Closet Constructor: Cabana Boy? Try Cabana Man.

How to pull off a matching set without looking like a total clown

June 21, 2024 12:02 pm
Matching Set
It is dorky to wear a matching set? InsideHook weights in.

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Welcome to Closet Constructor, a weekly series where I (a style editor) help you (a well-meaning person who likes clothes) discover new, interesting and affordable ways to really start dressin’.

With a heatwave currently lambasting much of the continental United States and sending folks everywhere scuttling for the closest beach or air-conditioned cafe, it has once again become apparent that getting capitol-d dressed when it’s hot outside sucks. Pavement-melting heat limits your sartorial options even more than a few inches of snow does, leaving you stuck with a few select garments that can withstand extreme heat. When wearing a pair of jeans becomes a one-way ticket to chafe city, the question demands to be asked — what should you wear when it’s disgustingly warm? 

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There are actually a few answers here — maybe you’ve heard of 5” inseams, or better yet, crop tops — but, for the average guy who might not feel comfortable putting his beefy gams or V-taper on full display, I like to recommend an oft-forgotten summer staple: the cabana set. For those unfamiliar, I’m referring to the classic two-piece matching set, often featuring a patterned design and typically constructed from a wicking terrycloth or breezy linen that’s functionally sound for sky-high temps and a fun way to incorporate some color and texture into an otherwise boring shirt-shorts combo. Think Connery’s Bond lounging poolside, something a guy who pronounces Ibiza with a -th would live in.

The matching set remains a solid summer style move. (Photo by Darren Gerrish/Getty Images for One&Only)
Getty Images for One&Only

I will be the first to point out that this is an admittedly controversial opinion. While the cabana set has long been a thing — the matching pool set became hugely popular with men in the 1950s, and has remained a go-to option for beach romps — more recent associations with borderline garish designs from brands like Tombolo have tarnished the cabana set’s reputation, misaligning the apparel with the fringe “fun shirt guy” community.

But to write off the matching set completely as something for frat bros and attention whores is to ignore a whole catalog of styles that properly channel the relaxed summer vibe that a solid cabana set can introduce to the mix. Case and point: Gucci’s recent SS25 collection — the same one that gave us yet another Paul Mescal thirst trap — offered a high-fashion vision for the matching set that has me ready to max out the Amex and hit the closet Equinox pool ASAP.

As it turns out, the key to pulling off a matching set without looking like a total douchebag lies in an act of self-restraint. As an inherently adventurous look, you don’t need to introduce more the metaphorical pool party. Sure, it would probably feel exhilarating to leave the house in a pink, tiger-splattered terry-cloth two-piece straight out of White Lotus, but, with a little foresight, it becomes apparent that, for most men, something a bit more low-key is probably the way to go. After all, it’s discipline that separates the cabana boys from the cabana men.

Gucci is breathing new life into the matching summer set. (Photo by Aitor Rosas Sune/WWD via Getty Images)
WWD via Getty Images

In practice, this mostly means avoiding insane colors and wonky prints, which is a good rule of thumb in general, if I’m being honest. Banana Republic’s Striped Jacquard set is particularly tasteful, and, when dressed down with a pair of espadrilles and a flexy tank top, becomes an intriguing summer ‘fit that’ll keep you cool without inadvertently telegraphing that you take listening to Diplo very seriously.

There you go — the official thumbs up to rock a matching set, assuming you’re chill about it. Stay cool out there.

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