How to Dress Cool Through Hot Weather

If you’re going to make it through summer, you’d better dress appropriately.

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Taylor Stitch

On any occasion, dressing appropriately has its benefits. Whether it’s for an important meeting, a wedding, a party, or just summer, the right outfit is key. With the mercury rising, you’ll want to take proper steps to ensure you’re not overheating, something we’ll have to worry about more and more. Here are the best style practices for dressing for the hot, hot heat.

Wear Lightweight, Breathable Fabrics

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Taylor Stitch

Heavier fabrics tend to be more densely woven, trapping heat and blocking air flow, and that’s a problem because airflow is what carries heat energy from our bodies. When you sweat, and that sweat evaporates, it takes heat from your body and spreads it to the breeze. But in order for sweat to do its job, there has to be airflow so the evaporation can happen.

Madras fabric tends to be made from cotton in a light and open weave, making it perfect for the summer. Seersucker is also a good option because its characteristic rippling means the fabric doesn’t stick to the skin, allowing air to flow. Fabrics made with linen and hemp also tend to be more loosely woven and thus breathable. They also dry quickly, which helps to continuously evaporate sweat.

In contrast, synthetic materials like polyester and nylon tend to trap heat and moisture, making them inefficient in the summer. But, there are many synthetic fabrics which have been engineered specifically to regulate temperature in hot weather.

While wool is typically thought of as a winter material, it can actually be put to good use in the summer as well. Lightweight wool fabrics have open weaves and better breathability than synthetic fabrics while also wicking away moisture.

Stick to Light Colors

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The darker your clothes are, the more light they will absorb and turn into heat. Lighter tones, on the other hand, reflect that energy away. Long story short, wear white clothes to keep cool.

However, scientists have found that in thickness matters, too. Bedouins wear thick, black robes to get them through the scorching heat of the desert. This sounds counterintuitive, but is actually proven to help. It works because the fabric is actually thick enough to absorb the sun’s rays on the exterior portion of the fabric, while the interior portion stays cooler, transferring less heat to the body. But If you’re not a Bedouin, it’s probably simpler to keep the colors light.

Loosen Up the Silhouette

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Clothes that fit close to the body might be your vibe, but it’s not the best option for staying cool in the heat. Slim-fitting clothes don’t allow air to flow as much as loose clothing. They can also absorb your sweat, leaving you walking around with damp clothes. Wider silhouettes don’t cling to the skin as easily, allowing room for air to pass over the skin and evaporate more of your sweat, dissipating more heat from your body.

You can opt for clothes that are designed with more drape, obviously. But if a brand that you like doesn’t make looser-silhouettes, you can try sizing up. For certain garments, you can also have a tailor let out the silhouette. However, that’s mostly limited to dress pants and suit jackets, which have seam allowances built into them to allow for tailoring.

Tucking in your shirt is like keeping the windows closed in a hot house. When your shirt is tucked in, it seals off air from entering through the hem opening of the shirt. It’s not exactly giving you a looser silhouette, but it does allow more air to flow.

Wear a Hat

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The more sun your body absorbs, the hotter you’ll feel. While you could take that to mean you should take an umbrella with you, a more practical, hands-free alternative is to wear a hat. Some argue that hats can trap heat, which is true to an extent. But the radiant heat that we experience from the sun can add to the ambient heat (the average air temperature we feel in the shade). So it depends. If the sun is blazing, it’s good to wear a hat. On a hot, but overcast day, a hat might not do you much good.

When it is sunny, given the other tips on this list, try to get one made in a lightweight, open-weave fabric in a light color. Assuming you want the hat to stay on your head, you’ll have to skip the loose-fit part.

Shorter Clothes Are More Breathable, But More Exposing

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Long-sleeved shirts and pants just add more of a barrier to letting your skin breathe. Though light-colored clothes with an open weave are better for breathability than heavier, darker clothes, they’re ultimately still not as breathable as a pair of shorts or a short-sleeved shirt.

But, there’s a sort of caveat with this. Shorts and short-sleeved (or sleeveless) shirts do allow for better airflow and release more internal body heat. However, your body can still absorb heat by being more exposed to the sun. Not only that, but it can leave you more vulnerable to harmful UV rays. Sunburn is not a fun way to keep cool.

Though you could avert sunburns by applying sunscreen to your exposed skin, many sun screens might actually make you feel hotter. That’s because they cover the skin in a smooth layer which allows sweat to form larger into larger droplets which are harder to evaporate than smaller droplets. This explains why many people report feeling as though sunscreen makes them sweat more because they experience larger beads of sweat.

Be Light on Your Feet

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We love a Goodyear-welted, full-grain leather boot any day. Well, except for summer. Shoes made of thicker materials or less-breathable materials like leather less breathable than a canvas sneaker.

Lightweight canvas sneakers provide good breathability, but you also have to make sure you’ve got the right socks. Avoid thick camp socks, or socks with dense knits. If you can help it, find socks that have less synthetic fibers, which tend to absorb sweat rather than wick it away. Some brands even make socks with summer-friendly materials like linen, which is a good choice.

Open-toed shoes like sandals and flip-flops are also a great option for keeping your feat from overheating. Again, the greater amount of room allows for more air circulation. We’re not saying that we don’t like socks with sandals, but you save a pair of socks from your next load of laundry, and that’s something.

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