Summer days bleed into summer nights with an intoxicatingly dreamy languor. Swim shorts are swapped out for a nice polo shirt and shorts, sandals swapped for slick sneakers or slip-ons, as the sun begins to fade. But, in the wake of Covid-19, the sun might set on that dream.
This won’t be the summer of evoking Jude Law’s Dickie Greenleaf in the 1999 film The Talented Mr. Ripley, a brilliant exercise in an emblem of resort-dressing set against the backdrop of the Italian Riviera. However, it’s a style no less relevant to men’s lives than it is now. So, what role, if any, does dressing for the summer play in a man’s wardrobe? It’s a question that will be asked by many brands and customers in the coming months.
Destination-wear, as it is often referred to, is a fashion category which serves the sole purpose of being at a man’s disposal while on holidays. According to Euromonitor International, the men’s swimwear market, a huge part of this market, is worth $8 billion. Destination dressing specialists include Orlebar Brown and Loewe Paula’s Ibiza.
Undoubtedly, it’s a market that walks hand in hand with the tourism and hospitality industry. However, that industry shows signs of a prolonged decrease in demand in the wake of a global pandemic, mandated quarantines, and travel bans. If summer is set to look like a vacation to the backyard, what does one wear, and what is the point?
“Without the luxury to currently travel abroad, for many men, the idea of shopping for a new pair of swim trunks might not be a top priority,” said Adam Brown, founder of Orlebar Brown, purveyor of tailored swim shorts and ready-to-wear with notable fans including Hugh Jackman, David Gandy, and even James Bond.
For those around the world fortunate enough to have a garden or access to outdoor space, who desire a summer clothes wardrobe update, Brown recommends essential long-lasting pieces. For their high summer 2020, Orlebar Brown offered slimline Cuban collared shirts and polo shirts, lightweight knitwear, and tailored swim shorts in sorbet shades and neutral hues.
However, I think more than ever we are all looking for a bit of escapism… the fantasy of a holiday or travelling to a sun-soaked destination and our wardrobe has a huge part to play in that. The idea of ‘holidaying from home’ will likely become our new normal and men will instead look at what can be worn in the summer months from our gardens.
Loewe Paula’s Ibiza faced a similar problem of designing a summer wardrobe for the summer that wasn’t. (The label is a collaboration line between Spanish luxury brand Loewe, designed by creative director, the Irishman Jonathan Anderson, and Ibiza boutique Paula’s.) “This is a happy, undeniably escapist collection, conveyed through colourful and energetic images, and I thought it might cheer you up,” said Anderson, acknowledging the untimely release of the collection but justifying its launch at a time when people could use a pick-me-up. (Loewe will be donating €40 to educational projects for every product sold in the Paula’s Ibiza collaboration between May and August 2020 in Loewe stores and on loewe.com, starting with an initial donation of €500,000.)
The collection consists of tie-dye overshirts, cropped dungarees, patchworked stonewash denim, and mermaid-print swim shorts encapsulates the “breezy spirit of the Balearics” in all their hedonism and leisure, in acidic neons and midnight blue, sunrise orange and faded olive green. The clothes have the zest of a summer wardrobe, practical yet exuberant with bursts of colour. At a time like this, happy, escapist fashion is soothing but it also adds much-needed energy to our wardrobes.
SMR Days is a new men’s destination-wear brand, announced in January. Fronted by Adam Shapiro, Dan May and Gautam Rajani, three fashion industry professionals, and with the intention of creating a holiday wardrobe for men that is suited to both the beach and the boardroom, the line was expected this month. But given the circumstances, the decision was taken to postpone the launch until October. “We built SMR Days on a simple premise: to provide a complete holiday wardrobe for men, evoking long summer days spent in far-off places,” the brand said in a statement on Instagram.
In light of recent events, those summer days seem a long way off. Now, we find ourselves at home — where we should all be — waiting it out. We don’t know how long for.
Like many businesses with similar summer-themed gambits, they have turned to their editorial website which publishes fashion features, interviews with friends of the brands, about their favourite destinations and how they dress for vacation. “Don’t stop dreaming of summer” quickly became their motto. For many, the dream of a vacation is almost as exhilarating as jetting off itself.
“I certainly feel for the foreseeable future our vacations may be closer to home and that we will socialise in a smaller, more intimate way — this will certain reintroduce the notion of dressing for the occasion albeit in a far more relaxed, casual way,” said Damien Paul, Head of Menswear at MATCHESFASHION, who have expanded their vacation dressing offering exponentially over the years.
“We looked beyond what many see at the traditional holiday requirements such as swim shorts, and built out collections that featured light tailoring, easy shirts, loose kaftans, even lighter weight knitwear,” said Paul. "These create a wardrobe for a broad scope of destinations far beyond the beach. Resoundingly, they say, don’t stop dreaming of summer."