How to Wear Classic Workwear in Hot Weather

If you’re one of the many guys who looks to the tradition of American workwear for style inspiration, then you probably have at least a couple pairs of jeans like those originally worn by cowboys or coal miners. Your jackets are probably reminiscent of styles adopted by farmers or lumberjacks, your sweaters may mimic the styles worn by sailors, and your shirts might borrow the cuts created for ranchers in the American west. Like you, we love not only the aesthetics of American workwear, but the clothing’s ability to evoke a time in which things were built to last.

But dressing in workwear-styled apparel always seems easier in the fall and winter than when the weather’s hot. After all, rigid selvedge jeans, shawl collar cardigans, and heavy-weight work shirts all make more sense when the weather is cold than when it’s warm and sunny outside. But if you appreciate the tradition of American workwear, you don’t have to put away the high-quality materials, traditional manufacturing methods, and fine craftsmanship when you transition your wardrobe from cold weather to warm. You can still look classic while keeping cool. Read on for our tips on looking sharp in workwear-inspired pieces even during the hottest months of the year.

1. Stock up on classic tees

a classic t-shirt

A men’s T-shirt | Source: iStock

There are a few classic styles of T-shirts, and they’ll be comfortable even on hot summer days. A favorite style among workwear devotees is the white crewneck, which was introduced more than a century ago as an undershirt for soldiers and sailors. Tees were later adopted by farmers and laborers of all kinds, and by the 1950s, it was acceptable to wear a tee without a shirt on top. To channel workwear style even in the summer, combine a trim tee in white, navy blue, or grey with a pair of jeans or chinos.

2. Don’t be afraid of vintage-inspired graphic tees

a bearded man wearing a t-shirt

A man wearing a white T-shirt | Source: iStock

Lots of guys stay away from graphic tees as a matter of principle, since ill-advised graphic tees always end up making the wearer look younger and less stylish than he really is. But if you stick to graphics that look vintage and recall the long and storied history of the T-shirt, you can avoid those pitfalls. In the 1960s, T-shirts were printed with graphics ranging from brand names to political slogans, and you can still find tees with classic and tasteful designs to wear in your most casual ensembles for trips to the gym, outings to the beach, or errands around town.

3. Swap your jeans for chinos instead


Chinos | Source:

We love rigid and selvedge jeans as much as the next workwear devotee. But particularly if you live in a state where temperatures regularly hit the 80s or 90s, you’re not going to want to wear those heavy jeans. You can certainly opt for a lightweight pair of jeans, but we’d advocate for choosing a pair of chinos instead. Whether in tan, navy blue, or green, a pair of chinos in a slim and flattering fit will look just as classic as a pair of selvedge jeans, and feel considerably more comfortable in the middle of summer.

4. Choose lightweight chambray and work shirts

a man shirt shopping

A man shopping for shirts | Source: iStock

Workwear is all about practicality, and the graceful combination of form with function. That’s one reason why workwear fans love the button-front shirt: It’s both stylish and functional, with sleeves that can be rolled up and out of the way when your work (or the weather) merit it. While you might choose shirts made from flannel, denim, and chamois cloth during the winter, you need to pick lighter-weight options for the summer. Look for light and breathable shirts in chambray, poplin, lightweight twill, and other forms of cotton.

5. Switch from a leather-soled work boot to a desert boot

work boots

Work boots | Source: iStock

Even if your 9 to 5 doesn’t require the same kind of hard work completed by miners or ranchers, you probably appreciate the value of a traditional pair of leather boots. There are plenty of boots that are constructed with high-quality leather, traditional craftsmanship, and classic styling. And the same could be said for boots that are more appropriate for warm weather than a work boot or trench boot. Look for a more casual, summer-ready style like a desert boot. They’ll still look great with a pair of jeans or chinos, but they’ll be a little more comfortable on hot summer days.

More from Gear & Style Cheat Sheet: