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(JOHN LEHMANN/The Globe and Mail)
(JOHN LEHMANN/The Globe and Mail)

Russell Smith

Can men wear blazers with shorts – or is that strictly for fashion magazines? Add to ...

The question

Is a blazer ever worn with shorts, outside the pages of fashion magazines? What about lace-up shoes?

The answer

Both looks are indeed popular in photography and on the streets in warm and ostentatious places (Miami, Nice, Ibiza). Cautious Canada is a little behind on the blazer-and-shorts thing, and I understand why. The combo still looks wrong to me. It looks posey and impractical – fashion for fashion’s sake. If it’s hot enough for shorts, then you don’t need a blazer. If you’re out in the evening or on a boat, and you’re worried about getting cool, then bring a cotton sweater or a cotton golf jacket. Both are far more appropriate for the outdoor-sporty feel of shorts.

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Lace-up leather shoes with shorts, on the other hand, is one of those things that would have horrified my dad but that has been around long enough now to have become acceptable even in backwaters like ours. I think it can land just this side of pretentious, if you are careful: Suede oxfords would be okay with shorts, for example, but not heavy brogues or shiny black oxfords. You want to look summery, not like someone who lost his sneakers and had to raid his dad’s closet. White bucks – soft, matte-textured leather oxfords with red rubber soles – are perfect for shorts.

And gentlemen, remember to keep your shorts over the knee, right?

Be careful too that you don’t pile on all these practices at once. Shorts plus blazer plus shiny shoes plus bow tie will make you look fussy, as if you have been studying the pages of magazines for hours before you came out. Even if we do that, we’d rather people didn’t know.

Novelist Russell Smith’s memoir, Blindsided, is available as a Kobo e-book. Have a style question? E-mail style@globeandmail.com.

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