a buckle or strap.
Men may also want to consider going sockless — even with a dressier pair of shoes.
"Everything from boat shoes... during the daytime on a summer day to wearing really nice loafers or oxfords with suits to your office —that's becoming more and more popular.
"It depends on the office, of course, but it is something that we're seeing. It is more of a casual look."
Ways to save: Not everyone will have the time or money for a complete summer wardrobe overhaul. But Freed said men can still diversify by opting to invest in pieces certain to have a shelf life well beyond the summer months.
"A great place to start is always shoes because that is probably the single most important element of any outfit — and it's often overlooked."
A pair of good quality, leather-soled shoes is "indispensable" and can be teamed with a huge variety of looks from casual jeans to tailored pants.
A good blazer is another key staple.
"You can either buy another suit or you just get the blazer and you can mix and match that, wear it with jeans, wear it with khakis. It can become very versatile."
There's also the accessory option such as a woven belt or a straw fedora, a classic headpiece harkening back to the '40s and '50s.
Regardless of your choices for summer attire, Freed said determining the right fit is essential.
"I think, in general, men tend to buy their clothes a little bigger than they need, so you'll see shoulders that extend beyond their actual shoulder; you'll see pants that are a little bit baggy and kind of rumple around their shoes."
Freed recommends men seek out a tailor and noted that many menswear stores have them on-site.
"It's cheaper than buying a new suit," he said.
"I will always say that a $500 suit that's perfectly tailored will always look better than a $3,000 suit that doesn't fit properly."