When summer finally arrives, the massive sigh of relief breathed by the entire Northern Hemisphere is rendered visible in the clothes that guys reach for. The thing is, sometimes they are a reach. Borderline lazy and overly youthful warm-weather threads often end up looking like they're meant to out-rad a skate park. Yes, it takes a little effort to put together sharper, subtler outfits when it's sweltering out. But smart, ambitious pieces abound these days, thanks to designers whose meticulous attention to detail has made once-regrettable fashion mistakes—a tank top, an espadrille, a tie-dyed shirt—into gutsy choices. "Subtlety is the whole idea," says John Targon, a codesigner of Baja East, whose spring collection featured ikat-printed shorts and bajas (those Mexican surfer hoodies) in a dove-gray cotton that, when worn with denim or khakis, don't look like you're trying too hard—or, worse, not hard enough. "For us, the beach is this timeless memory, so we love the idea of making something that channels that vibe into something you could wear in the city." If it sounds easier said than done, read on for tips from Details' style director, Eugene Tong, on nailing summer's more inspired options.

Rule #1:
When it comes to this season's printed shorts, opt for a solid dark color with a subtle pattern.


Rule #2:
Tie-dye looks best in somber color combinations that are similar in tone. Try it under your favorite navy, black, or gray suit in place of your go-to button-down.


Above, from left: Jeans ($190) by Jean Machine, espadrilles ($495) by Balenciaga. Shirt ($814) by Louis Vuitton. Pants ($995) by Burberry Prorsum.

Rule #3:
Espadrilles cut from leather are more appropriate for the street than the beach. Yes, they work with tailored shorts, but also with dress pants or distressed jeans.

Rule #4:
Make the tank top the most casual piece of your outfit by wearing it with fitted cotton trousers and simple lace-ups or classic sneakers (think Stan Smiths).

Rule #5:
Never wear straw hats too far back on your head—they should sit firmly on top. Placement is key if you don't want to look like a member of a boy band.


From left: Hat ($250) by Paul Smith Accessories, T-shirt ($88) by Sunspel. Tank top ($68) by Marc by Marc Jacobs, pants ($270) by Ami, sneakers ($55) by Converse.

• • •