Aloha my wardrobe
August 27, 2017 7:25 PM   Subscribe

I have just moved somewhere that's always warm. I am also pretty much always warm. Help me dress like a grownup and not melt into a sweaty puddle. Difficulty: no Hawaiian shirts, ever.

I would be much more physically comfortable back in higher latitudes, but this is where life has brought me for the next few years.

I work in a professional environment where the expectations of work attire are generally very ...Hawaii, but I also work with the military and being squared away in your personal presentation is given weight. I'm in a position where I'm the go-to authority in a certain realm, and I interact with people up and down the proverbial food chain on a daily basis. Very occasionally, I will need to dress up for outside interaction but think I have that covered.

I'd appreciate any guidance on what a mid-40s guy who wants to look "island professional" might do on the regular. Links welcome.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
LINEN is your new best friend. Good for any type of heat, especially good for humid heat. Can do mixes with cotton or synthetics, or 100% pure. Try a few different blends and see what is best for you personally, but my rule is any linen is better than none in the heat.

Some of these are absurdly overpriced but should give an idea of what's out there.

Avoid pure synthetic fibers like the plague.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:39 PM on August 27, 2017 [8 favorites]

My friend who is actually from HI swears by golf polos. I got my hubby some to wear to his gov't agency job. Every major sports brand carries them. The fabric is super light weight and breathable. I think I paid around $25 each on Amazon. Beware ordering white, it was too see-through to be professional.
posted by vignettist at 7:46 PM on August 27, 2017

Also came in to say LINEN. Also confirming that synthetic fabrics are essentially evil for your purposes.

You know what's awesome? An old theater wardrobe trick - put some vodka and a drop (like literally one drop) of lemon or other essential oil. Real essential oil, not synthetic. Plain vodka is fine. Use that to spray your clothing you won't be washing right away, or maybe even mid-way through the day if you are sweating a lot. Kills germs, keeps your clothes smelling fresh. You're welcome.
posted by jbenben at 7:51 PM on August 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Hmm, have you been here long enough to distinguish between the Hilo Hattie tropical-bright Hawaiian shirts and their muted Reyn Spooner counterparts? Because the former are for tourists, the latter with pressed khakis and a belt are for mid-40s guys who want to look "island professional."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:06 PM on August 27, 2017 [16 favorites]

Seersucker (there was a post a few days ago about this wonderful fabric, perfect for hot/humid climates).
posted by MovableBookLady at 8:28 PM on August 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Unlined silk too.
posted by brujita at 9:44 PM on August 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Banana Republic men's linen shirts, pants, blazers, polos.

Nordstrom's collection of Mens Seersucker clothing

J.Crew's Men's Linen or seersucker

Zara Mens linen or seersucker
posted by erst at 9:54 PM on August 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Invest in a garment steamer or very good steam iron if you're going to do linens etc. (Do it regardless, a good steaming device is 4x faster than regular ironing.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:06 PM on August 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Agreeing with linen suggestion. Also, in the past few months I've lost about 50 lbs, down to 215, and am much more comfortable in the SoCal heat wearing golf polos. If it's an option, try losing some weight.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:51 PM on August 27, 2017

Best answer: I live in steamy and humid Hong Kong and occupy a similar position in my organisation, but mostly work with people internally and in an office where the only dress code is "dress for your role that day" because we all come from different cultures. Some warm-weather work-appropriate clothing tips:

- ecosystem: make full use of the natural environment's ability to keep yourself cool: cross the street to walk on the shady side, learn where the breezier parts of your workspace are and migrate there, balance the blinds/curtains in the office through the day to match the sun's movements, perhaps move more slowly in general if possible during the hottest part of the day; pursue shade in general

- undershirts: I was skeptical at first but am much happier and much less visibly sweaty now, which makes me not stress about being seen as a puddle BUT on days when I commute early/on the MTR I don't bother since I'm not really out in the heat

- undergarments in general: go with whatever magical high-tech fabric exists these days; I get mine at Uniqlo (look at their "DRY" range for heat-friendly clothes) and they keep me, uh, cool and ventilated

- trousers: linen-cotton blends wrinkle less than full linen and can get me all the way from March through late December (we really only have six weeks of winter); I have found they are cheaper than pure linen and quite durably hold a crease for at least a day after I iron them if I've been careful to fold/hang them as soon as I am home

- shoes: I have a few brown leather laceups I keep looking smart by rotating them and letting them FULLY dry out from foot moisture (yikes) each day by keeping them in the driest bit of the house; Fridays I wear muted canvas alpargattas like this with those tiny invisible socks (or no socks! shhhh) and I keep these immaculate and in a shoe bag at my desk (shhhh) as they very quickly get tatty-looking. (Also: does Hawaii have a formal sandal tradition? Investigate.)

- socks: see undergarments

- shirts: this has been quite tricky; I usually go with a Uniqlo DRY polo or a short-sleeve cotton button-up shirt with a botanical pattern that is like 50% less intense than the Reyn Spooners linked above - think pastel blue and very muted Tommy Bahama, sometimes under a cardigan - and get all my shirts tailored so they look less boxy (I am, uh, rounder than most medium shirts but not tall enough to carry a large); on more formal days I might give it a harder crease with the iron; also look into (muted!) batik prints from places like Indonesia and Malaysia (perhaps your Pacific posting will bring you over that way in your vacation time and you can investigate in person)

- jackets/ties: look at Japanese brands like MUJI if you have a smaller build for summer-friendly formal jackets and ties, as Japan work culture is also hot but formal in summer, or perhaps have something made?

- accessories: my keys got quite poky through my lightweight trousers so they were reduced to essentials and popped into a leather case; my wallet is also very small (only ID, bank card/transit card/insurance card, and a bit of cash); don't underestimate sunglasses even when you aren't driving; see if you can find a local hatmaker that can craft something that is better than a baseball cap and not full Ernest Hemingway; look for smallish/boring umbrellas that can be popped into a back pocket or left in your office drawer/glovebox

- bag: some days I work out after work and change at the office before I go, so I take along my clothes/shoes in a small leather shoulder bag to avoid backpack sweats
posted by mdonley at 10:55 PM on August 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

Exofficio makes shirts that have a subtle vent with a mesh yoke in back.
posted by foxfirefey at 12:18 AM on August 28, 2017

Yeah, I'd be hesitant about anything leather (but I was living on a boat with no air con). Instead of a steamer, the "Hawaiian Iron" which is a spray bottle of water and a hair dryer. And Reyn Spooner shirts will help you, um, blend in.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:43 AM on August 28, 2017

Guayabera shirts are more low-key than Hawaiian patterns, and can read as "island professional."
posted by Scram at 12:01 PM on August 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

Landsend and LLBean have good quality cotton polos and shortsleeve shirts that will not go see through. My recommendation is to wear shirts that fit well, not baggy, same with pants.
posted by theora55 at 1:13 PM on August 28, 2017

seersucker is cooler than normal cotton, dries fast, doesn't show your body through so it's more professional-looking, has shadow all over and lumps and gingham so sweat doesn't show much, and doesn't need ironing and is dripdry. You will look like an elderly bore, but it's ace, totally recommend for shirts and jackets for hot sweaty climates
posted by maiamaia at 3:06 PM on August 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm going to second Snarl Furillo: Reyn-Spooner-style aloha shirts are what you're looking for. Here in Hawai'i, they're worn by bank executives, politicians, high-level bureaucrats, lawyers (at least ones not headed to court that day). As long as you're tucked-in, with khakis or similar slacks, no one will think twice about your professionalism.

This blog post has some reasonably good specifics on what to shop for and how to incorporate aloha shirts into your wardrobe.
posted by flod at 4:40 PM on August 28, 2017

Late to the party, but Snarl Furillo is the only right answer here.

Locals can not only tell the difference between Aloha shirt brands, they can tell you what year specific patterns came out. Just because you can't tell the difference yet doesn't mean the answer is to punt and do something else.

If you're wearing linen or searsucker in Hawaii, all that really means is you haven't figured out what you should be doing, yet.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 4:09 PM on August 29, 2017

For the record, I am a lady and I am from the mainland, and I can't actually tell the difference between aloha shirt brands or how old the patterns are. That's some graduate-level kama'aina shit! I was trying to get at what mdonley described perfectly (along with lots of other very good advice): "short-sleeve cotton button-up shirt with a botanical pattern that is like 50% less intense than the Reyn Spooners linked above - think pastel blue and very muted Tommy Bahama."

You can see from many of the pics of Governor Ige at bill signings that the most formal way to style aloha shirts is tucked-in with a belt and grandpa-style dress slacks (pleats everywhere). This pic is basically the lead image in a "How To Wear An Aloha Shirt At Any Age" magazine spread.

I can see how most of the governor's shirts would be too loud for you if you aren't into patterns and color, and also if you are regularly interacting with people from the military who are probably from Kansas. In those cases, I think the right answer is small-print aloha shirts in a mainland-appropriate button-down color (basically, light blue, navy, grey or cream) for office days and dri-fit golf polos in black, blue, or grey for on-post days. I have it in my head that dri-fit golf polos and dad khakis are the PMC uniform anyway, but I've probably watched too much TV.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 9:04 PM on August 29, 2017

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