Spring has sprung so late here in Scotland that most of us are eager enough to declare it a hard-earned premature summer. The hardier amongst us (read: the Scottish students who are battle-scarred survivors of colder climes) can be seen marching down Market Street in short-shorts without so much as a flinch to belie the sea breeze, but some are the slightest bit more hesitant to bare their arms and legs just yet. (Yes, I may have an uncomfortable amount of sand in my tights after my sunlit stroll along Castle Sands, but at least I’m not accessorizing with goosebumps and a blithe insistence of ‘oh no, honestly, I’m not shivering at all!’)
So just how does one walk the tightrope between dressing optimistically and maintaining some vestige of comfort? Read on for our top four necessities for looking stylish but feeling protected in a town that may currently be kidding itself we’re on the Mediterranean but still has some degrees to climb yet.
I know. Advocating for the presence of the humble cardigan in your wardrobe might feel wearily reminiscent of your granny’s sartorial advice, but the fact is: layers are your friend. You can take them off at 2pm, after you’ve hiked into town and sweated off your makeup, and then you can put them back on when we’re walking home, the evening has cooled, and it isn’t quite what you’d call chilly but it definitely isn’t warm, either. Layers don’t have to conjure up the image of itchy thermals – when it comes to transitioning from spring to summer, what you want is essentially the equivalent of a light, floaty blanket. Loose kimonos, oversized shirts; anything you can wear loose and unbuttoned over the rest of your outfit.
2) A canvas bag
Summer comes with baggage. If you’re anything like me, and like to know that wherever you are in the world you are well-equipped to survive an unanticipated social engagement, an unwelcome shower of rain, or the nuclear apocalypse, then you won’t be travelling light. When it comes to hot weather you’re going to want a light canvas bag to carry your worldly wares without resembling a pack mule. The more independent-minded among us should be able to pick up something with a graphic print to best announce their personal brand in any one of our towns independent bookshops – as your typical English student, I recommend the Bouquiniste canvas bag.
How does one stand out from the crowd in an enthusiastic onslaught of t-shirts, shorts, and floral dresses? The summer look has its staples – denim jackets, and the oversized sunglasses generally sported by hungover celebrities wearily avoiding the paparazzi at the airport – so your best shot at sticking out is probably going to be a turn towards outlandish accessorising. You don’t have to go full-on fascinator at Ascot level, though.
Take inspiration from H&M’s wildly popular red tasselled earrings, which fast became last year’s summer essential and were imitated by virtually every other high street competitor within weeks. A dash of colour in the form of sweeping, standout earrings, accompanied by the addition of a colourful red lip, is always going to elevate an otherwise unnoticeable outfit to a classically British brand of street-style nonchalance.
4) A dash of colour
I think skipping my goth phase as a pre-teen was clearly a mistake, because in my advanced age I have developed an alarming dependence on dressing in swathes of black. In summer, this is more than just impractical in the heat; it’s a little unsettlingly dour. We’ve seen some calamities over the years in terms of colour trends – I have a very specific kind of horror reserved for the words ‘Aztec print’, and as Meryl Streep intoned, florals for spring are hardly ground breaking – but colour doesn’t have to be garish. Instead, branch out into a solid block of colour; team your darker or more muted colours with a lighter, one-tone pop of colourful shoes. Focus on contrasts between separate items of clothing, like a little black dress paired with red shoes, rather than necessarily contrasts in one single, multi-patterned item itself.