New York — Giving up a tie would be too much to ask. In most business situations, convention demands a necktie. So men go on encircling their necks with what amounts to six or eight thicknesses of material, no matter how hot it may be in the conference room.
This summer the sweltering executive at least has the opportunity to wear a shortsleeved dress shirt under his suit jacket. Men who live in warm climates and who put comfort first have been wearing short-sleeved sports shirts with neckties. But cooling off while wearing a dress shirt -- the kind designed to go under vested three-piece suits -- has meant rolling up the long sleeves, a lapse of dignity that most corporate presidents frown upon.
The introduction of dressshirts with small rounder or squared collars and short sleeves in white Jacquard, voile, and striped broadcloth by such designers as Yves Saint Laurent is to be welcomed, even if the formality of wearing a tie still has to be preserved. A short-sleeved dress shirt in one of the new bright colors (turquoise . . . fuchsia . . . Parma violet, anyone?) suggested by progressive menswear creators would be, well, pressing matters a bit much in most business circles. Art directors of advertising agencies and interior designers can be this venturesome where the investment counselor would need to watch it.
Freer uses of color are nonetheless among the new directions in summer menswear. Also cited by the Men's Fashion Association of America are silkier suitings, often used in combination with slubbed or nubby textures.
In sportswear, where even the conservative man will let loose a little, color combinations can be imaginative. Strong brights and pastels abound, and unbridled contrasts will not raise any eyebrows.
In workaday clothes, the tendency toward fabrics with a violet cast is pronounced. Without entering another mauve decade, menswear materials are taking on a purplish tinge. As anyone who has seen actor Richard Gere's snappy wardrobe (mostly by Giorgio Armani) in the film "American Gigolo" will have noticed that browns, taupes, and grays now have a lavender or pinkish aura.
This often results from the interweaving of two complementary colors -- one for the warp, one for the woof -- in the iridescent materials that have the requisite fashionable gleam. Pure silk suits, like those of Cerutti, give off a subtle shimmering light. Less expensive blends of rayon or polyester with a percentage of silk achieve like results. Even rough-textured lines and slubbed materials have a silky look.
Bringing in new uses of familiar fabrics is another change for summer. Terry cloth, for instance, is no longer just for towels, bathrobes, or running suits. High-thread-count terries in vivid colors have been given the same treatment as flannels and tweeds. Stanley Blacker, for one, does a white-buttoned double-breasted blazer in bright red terry cloth with the same attention to the fine points of tailoring as for any sack suit jacket.
As to proportions, shirt collars stay high and narrow, ties thin, and lapels long, slender, and generally notched. Shoulders are wide and jackets long, with very little of what is know in the trade as "suppression" at the waist. The silhouette is designed to minimize hip girth and any suggestion of paunch.
The marks of the man who likes to stay on top of fashion are the ventless jacket and, for casual wear, the horizontally striped V-neck cotton sweater, worn like a T-shirt. Layered thin cotton jersey sweat shirts are also trendy. The male fashion plate tucks these into high-waisted pleat-top slacks, which often have slotted belt lines. He is then ready for lunch on the terrace under a striped awning, if you get the picture.