I attended college in a small Vermont town where winter lasts from September to May and that first warm spring day is like a religious rebirth with more debauchery. It’s barbecue, midriff-baring, flip-flop-wearing, beer-drinking season—like a pop country song with more Patagonia.
One year, that first spring day coincided with a friend’s 22nd birthday. While the Adirondacks turned purple in the fading evening light, we drank cheap beer out of red Solo cups and stood around a bonfire until most of the boys had consumed enough PBR to decide that hurdling over the flames was obviously the next best idea. Not wanting to be shown up (and hoping to impress a boy), I prepared to follow suit. I unzipped my hoody and backed up to the grass to take a running leap over the fire, which is precisely the moment I remembered I was wearing a clunky pair of cowboy boots, quite possibly the most ill-conceived fire-jumping shoes. By the time I got them off, the crowd had migrated inside and I had missed my chance.
Which just goes to show that barbecue season commands a very particular style—one that should allow you to jump into whatever shenanigans pop up at a moment’s notice.
For this summer’s weekend barbecues, here are a few things to keep in mind: Make it casual, keep it simple, aim for cute, but prepare for all contingencies. You never know when you might have to jump over a fire. These six items will keep you versatile this summer.
Sunski Dipsea Sunglasses ($55)
Even though the retro styling of these lightweight glasses makes them look like expensive designer shades, the Dipsea runs a reasonable $55. This means you can show up looking stylish without having to spend any of your wiffle ball game stressing that you’ll total your pricey sunnies. They also have excellent polarized lenses for the price point, keeping your eyes comfortable and relaxed in the sun.
Outdoor Research Flyway Dress ($69)
The Flyway Dress looks elegant and was built to move, thanks to its stretchy, lightweight cotton-polyester blend and built-in shelf bra—meaning you won’t have to back out of a spirited game of volleyball because you decided to dress up for the barbecue. The 15 percent cotton in this dress feels great next to your skin, and the 85 percent polyester wicks away moisture so you won’t find your dress soaked if you start to sweat or put it on right after a swim.
Ahnu Hanaa Sandal ($65)
The footbed on Ahnu’s Hanaa Sandal features a hearty yet comfortable four millimeters of rubber, making these shoes perfect for hammering during a game of Frisbee and comfortable if you stand around all day during a less mobile barbecue. The smooth leather two-strap uppers are just dressy enough to not look like sport sandals, while the lowers won’t stop you from playing.
Dakine Alana Trucker Hat ($15)
While woven sun hats are beautiful and can cast shade over your face, neck, and potentially shoulders, nothing is more versatile than a trucker hat. Stuff it into a daypack before riding to your barbecue, and it will arrive at the party offering the same utility as it did before you transported it there. You can swim worry-free in a trucker hat, and most are synthetic, so they will dry quickly. We love the floral design of Dakine’s Alana Trucker Hat and the fact that it’s made from 100 percent recycled materials.
Super.Natural Hooded Cover Up 140 ($90)
Even midday barbecues have a tendency to run into the evening. Don’t limit yourself to the sun’s movement: Bring something to cover up with, like this hoodie from Super.Natural. On top of looking sharp with its oversized hood and ruching on the arms, this midweight hoodie is made from cozy blend of 50 percent merino wool and 50 percent polyester that will keep you warm without causing you to overheat on warm summer nights.
Hydro Flask 16-Ounce True Pint ($22)
Show up at your next barbecue prepared for a keg, wine, or any drink you want to keep cold with the True Pint, an ideal summer barbecue vessel. The double-walled insulated interior and powder-coated exterior keep cold drinks cold for hours and make the True Pint really tough to break if you drop it.