What to wear to a BBQ

What should men wear to a barbecue.? Chino shorts and a short-sleeved shirt are ideal.

Chino shorts and a short-sleeved shirt are the perfect bbq combination.
Image source: Samuel Windsor

There’s nothing like chargrilled steak washed down with your favourite lager to get the old tastebuds watering – and nothing like burned on the outside, raw in the middle chicken to turn a pleasant evening with friends into a toilet-hugging disaster.

To help you avoid the clothing equivalent of salmonella, here’s your guide to dressing for a summer BBQ. How to look snappy without under- or over-cooking it.



A pair of tailored blue chino shorts are always a safe bet.
Image source: Samuel Windsor

Aside from the aforementioned under-cooked chicken is the subject of your rather anaemic-looking pins. Simply put, if your legs make you look like plucked poultry, you’re probably better off in chinos.

But there’s no need to be dull. A summer BBQ is a chance to have some fun and show a little sartorial flair. Here’s your chance to reach for a bit of colour, so try blue, pale ink, or even a slightly flamboyant pair of brick chinos – summery colours that give your outfit a lift. But do avoid anything too bright, because as that arbiter of taste, the FT says:

Primary colours look great on kids, not so great on their dads.”

If your legs are the sort that speak of hours spent on the treadmill at the gym, or in the saddle at your local spinning class, chino shorts are a good choice. Especially for afternoon events that aren’t likely to drag on past dusk when biting insects will turn you into a moveable feast.

Again, go for the tailored option that finish just above the knee. Unless you’re well under thirty, logo-branded boardshorts will make you look like you’ve escaped from a secure unit.


Model 2 wearing a white polo shirt

A relaxed polo is so much smarter than a t-shirt.
Image: White Short Sleeve Pique Polo Shirt from Samuel Windsor

If you want to dress down, a polo shirt is the way to go. Go for a fit that’s slim without being figure-hugging. You should be able to pinch a couple of inches of fabric all around, and when you lift your arms forward, there shouldn’t be any uncomfortable pulling.

Steer clear of any casual shirt emblazoned with slogans – a small embroidered emblem on the breast is tasteful, anything more is overdoing it. A simple block colour worn over a pair of contrasting shorts or trousers works well. Alternatively, go for stripes that complement your choice of chinos – a red and cream stripe with khaki chinos looks great.



Patterned shirts introduce an element of fun.
Featured product: Short sleeve shirt – Blue Palm, from Samuel Windsor

An afternoon or evening BBQ should see you dressing to impress without looking like you’ve turned up for a day at the races. Your look should be at the casual end of smart casual. This is your chance to show you can have fun with your outfit without coming across as clownish.

With this in mind, avoid the temptation to grab yourself a garish Hawaiian print, and instead, opt for something a little more toned down – think suburban summer as opposed to tropical paradise. By all means go for palm trees, but choose a tasteful patterned shirt over brash every time.

Alternatively, a short sleeved linen shirt looks nice and is available in a range of pastel shades, or else go for a subtle check. Either way, short sleeves look better than rolled up long sleeves which can make you look like you’re on your way home from the office.


Samuel Windsor Fisherman sandals are fully adjustable

Adjustable Fisherman’s Sandals are ideal with shorts.
Image source: Samuel Windsor

If you’re opting to wear chinos or perhaps linen mix trousers, the full range of smart casual footwear is available to choose from. Nevertheless, in keeping with the summer season, you’ll want to avoid heavy weights like black Oxfords and brown Derbys. Instead go for lightweight options like suede brogues.

Alternatively, choose desert boots which, with their origins in Second World War Cairo, are suitable for even the hottest of climes. Or for a preppy feel to your footwear, go for a funky pair of suede penny loafers, which you can wear with either ankle or invisible socks. As the guys at the Idle Man say:

“A pair of loafers or boat shoes will keep the outfit summery but slick.”

For those who do choose to reveal their legs to the world, options include deck shoes, moccasins and other slip on shoes. And don’t forget sandals which, as long as you forego socks, can be a stylish choice – try a pair of leather Fisherman’s sandals for size.


A lightweight jumper and a Panama hat from Samuel Windsor will cover you for all eventualities.

A lightweight jumper and a Panama hat will cover you for all eventualities.
Image source: Samuel Windsor

If you’re going for a smarter vibe a panama looks great, in which case you might want to take a summer blazer with you too. As fashion blogger, Michael84 says:

“A smart summer blazer will work during the afternoon and into the evening, with linen being the preferable material to go for.”

Otherwise, a polo looks good worn with a linen flat cap to keep the sun at bay, and you should drape a pullover over your shoulders in case you get cold.

Forget wraparound plastic – your sunglasses should always be classic. Wayfarers, Aviators or Clubmasters will see you looking relaxed and stylish – just the sort of vibe you want to create. Now all you need to do is rub on some suncream, reach for your wittiest anecdotes, and prepare to shine.

Do you have any ideas for what to wear to a BBQ – or an example of a sartorial faux pas you’d like to share. Leave a comment below.

Posted in What to wear guides.

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