Thanks to shows such as Home and Away and The Shire, Aussie blokes tend to be of the belief that a pair of boardshorts, some thongs and a singlet will carry you right through summer. Based on this belief, my own summer weekend wardrobe has successfully stayed much the same for the past 20 years.
That's because when it's time to decide what to wear on the weekend during an Aussie summer, men rarely think much further than lunch. Or lunch at the beach. And when they do, it's about as far ahead as the nearest pub. We men tend to be pretty relaxed and therefore lazy dressers, and the warmer the weather the better the excuse to avoid making any kind of sartorial decision harder than choosing fresh undies.
Slowly but surely, though, the average male is learning that looking like an extra in Puberty Blues isn't perfect for for every occasion.
“Men are definitely changing in the way they perceive and exude style,” says Emma Minde, marketing director for menswear label Calibre. “Not everyone lives in the Shire or believes thongs and boardshorts are a fashion statement. Australian men are now standing on their own two feet when it comes to personal style.
"Fashion doesn't mean mohawks, skirts and looking ridiculous, and men are becoming more conscious than ever of cutting their own curve through attention to detail, colour, fabric and cut.”
Menswear buyer and part-owner of Sydney and Melbourne-based boutiques Incu, Vincent Wu, agrees. “I think menswear is definitely changing. In saying that, I think we should be really proud that we have a certain Aussie style. The fact that we have such a lifestyle-oriented style makes us unique and we should definitely embrace it and make it our own.”
Wu advises that when choosing your outfit for the weekend, select clothes that suite the occasion and not just the first thing that jumps out at you. “Trends don't last that long anymore because they get posted on every blog and fast fashion stores pick up on it really quickly and kill it off and function plays more of a part than a particular look.
"Most guys can go pretty safe with navy, blacks – but then with a highlight of colour – wine, gold/yellow, bottle greens. I would say that camo (camouflage print) is definitely popular at the moment but I can already see that fading in the next few seasons.”
So what does it take to keep from looking like you belong in a 1980s-era beer commercial?
First and foremost, ditch the thongs. Say what you like about them, but those bits of recycled scrap tyre are best left for being at the actual beach rather than looking like you wish you were at the beach. Instead, try out a boat shoe – US brands Sperry and Sebago have been gracing the feet of Ivy League rowers and sailors since the 1930s. Both provide a huge range of colour choices and are super-comfortable to boot. Australian footwear label Mere is also quickly gaining a cult following for its range of leather sandals and slides for men that are all hand-finished in Vietnam.
CARGO SHORTS, CHINOS
We'll leave the debate over the hem length of the humble short to better minds and instead simply suggest that a few inches above the knee is a good standard of measure. Steer clear of the current fad for "man-jorts" or jean shorts – they look like hand-me downs and are better suited to the under 21 set. Cotton twill, linen and even corduroy are great whilst keeping it fairly relaxed. Brands such as Nautica and Gant have a good selection of basic colours, as does Australian label Vanishing Elephant.
When it comes to pants, chinos are the new denim. Made from light to mid-weight cotton, your basic chino is versatile enough to get you through an entire weekend's worth of breakfasts, barbecues and beers at the pub. Roll up the hem a little and wear them with a pair of Converse (but lose the socks to keep that clean, summer look). Melbourne-based brand Flux, and the Scandinavian powerhouse labels Dr Denim, Cheap Monday and Acne, all do a variety of chinos at a decent price. On top of that, they come in a huge range of colours, which is a great way to sharpening up the classic white shirt.
SHIRTS, AND T-SHIRTS
Shirts and tees are the Russian roulette of summer clothing – pick the wrong colour and the potential wet patch under your armpit is more visible than Tony Abbott's discomfort when Leigh Sales enters the room. If you're like me and you break into a sweat at the mere mention of humidity, you'll want to steer clear of colours that are prone to showing up any hint of perspiration. White, black, and grey marl are all fairly good at hiding salty eruptions and on top of that, easy to match with shorts, jeans or pants. And don't let the laddish history of the polo shirt scare you off. English super-brands Fred Perry and Lyle & Scott, French label Lacoste, and US brand Band of Outsiders are a good staple to have in your closet.
Finally, whilst there is little better than the look of a crisp, clean, white cotton shirt to make any weekend gear that much smarter, never underestimate the impact of a good short-sleeved shirt. It's the perfect 50/50 – business in the body and party in the sleeves without the need to roll up your cuffs to the point that you lose all circulation in your arm. Aussie label Arthur Galan or, if you don't mind trawling hundreds of choices, the online super-store ASOS have a great selection to choose from to find the perfect shirt to finish off your weekend wardrobe.
What other summer essentials would you add to this list?