Whether you’re planning a trip out to the US Capital for this summer or next, you need to know what to wear while out in the city. If you’re on personal time or business, you’ll want to be stylish while being comfortable—and, most importantly, cool. D.C. gets hot, which can come as a surprise to people who are unfamiliar with Virginia/Maryland’s weather.
Lucky for you, we’re here to help show you casual dress for men that can handle the heat while staying stylish and cool.
What do people wear in D.C. in summer?
Many are the tourists who come to D.C. expecting it to be as cool as New York City, only to be caught dead in ninety-degree weather with eighty percent humidity. D.C. is right on the Potomac River, meaning it stays humid year-round, not to mention D.C. is technically still in the South, so it stays hot most of the year, too.
All summer essentials are united by their comfortableness. You want clothing that is comfortable and cool, so no layers and good ventilation.
What do you wear on a trip to D.C.?
You wear what you like while keeping in mind the environments you will be in—both in terms of the level of dress needed and the temperature of the city. You don’t want a three-piece suit in the summer heat, especially if you’re just a tourist. Washington D.C. fashion is all about style and comfort meshed into one.
What should you consider when assembling your Washington D.C. wardrobe?
There are a few key factors to consider when you’re putting together your Washington D.C. outfit selection. For one, you need to think about the weather (and preferably check ahead on your preferred weather app). Second, you need to think about how you plan on getting around the capital.
If you plan on Ubering everywhere, then you might need to worry less about temperature regulation than if you plan on walking or biking most of the time. How you get around D.C. will determine the level of comfort and heat regulation you need (although favoring comfort and coolness is still pretty important).
The first things you need are good T-shirts. T-shirts are perfect for Washington D.C. outfits because they’re comfortable and cool, but you need good T-shirts to ensure that they look good and fit you well. You want T-shirts with good coloration to match any outfits you pair them with. They should also be made with good materials so that they lay on your chest well and look good on you.
If you want advice on the best T-shirt colors for summer, we’ve got a whole guide on that.
The other main option you have for your tops is button-up shirts. And we don’t mean dress shirts! These are the casual buttoned shirts that you can wear with almost any outfit. These are great to complement good T-shirts because buttoned shirts often have more complex, louder designs. Alternating between T-shirts and buttoned shirts gives you the variety you need in your outfit tops to build great casual outfits for men.
Washington D.C. has a diverse culture, so Washington D.C. fashion is similarly varied. Buttoned-up shirts are perfect for adding variety to your casual attire for men without needing jackets or accessories that may trap heat.
Now that you have assembled an excellent repertoire of tops, you need perfect bottoms to make good outfits. To start, you’ll want a pair of chinos or two. Chinos are the jeans-khaki lovechild you’ve always needed. They’re as comfortable and versatile as jeans, but look as stylish and nice as good khakis. They’re great smart, casual attire for men.
Chinos also have a more varied color spectrum than jeans or khakis. You can get chinos in almost any color, so having a pair or two that are in colors you might not have from your shorts or jeans can take your wardrobe to the next level. Chinos are the ultimate casual pants, as they can be just as casual or formal as you want them to be.
As a side note, you also want to make sure that your chinos are well cared for. Luckily, we have a guide for that, too.
One can’t talk about casual outfits for men without discussing shorts. While there are some types of shorts you may want to avoid depending on your body type (like chubby-style short shorts or longer cargo shorts, depending on your build), shorts are generally a safe move for warm weather fashion, and Washington fashion is no different.
You will want a variety of shorts for your trip—and, once again, consider how you’re getting around D.C. If you’re largely walking or biking, you might want some athleisure shorts and pants to help you get around. Either way, you’ll want some comfortable, stylish shorts to round out your wardrobe.
Alright, jeans may sound foolish with how much we’ve emphasized the summer heat of Washington D.C., and if you’re a particularly warm-bodied person, ignore this section, but jeans can still be a great option for your outfits. There’s nothing to be lost by bringing one pair of stylish jeans. At worst, they take up some space in your luggage, and at best, you have them if you need them.
Jeans achieve a different look than chinos. They can be just as casual and (almost) as formal, but they are certainly a different type of fashion. If you prefer the jean look, then maybe jeans are the move for you, but do be warned: jeans rarely handle heat as well as chinos. Chinos are typically lighter and more breathable (and some, like Perk’s, are even built for athleisure) while jeans can bake your legs.
Shoes and Accessories
Finally, you can’t have good casual outfits for men without the right shoes and accessories. Regarding shoes, you want ones that will be comfortable (especially if you plan on walking a lot) but not too athletic or beachy. You don’t want to wear tennis shoes everywhere (unless you’re in D.C. for pure tourism, in which case tennis shoes may be more acceptable), but you’ll also die if you wear Oxfords all over town. Grab a fashionable pair of sneakers, a nicer pair of boat shoes or even dress shoes, and keep a pair of tennis shoes for more touristy days.
As far as accessories go, you’ll want a watch, as you almost always do in men’s fashion. You’ll need a good belt or two, especially if you’re bringing a few chinos and/or jeans. If you’re on business and wearing slightly more formal/professional clothing, you may want a tie clip and other suit accouterments.
If you want even more fashion tips and tricks, be sure to check out the rest of Perk’s blog!