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Why Dressing To Stay Cool Is Pretty Much an Exercise in Futility

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Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

Love, Frank has returned as a weekly style advice column. Addressing a different reader's fashion glitch each week, he tackles all the hard-hitting issues—like whether you can wear white to a wedding and where to find cute shoelaces.

Eileen Fisher via Daily Violets.

Dear Frank,

Just what exactly should I be wearing to beat the heat? It's so disgustingly hot that honestly I don't feel like wearing anything. Any fabrics that you can recommend to keep cool?

Hot and Bothered

Dear Hot and Bothered,

This weather is repulsive, and trust me, I'm right there with you. It's too hot to do anything—let alone wear stuff. I mean, washing dishes is a trial.

I'm probably not even the right person to ask about this. Like a mayonnaise-based schmear in the sun—I don't keep well in this heat. Mornings like this I get to the train looking like I jogged there (who doesn't jog in Paul Smith?).

Last week I arrived at a party and no less than three people asked me if I ran or swam there. "Oh, do I look warm? I totally hadn't noticed. Thanks so much for pointing it out." (Note to pointers-outers—sweaters are aware. This isn't a poppy-seed-in-the-teeth situation. It's called looking and feeling like shit all summer. And we don't need help knowing that.)

I mean, WTF?

Sorry, rage moment. Anyway, when it's this grotesquely hot meteorologists and morning news anchors suggest wearing light-colored, loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibers like cotton (poly don't breathe). So, basically, head-to-toe Eileen Fisher.

As far as I'm concerned, that's bull. Wearing beige isn't going to make you feel any better. It's a placebo. It's like one little thing that might help convince you for about two seconds that, you know, you aren't dying. But you are dying. It's gross. Everything's gross and everything smells. It's just freaking gross.

I can tell you this: Carry a jaunty, cotton bandana to wipe yourself down with. Stay hydrated. Don't bother eating because it's too hot to bother and maybe you'll lose a pound and/or get drunker on fewer glasses of white wine. Don't wear leather. Don't wear denim. In fact, don't wear anything you actually like or care about because either you'll be out of control uncomfortable in it or you'll straight up ruin it.

You could try wearing linen—people say that's an appropriate summer fabric that breathes. It also only looks good for about 90 seconds after pulling it on. Then it's a wrinkled mess that dries unevenly and makes you look like you're both homeless and the worst kind of eco-tourist.

You can wear those techno-fabrics that allegedly keep wearers dry and fresh; wicking moistureaway from the body and breathing; controlling body temperature and resisting odor. But then you're a person who wears odor resistant techno-fabrics. It's a lose-lose.

Wear dresses and skirts. You have that over men—you can wear a $7 cotton skirt that barely covers your ass to work and, sure, that's business casual. My tailored United Bamboo seersucker shorts that retail for about 25 times that? Inappropriate. Please report to HR.

Chanel caftans via CK Beauty.

Actually, better yet, wear caftans. Let's just all wear caftans. Enormous cotton caftans accessorized with a huge white wine spritzers.

Or stay home. Bond with your air-conditioner. I named mine Erik.

Got a style question for Frank? Leave it in the comments or email one in here. Then buckle your two-toned leather Moschino belts, folks, because it's going to be ? Something.
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