How to Survive Wearing Office Clothes During the Summer

Summer doesn't have to mean stuffy days at the office and sweaty commutes. Here's how to survive the heat in style. 

From New York City office towers to board rooms in London, businessmen and women are starting to sweat. Summer is everyone’s favorite season during the laissez-faire evenings and weekends on the patio, but in the heart of the city at least, the show must go on. And no, you may not wear Hawaiian shirts or flip-flops to your meetings (or preferably anywhere on Earth, in all honesty, where locals aren’t greeting you with “aloha”). The good news is that you don’t have to struggle through the summer season in completely uncomfortable suits and dresses, as there are a few tricks of the trade that when followed carefully and mixed with good hydration, will allow you to rush through the heat and still look like you’ve been chilling in the shade.

Colors Matter in the Summer – Lighten Up

As you may be naturally inclined to do as the city parks are in full bloom, lighten up! Your wardrobe colors are keys to cool. Rotate your black gear to the back of your closet, and aim opt for shades like pale grey for your suit jackets and perhaps even a pastel button down shirt underneath. Lighter colors do better with buffering light rays than dark, which will help maintain your body temperature instead of letting it climb by absorbing the sun rays.


Left: Banana Republic Men’s Grey Suit Jacket ($280); Right: Modern Slip Red Italian Cotton/Linen Blazer ($280)


Materials that Breathe Make a Difference

This rule is tried and true but often overlooked. Linen is the most breathable of fabrics but proceed with caution – it wrinkles very easily and may look a little tired by the end of a long day. Merino wool is also surprisingly helpful when trying to keep your temperature under control, however counterintuitive it might seem to turn to wool for solutions here. This specific type of wool has “the ability to absorb moisture from the air and release it again as humidity levels shift.” according to experts on the natural fibre. This means the fibre naturally reacts to the heat around you to your benefit. Opt for wearing it as an undershirt. This will give the magic fibre the best read on your body temperature as possible and prevent you from getting too sweaty.

Left: Lafayette “Spendcer” Linen Drape Front Vest ($410); Right: Banana Republic Navy Wool Silk Linen Suit Trouser ($240)

Think Tapered Pants, Flowy Dresses


Whether it is a slightly tapered pant and some dressier oxford shoes, or a slightly shorter skirt to give your legs some air, any of inch of skin that you can appropriately expose will help you stay cool. Another structurally based strategy is choosing things that aren’t so restricting, so that in the event that a merciful breeze comes your way, you can take full advantage. Will your office frown on you trading your tie for a tasteful pocket square? If not, free up your neck and avoid a discolored, sweaty collar by giving yourself a bit more breathing room near your neck. Womenswear comes out on top in this category, as there are a plethora of work appropriate dress styles that are less rigid than the winter pant-suit and still perfectly professional. Opt for cap sleeves, or high waist cinching on a dress – this creates some definition around your body without being tight so you can stay cool in style.

Left: Pleione Tunic & Halogen Skirt ($109); Right: Halogen Slip Stretch Blend Ankle Pants ($68)

Commute in Less

No, I am not suggesting that you participate in the no pants subway ride to protest dress codes in the summertime. I do recommend simply carrying your jackets during travel to work, however! That way if you’re encountering any spaces without air conditioning en route you can minimize your chances of working up a sweat before you even get to your office. Ladies – opt for something sleeveless and perhaps carry along a light, breathable scarf to cover your shoulders if the office is too chilly or too formal to get away with going sleeveless all day. It is a bit of a hassle to have things in your hands if you commute via crowded transit, so if there is somewhere at work where you can stash your jacket without looking like you’re moving into the office, that’s an idea too.

There’s no need to sacrifice style when trying to beat the heat!

Nicole Edwards

Nicole Edwards is a fashion and lifestyle writer based in Toronto. She has worked as Associate Publisher of Private Islands magazine and Lifestyle Editor of Style Empire, and has contributed to NOW Magazine.