In the United States, Memorial Day is celebrated annually on the last Monday of May. It was originally called Decoration Day and was implemented after the Civil War as an opportunity to decorate the graves of Union soldiers who died in service to their country.
It’s a holiday with two meanings:
- Honor military veterans who lost their lives while serving in the armed forces, and
- Mark the unofficial start of summer
On the somber side of things, people take the time to visit cemeteries and memorial sites, especially around the Washington, D.C. area.
Outside of that, Memorial Day sees a lot of celebratory action. Retailers have huge sales as the time of year coincides with their need to liquidate spring product and make room for summer items. There are also parades, trips to the beach, and barbecues.
You’ve got to know how to dress for everything you plan to do this weekend, and you don’t want to be the guy showing up in flip-flops and -heaven forbid- cargo shorts.
Thankfully, we have you covered.
Memorial Day Style Three Ways
Sartorially speaking, the unofficial start of summer means that men can start wearing white shoes and white trousers again. We’ve incorporated those items into these looks but will also offer some alternatives as well.
Light & Bright
- Shorts, linen button-down shirt, white bucks.
Perfect For: Barbecues, parades, any outdoor activity when it’s hot
The end of May tends to get pretty hot in most parts of the country, and you want to stay as cool as possible.
Shorts will obviously keep you cooler than long pants, particularly when it’s humid. Get a pair that’s cut above your knee, and if they’re too long but otherwise fit well, they can be altered just like trousers. Our favorite colors are blue (obviously), white, and khaki.
Linen is a great fabric for hot weather. It breathes wonderfully and deals very well with moisture. A word to the wise: linen is wrinkly, period. There’s no way of getting around it. If you don’t want to embrace such a look, you can easily substitute this with a lightweight cotton shirt. A colorful plaid is a nice, easy way to add a jolt of personality into an outfit. The color way on this one is particularly bold:
As stated above, the beginning of summer means that white footwear is now totally wearable for guys. White bucks are classic American shoes that are perfect for summer. Their uppers are nubuck or suede, and the sole is an extremely lightweight EVA rubber, which is essentially a super-pliable foam rubber.
The most classic interpretation is a white upper with a brick red sole as you see below. The broguing is a subtle twist on the classic model:
An Important Note On White Bucks
If you are a person who likes to keep his shoes in pristine condition (and more power to you if you do), then white bucks might not be for you. There is no way to get them from discoloring when you wear them. It’s considered quaint that they take on a bit of a clotted cream color as they age, similarly to how wrinkled linen has its own character.
Red, White, & Blue
- Gingham shirt, white pants, boat shoes
Perfect For: Weekend brunch, party at the beach house
Nothing says “USA! USA!” more than a red, white, and blue outfit. If there’s a day to show some patriotism, Memorial Day is it. Thankfully, white is neutral while red and blue are primary colors, so you can really play around with this combination.
As it resembles a picnic table cloth, gingham is arguably the best pattern for summertime. In an outfit like this, it’s casual enough to look relaxed, but dressed up enough to take you into an evening of cocktails and cigars after the barbecue.
White jeans are a great trouser option in the summertime, but you can always wear white casual pants too. Men don’t often get to wear white below the belt, so it’s a nice departure from the norm when you do. Be cautious about where you sit, though. As you might imagine, white stains incredibly easily!
Boat shoes are another quintessentially American item. With two eyelets and a rubber sole made to grip the deck of a boat, they pair wonderfully with white pants and are available in a myriad of colors, not just red.
*Editor’s Note* This color scheme is applicable to our patriotic friends in England, France, and Australia.
Classic Spring / Summer
- Chinos, polo shirt, camp moccasins
Perfect For: any occasion
When in doubt, you cannot go wrong with a simple outfit of polo shirt, chinos, and moccasins. Relaxed American style makes perfect sense for an American holiday, and this one in particular is great for indoor / outdoor occasions like cookouts. You can be outside and be relatively cool one moment and be inside not freezing in air conditioning the next.
If you don’t own a pair of tan chinos, go buy a pair once you’re done reading this. This is easily one of the most versatile pieces of clothing a man can own. They can be dressed up with a shirt, tie, and blazer. They can be dressed down to a t-shirt and sandals. They’re like the safety net of men’s trousers.
The polo shirt is an oft-maligned item that got a bad rap during the dress down 1990’s. Far too many companies instituted a “khakis and a polo shirt” dress code that saw men showing up to work in oversized golf shirts and ill-fitting trousers. This is not the kind of polo that we’re talking about here.
You want something that’s well-fitted, for starters. It doesn’t have to be a bright color like pink (though if you have cool skin undertones, it’ll look good on you), and many polos are available with stripes and color block patterns that will look great against the basic backdrop of chinos.
A moccasin is a great summer shoe. It’s lightweight and slipper-soft, and they can just as easily be paired with shorts as they can with long pants. Available in a wide variety of colors and styles, it’s good to have a few different options in the closet. We suggest starting with a tan or light brown suede, which goes with just about everything you’ll wear when the weather heats up. If you opt for blue suede as you see in the picture, though, we won’t blame you!
Memorial Day To Remember
Looking towards a holiday weekend, it’s easy to get excited for the time with family and friends, but it can be challenging to know what to wear and when. Hopefully this article was helpful in that regard.
Know that any of the ideas above are very open to interpretation. If you need any help with pairing colors and haven’t yet see it, our Color Series is a great place to start!