Ellina Webb discusses summer workwear options to help you stay comfortable both outside in the heat and inside a cool air conditioned office.

This weekend, in preparation for a potentially more 'June typical' weekend (once it's finally stopped raining) I thought it was time to start planning my summer workwear wardrobe. The main inspiration for it was this article by Haley Nahman on Manreller, a popular American fashion site, where she discussed air conditioning friendly wardrobe inspiration from Instagram.

Much like Haley, I also enjoy a bit of insta inspiration but what caught my eye was how, for most of us who work in an office, the consideration of appropriate clothing which is both suitable for the sunshine and suitable for the air conditioned office can be a tricky thing to master; especially for those who are restricted to an office dress code! 

So what are the best options to consider when navigating these kinds of temperature variables?

The importance of office air-con

Before I dive into this, the conundrum for the majority of us who spend most of our time indoors is that dressing for one type of temperature will often leave us vulnerable to the other.

We've all been there when the summer appropriate skirt doesn’t cut it under the blow of an overhead vent (am I right boys?), or when you thoroughly regret leaving your cashmere cardi at home… It really is a ‘first world problem’ and that's because in actual fact, in the UK most of us are privileged to work in air conditioned spaces.

The world is changing, it’s getting hotter and our expectations of comfortable environments are getting even more precise. In fact, by 2050 the demands for cooling are likely to triple, so the next step is to make sure the air conditioning systems we use are the ones best suited to protecting our planet - after all it’s an even bigger privilege that we get to live here!

Natural lighting, good quality indoor air and premium systems that can intelligently heat and cool our spaces are swiftly becoming essential requirements.

Not only that, but working in these soon to be ‘basic standards’ to achieving healthy buildings, has so far proven to make occupants more productive, more alert and even happier – as Danny Bluestone, CEO of our digital agency Cyberduck noted before he installed air conditioning in his Elstree offices.

Therefore, taking a bit of time to consider the comfort of your clothing choices seems like a good idea to me (especially if you don’t have access to the air con controller!) - And if your current building air conditioning isn’t up to standard, here are a few good choices to consider too.

Opt for summer fits and fabrics 

Of course I’m writing this from a woman's point of view, but regardless of gender, adjusting the fit and the fabric of your garments is a universal must in the summer months. 

There are countless numbers of high street brands who offer a shorter trouser in their spring and summer collections, this typically includes the cropped tapered leg, the ankle swinger (a gentleman's staple in Shoreditch!) or a Coulotte (that’s a calf length, wide leg trouser). Heck, this year even Bermuda shorts have made a comeback - the ideal length for a high outdoor temperature and a low indoor one.

Talking about shorts, I know for most corporate office environments this is a no go, but if you don't have that restriction, this year the variety on option - from smart to casual, is quite impressive (if you're easily impressed, which clearly I am). If you don't work in a corporate environment, cotton cargo shorts or trousers combine summer fit and fabric perfectly (and are ideal when out on site), as does linen.

On the top half, anything oversized is usually a great option, especially if it has buttons. Ideal fabrics are again cotton, linen or silk, especially in lighter colours.

If you work outside though, it’s very important to ensure you cover your shoulders and wear fabrics which are suitably loose (to allow for air flow) durable and keep you safe - as I spoke about in my previous article here which discusses how to keep cool when out on-site. 

A lot of modern and innovate fabrics available nowadays also incorporate elements of mesh and other breathable perforated materials. AIRism by Uniqlo for example uses a smart comfort conditioning technology fabric which releases heat and moisture in order to adapt to any weather condition.

Don’t forget about the accessories

It goes without saying that outside in the summer months, a decent hat, sunglasses and appropriate footwear is very important. Inside the office, accessories are also an important factor to consider – and these aren’t just limited to clothing. If your office dress code is casual, a sandal is a summer staple, this year the “dad sandal” is proving to be the most popular style across the genders (hurrah! the Velcro sandal is no longer limited to dads or tourists).

Breathable trainers and plimsolls are also ideal for the casual environment, or if you work in a corporate environment, while it might be hard to move away from a leather shoe, you could look at changing your socks to breathable cotton (M&S have a decent range) or using cooling gel insoles.

Other great accessories to keep you at a comfortable temperature in the office include a thermal water bottle – which also allows you to keep your hot drinks hot if the air con gets a bit chilly! And of course a smart watch allows you to keep track of your body temperature so you can head to a hotter/cooler space if your levels rise or fall.

Final thoughts

Preparing for a summer workwear wardrobe might seem a bit silly, but putting the sniggers aside, preparation is key, especially when it comes to avoiding heat stress and other temperature related problems.

Choosing a lighter and more breathable fabric might seem obvious, but the point is that comfort is a growing requirement when it comes to health and happiness and we all have more control and influence over our comfort levels than we might think.

Not all buildings benefit from air conditioning, but even if yours does, wearing the right clothing can actually help your company rely on cooling a bit less. And by choosing the right clothing options, you can keep cool but also protect yourself from any chilly draughts (of course a modern air con system will minimise this).

Ellina Webb is Marketing Services Manager at Mitsubishi Electric