Jeans in summer?
Not always recommended – especially when the temperature climbs above 90 and it’s humid outside.
So what are your options?
Should you give up jeans this summer?
Is there a way to wear denim in hot weather without sweating your face off?
Well yes – there is!
Big Tip: Choose The Right Fabric Weight
If you’re buying from someone that knows what they’re talking about, you can get pretty technical with your jeans.
In big box stores, this isn’t so much of an option (it’s one good reason to seek out a custom or boutique jeans maker, rather than a large retail brand).
But if you get the chance, a little research can go a long way toward picking out jeans that are going to stay comfortable even in the heat of summer.
First things first, take a look at what your denim weighs. Denim is measured in ounces, like most textiles used in clothing. It’s usually much heavier than wool or finer cotton weaves. That gives it sturdiness, but also makes it warmer in the summer.
Traditional denim jeans usually use cloth that weighs between 12 and 16 ounces per yard. That’s thick enough to be tough, but not too stiff.
Anything above 16 oz. is getting into one of two niche markets: truly rugged work-wear for men who punish their jeans severely, and monstrously thick “raw denim” designed to fade and crease in dramatic patterns. You don’t want to wear either of them in hot weather if you can help it.
Below 12 oz., on the other hand, you’re looking at jeans that can actually feel better than some khakis and chinos in the summer. Denim is a fairly breathable weave. Trousers in a very tight cotton weave can actually be more stifling than jeans made from denim an ounce or two heavier, simply because of the airflow.
Denim Blends and Treatments
Serious denim fans will talk for hours about the different ways to weave raw bolts of denim cloth.
You don’t need to know quite that much, but there are a couple things worth keeping in mind for your summer wear.
First off, keep it 100% cotton. Summer is not the time for “stretch denim.” The synthetics that make denim stretchier don’t breathe the way cotton fibers do, making the jeans more prone to trapping sweat and hot air against your skin. Summer’s also a time when you want looser, breezier fits that allow a little airflow, and if you’re wearing your jeans comfortably loose they don’t need to be stretch denim anyway.
Second, pay attention to how the denim was treated. “Raw” or “dry” denim, in which the cloth is not washed after its dying, will be stiffer and less breathable until broken in. On the opposite end of the scale “distressed” denim that’s worn through in patches will obviously give you the most airflow.
For most men, the happy medium is in between: lightweight denim that’s been washed before wear. If possible, break it in while the weather is still cool, so that you don’t have any stiffness fighting you in the hot and humid months. Unless you’re going for a specific look, there’s no reason to go out of your way for either raw or distressed jeans.
Tips On How to Wear Denim in the Heat
So have you got yourself a nice pair of well-washed, broken-in, less-than-12-oz.-denim jeans?
Here’s how to wear them: with other light clothing and not too many layers.
Rolled Cuffs – Yes Or No?
Rolling your cuffs in the summer is totally acceptable when you’re just bumming around. If you go into a sit-down restaurant or anywhere more formal than that, roll them down, but on the street or the beach or whatever the roll is fine.
It’s a particularly popular style with guys who buy selvedge denim, as selvedge jeans tend to leave the distinctive colored stripe of the cloth’s edge visible on the underside of the cuff. You’ll see some very careful rolls designed to flaunt those if you watch fashionably-dressed young guys in the summer.
A simple rule for cuffs and footwear, though: if you’re rolling the cuffs, no socks. Wear slip on shoe styles like boaters or sandals.
Jeans with the cuffs worn down can be worn without socks as well, but generally look better if you’ve got a sturdier shoe and a pair of socks.
Matching Your Jeans With Shirts
Jeans go with most things that aren’t more denim.
In the summer, plain old jeans and a T-shirt works fine. It’s about as casual a look as you can get, so don’t expect to start any new fashion trends, but it serves its purpose. To keep it classic, go with a tight-fitted white T-shirt and sturdy work shoes or boots — if it was good enough for Marlon Brando, it’s good enough for you.
Other good options include henleys and polos (similar to T-shirts, but they show a touch more style), light long-sleeve crew-necks, and casual dress shirts of both the long- and short-sleeved variety.
Most of these are worn un-tucked. At the point where you’re somewhere formal enough that you need to tuck your shirt it, you might as well wear a different sort of lightweight summer trousers — chinos, seersucker, etc. — and leave the jeans at home. They’re for casual summer street wear, not office potlucks at the picnic shelter.
Matching Denim With Hot Weather Footwear
Ok, so your jeans are rolled and you have on a hot weather collared shirt. What to wear on your feet?
Sandals – yes, I know many of you all hate them. But I find a well made, leather pair feel great in the summer. Just make sure your feet are clean and your toenails don’t look like claws from a science fiction horror movie. Seriously – good grooming habits here gents. You don’t have to get a pedicure but this isn’t the time to show the world your inability to cut your nails.
Slip-on casual shoes, from boat shoes to espadrilles to something dressier like a double-strapped monk. I wear my slip on Sperry boat shoes without socks – but I do clean them and if you expect to walk across Manhattan in the summer consider an invisible sock for comfort and making sure your shoes aren’t ruined by drenching in sweat.