I Just Learned That Wearing Black in the Summer *Can* Keep You Cool

I Just Learned That Wearing Black in the Summer *Can* Keep You Cool

A matter of strategy and abiding by a certain style guide



On this day in the old normal, I’d go about my business in a predominantly black workday uniform. Much of my off-duty clothing is the same, actually. And in many an occasion, this achromatic wardrobe has served me well. However, the irony of swearing by black is that for a non-color favored for its versatility, it can be limiting. This rare irony strikes during the summer in particular (in the Philippines, where summertime apparently does not exist, this is known as the hot dry season).


I sometimes think, my mostly-black closet and all, about how sartorially challenging this old normal would have been. What I find temporary relief in right now are airy dasters, and a forgiving combo of outside clothes and pambahay in lighter colors. These don’t feel very me, but I doubt anybody is dressing 100% like themselves at the moment. Anyway, when the heat and humidity add up to create a citywide sauna, wearing a ton of black can seem a little like volunteering for a seat right in the middle of it.


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Still, I continue to think about the ways black can be made summer-friendly. As it turns out, it is entirely possible and even encouraged––get this––for the sake of keeping cool. This goes against one notion ingrained in our minds since time immemorial: that since black is technically the absence of light (therefore of color), visible wavelengths cannot be reflected and are absorbed instead. Black, thereby, “attracts” heat.


But research has revealed the more comprehensive relationship between black garments and the human body. In the reverse scenario, clothing in this non-color is likewise able to absorb the heat emanating from a person’s body. Depending on the thickness of the article of clothing, body heat can breeze through and on out, and cool a person down. The caveat in all this is that it’s heavily conditional: said black-clad person needs to be under some shade and the temperature of the environment has to be less than his body temperature. Not exactly reassuring for those living in the tropics, but it counts for something especially when paired with some of the style notes ahead.


Don’t underestimate the plain black tee.

When something fail-safe like a Hanes cotton t-shirt works well, work it hard. The plain black tee definitely included. One way to make this summer-wearable is to get it in a relaxed, oversized fit (tip: shop the menswear section)! The point, still, is to allow air to breeze right through. So the shirt should fall straight down, shoulder seams should appear below the shoulder blade and the hemline should begin to skim the thighs. Roll the sleeves to style it as a muscle tee similar to what is pictured below (an underrated silhouette, IMO) or heck, throw caution to the wind, and wear it as a t-shirt dress. 


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If you go tighter, go shorter and lighter.

I always thought of summer blacks as potential fashion clingwrap. If you aren’t careful about fit and fabric choice, you can be left feeling like produce secured in flimsy plastic. You know the sensation: moisture trapped between your skin and your clothing, which eventually adheres to you (thank you, sweat). A way to sidestep this when wearing black is to make thoughtful compromises, a perfect example of which is the knitted cropped tube top. It’s snug but breathable, thicker than, say, your run-of-the-mill cotton twill but almost just as lightweight. Lastly, it reveals a considerable amount of skin so keeping cool is a non-issue.



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Athleisure is a friend.

Workout or no workout, lockdown or no lockdown, put your activewear to good use in the summer and, again, to bare skin. As an extension of “if you go tighter, go shorter and lighter,” this is an invitation to bring back the sports bra and bike shorts pairing, one that I’m glad to see has withstood the test of the trend cycle. Leggings could work, of course, especially if they’re made of a more breathable cotton blend. But the other point, really, is to explore the cropped version of your usual go-to items.



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Mind the neckline.

And ditch the bra. This pointer goes right alongside “free the nipple” and makes a case for both comfort and style. Comfort because a bra tends to be constricting and is just an added layer of fabric to think about (or rather get distracted by). Style because how else are low necklines supposed to be given justice? While traditionally bras are great for support, especially for better-endowed women, a break from tradition is always welcome. 



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What choices are there for a girl who loves black? Not a whole lot, but definitely enough. Up next, a throwback to a style experiment: When Girls Who Only Wear Black and White Try Colorful Outfits for a Week.



Featured Image Alyssa Coscarelli

Art Matthew Ian Fetalver


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