We all talk a big game about summer outfits here in clothes nerd world. Wear that linen jacket for a breezy layer, or these tropical weight wool trousers will be perfect for August. Yeah, okay. I’m out here wondering if finding shorter shorts will make me sweat less upon immediately leaving my apartment. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here in that once the temps no longer dip below a certain number I’m basically just in shorts and tees. Problem with just shorts and tees, though, is that the outfit can be a bit boring.
There are, of course, bolder alternatives to shorts and tees that’ll still keep you cool, like camp collar shirts. And there are plenty of weird and wild cuts of tees and shorts to muck about with your silhouette. Nevertheless, a lack of layering will always make outfits simpler and simple can easily bleed to boring. What’s a guy to do? My friends, in the words of many a great fashion maven before me- it’s time to accessorize.
Call it an entrenched misconception of masculinity, or a fear of being flashy, or feeling that one has to justify everything one wears with a function, but men and accessories have long been at odds. There are a few sanctioned, such as ties and watches, but the idea of simply putting something on for adornment has made a certain section of the males of our species bristle. Wearing any accessory item could quickly get you labeled as one of “those guys.” Ring guy, hat guy, plague doctor mask guy, whatever. What the meaning of “those guys” is changes with the item, but for too long too many have treated accessories as somehow the forefront indicator of one’s personality as opposed to, say, something that’s nice to wear. Be bold, friends, and try out some additions to yourself this summer and then, if all goes well, into fall, summer, spring, and back around again. So let’s do a quick and nasty rundown of some of the better options.
Let’s start with the most basic: watches. You may have a workaday watch that barely ever leaves your wrist, but that can get sort of repetitive, no? Get something sportier, like a camp watch, to add a little interest. Naturally watches can range from 10-1000000000000 dollars, I’m not saying go buy out Patek Philippe, but even just a Casio can be a nice change of pace. You guys remember Swatches? They still rule in all their garish plastic wonder. Easier, and much cheaper, than getting a whole other watch is to swap out straps. NATO straps are a great way to add some interest to your ensemble and the colors and patterns available to you are nigh infinite.
But that’s easy mode. Let’s talk jewelry! I, for one, love some good jewelry, even if I’m very picky about it and have a limited collection myself. Again, due to some preconceived notions, “men’s jewelry” tends to be a bit, uh, maximalist. Perhaps compensating for something? But it’s why the stuff you often see are giant cross necklaces or skull rings the size of an actual skull. Let’s reserve those to the folks with record deals.
Cuffs and bracelets are an easy, unobtrusive way to add some flair. Back in menswear’s golden blog era circa 2010 you’d see photos of guys with so many friendship bracelets, beads, and chains on their forearms it was as if they were trying to construct a vambrace.* Each of those would be fine on their own and you’re encouraged to give any of them a shot. Personally, I go for metal cuffs most of all, just slip ‘em on and you’re done. Nothing too flashy but definitely makes a statement. Other ones I opt for are some leather bands and the occasional colorful elastic cord. Your non-watch arm will have something to break up the long stretch of skin from short sleeve to hand. It’s about visual contrast, y’all!
Necklaces can be great when they don’t veer into chunky chain territory. You can always go classic and put something spiritually significant on the end of a thin chain of silver, like a cross or chai or such, and no one would give you guff for that. But screw it, do something worthy of guff. A man smarter than you or I G. Bruce Boyer has extolled the value of something happening at a man’s neck. Hearty agree! A crew collar tee is so bland. Get a longer chain, like something that’ll hit you mid chest. You can keep the chain plain or adorn it with a tasteful charm or medallion. I love searching eBay for old charm bracelet charms, there were a lot made for souvenirs back in the day and most could anchor a necklace.
And then comes rings. There are so many kinds of rings that kick ass I’m tempted to make another post about them. Signet rings, which can be initials or crests, are immaculate. A subgenre of them that I love is the trench art ring, which were traditionally made out of spent munitions by soldiers as souvenirs of battles. Often they’ll have the date and locale of the battle crudely etched in. Perhaps, if just to avoid confusion, you steer clear of wedding band styles unless you, y’know, have a spouse. And all fingers are fair game, I say, but maybe don’t get anything too heavy for your pinky. Poor little guy already doesn’t get the respect it deserves.
I saved the best for last, y’all. Bandannas, rocked well by my boy Bogdanovich up above. Fuck a fuck that gives you a “yeehaw” or who will tell you that you look like Fred from Scooby Doo. Winding one up tight and thin and then tying it loose at the neck will not only look great but is a good way to fight the sweats of summer. You don’t need to limit yourself to some basic paisley number, either. Smaller scarves have been made for women for ages but when you wear it like a bandanna no one will even notice. I will stop short of recommending ascots unless you’re a brave soul. The good dude Ryan over at Put This On has a great comic for them and how to wear them subtly, should you wish to.
That about covers the basics. Hope this may encourage you to get a little weirder with it. Even if well made basics will always be in fashion, why not test some new things out? Throw on some perfunctory stuff for the simple fun of it. If anyone asks why you’re wearing it just say “because I like it.” They’re the ass holes, not you.
*Welcome to Dan's medieval history corner! A vambrace is the part of a suit of armor that would cover the forearm under the gauntlet.