Don’t get hot under the collar

How to beat the Pakistani heat, and still feel like Don Draper this summer.

Gulraiz Khan May 12, 2013
How to beat the Pakistani heat, and still feel like Don Draper this summer.

We would all like to believe we are Don Draper from Mad Men — sharp, impeccable and crisp in fitted suits and plain, point-collar white dress shirts.

But a dose of Pakistan’s summer heat is sufficient reality check that this is not the 1960s, and we don’t work on Madison Avenue.

With the mercury over 40 degrees, and the sweltering summer sun creeping under the skin, a professional in Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad must keep his suit tucked away amid moth balls, lest for occasions that absolutely demand it, for a good six months of the year. The centre-piece of his wardrobe, then, is the often-overlooked formal shirt. The ubiquitous white dress shirt has come a long way from its early days where it epitomized ‘white-collar’ professionals in managerial and administrative positions. The point-collar has at least six different variations – from deeply conservative button-down to the positively scandalous Mao collar – and the cuffs have as many configurations. The colour palette has also broadened to include blues and pastels, including pinks, lavenders and limes. Luckily for today’s working man in Pakistan, the choices are endless. Clothing giants such as Bonanza, Cambridge and Gul Ahmed stock a large variety of dress shirts, albeit mostly conservative in colour, fitting and pattern. For the more dandy among us, there are bespoke shirt makers, such as Chester Bernard, Cotton & Cotton, and a new name on the (Zamzama) block, Shahzeb Saeed, who also stock for the conservatives.

These options are by no means comprehensive. There are tens of other bespoke shirt makers and brands, and there is of course, your trustworthy tailor who can replicate a Zegna quicker than you unfurl your Italian fabric in front of him and exclaim: favoloso! We talk to some bespoke shirt makers and ask them how to beat the summer heat, and still manage to feel like Don Draper.


“The most popular fabric during summers is 100% fine cotton … due to its inherent breathable feature that makes it cool and comfortable to wear,” says CEO Bonanza Garment Industries Pvt Ltd Hanif Bilwani. Shades of whites, pastels and blues are the most in demand and most recommended, he adds.

In line with local temperature, Bonanza introduced the ‘Stay Cool’ shirts with an ultraviolet finish that provides additional sun protection by blocking UV rays from reaching your body, making the shirt more comfortable to wear. The company does not offer bespoke services and shirts range between Rs1,580 and Rs3,600.

Summer staples

A combination of 12 full-sleeve striped shirts, 12 half-sleeve checkered shirts and some basic wrinkle-free trousers and formal trousers should be enough to lead through the summers. Linen coats are also a major hit during the season.

Cotton & Cotton

“Linen is as comfortable to wear during the summers [as 100% cotton] but since it is more vulnerable to wrinkles, 100% cotton clearly scores high on preference scale,” says Asad Bari of Cotton & Cotton that has stores in major Pakistani cities. He recommends white and shades of blue, but adds that light pastel tones of lilac and pinks “go equally well.” Cotton & Cotton’s Royale series, made of 100% Egyptian cotton, “gives the shirts a definite advantage of being practical and comfortable. It is machine-washable, making it more manageable, yet rugged enough to maintain a fresh look for months,” adds Bari. Their off-the-rack shirts cost anywhere between Rs1,780 and Rs4,140, depending on the fabric, while bespoke shirts will set you back Rs4,070 to Rs5,130, and take 15 days.

Summer staples

Dress shirts in light colours, such as shades of white and blue, for office wear with dress pants in lighter fabrics and light grey, khaki and black colours; two pairs of formal shoes, preferably in cordovan, and black; ties in light soothing colors, without heavy designs or patterns.

Shahzeb Saeed

“The most popular fabric is certainly 100% cotton with a wrinkle-free finish, but nothing beats double-ply Italian cotton for its vivid colours and peach-type finish of the fabric,” says Shahzeb Saeed of the eponymous new brand Shahzeb Saeed. He recommends lemon, light green, peach, light blue and pinks in addition to whites and blues that can be worn throughout the year. “Our fabrics have 100% breathability and water absorption capabilities,” adds Saeed. “We also ensure that our fabrics are in wrinkle-free finish, so the shirt maintains its crisp look throughout the day.” His ready-to-wear collection starts from Rs1,500 while bespoke shirts cost up to Rs3,250, depending on the fabric selected. For a bespoke shirt, “the customer has multiple options for collars, cuffs and accessories, and it roughly takes one to two weeks,” Saeed adds.

Summer staples

At least seven to 10 shirts in combinations of stripes, check and plains; plain whites and blues for office wear, but experiment with colours for evening wear – try turquoise, lemon, Arctic blue and lavender.

Chester Bernard

“Summers are all about 100% cotton,” proclaims Faraz Salehjee of Chester Bernard, an upscale men’s clothing store on Karachi’s Zamzama and Lahore’s MM Alam Road. “Men’s clothing is all about occasions and situations. Power ties for meetings; Cornflower blues to all pastels for the office. Shirts with inlays and subtle details for when you’re trying to impress, and peacock colours for when you’re out at night: the perfect show stopper,” he adds.

Salehjee says they try to buy fabrics from the best mills in the world. “The better mill you buy your fabic from, the better quality the fabric will have in breathability, construction and design.” He added that they take interest in investing in fabric companies which innovate with dyes, fabric construction or wrinkle-free chemicals which enhance the customer’s experience. Their shirts range between Rs2,500 and Rs5,500, depending on the fabric, and a little extra cash can get you a bespoke shirt.

Summer staples

Light, printed paper cotton shirts, shorts, loafers, 160-thread count crisp shirts, t-shirts with no numbers, animals and medieval crests on them; tapered trousers in at least seven colours, including light blue, navy , black , camel, white; woven leather belts and sunglasses.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, May 12th, 2013.

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Asim | 8 years ago | Reply

@Aamina, I second your opinion.

The Only Normal Person Here. | 8 years ago | Reply

The desi McDreamy looks good.

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