07/09/2012 05:52 pm ET Updated Sep 08, 2012

The Models of Summer

America's favorite season has got to be summer. And while the Fourth may have come and gone, the I-love-you's to some of summer's favorites are just getting started: think beer, swimming, red, barbeque, baseball, sun-tanning, white, vacation, swimming, blue and riding around in cars with the windows down.

Indeed, the heartbeat of America seems to beat loudest when the temperature rises, and freedom seems to ring from the pages of every magazine you flip through during June, July and August. Year after year, we celebrate summer with similar traditions, and year after year, editors and stylists are tasked with finding ways to reinvent and incorporate these elements into their shoots. The past few years have produced some memorable summer-themed spreads, and the following four are some of my favorites.

January 2012
Free People
Highlights: denim, hot dogs, New York City

Like any human, there are things I love and things I don't. I love hot dogs. I'm not sure I love Karlie Kloss. This is the only way I can explain the perplexity I felt at the varying degrees of emotion a 2012 January editorial for Free People produced. In it, Kloss poses while highlighting most things Americana: liberty, New York, red, dog walking, white, iced coffee, and blue. One of the best shots is of a sultry Kloss posing with one of my favorite American institutions: the hot dog. To me, nothing screams summer more than a toasted hot dog slathered with ketchup -- but I guess they just make Karlie lift her leg, dip her head and smile provocatively.

April 2012
Vogue Spain
Highlights: American flags, turquoise, cars

America is one of the titans of the auto industry, and I can think of no better time that cars shine than in the summer. It's a time to roll the windows down and take a scenic drive, or load up a truck and go to a bonfire in the country. Because of the U.S.'s rich tradition with cars, I love to see vintage incorporated into shoots, and the April 2012 issue of Vogue Spain does boho Americana better than most others. This means that Miley Cyrus saw it and probably drooled. But even for those of us who don't mix turquoise, denim and big hair into our daily wardrobe, the editorial makes me nod my head like, yeah. Here we have quintessential American garb highlighted by leather, gold and flames, with models draped over vintage cars and posing in front of scrubby American flags. What's cooler?

June-July 2012
Vogue Paris*
Highlights: the beach, watermelon, sun, Gisele**

Swimsuit spreads are token for any summer issue, but what makes this shoot stand out isn't the suit, but the fruit. Here, in this Vogue Paris June-July 2012 spread, we see the stylists' nod to a summer favorite: eating a piece of fruit on a hot day. We've all been there, haven't we? Unfortunately, realistic elements of the photo stop there, and the unrealistic elements abound: that Gisele eats fruit with hair covering half of her face; that the watermelon isn't dripping unceremoniously in between her fingers like it -- let's face it -- always does; that she's dangerously near rind territory when any real fruit connoisseur would be in the front and center of that wedge. But the most unrealistic aspect of them all? That anyone would ever look that good eating a piece of fruit. But you're welcome to try.

*Disclaimer: This shoot is clearly more French than American, but the watermelon shot deserved a shout-out.
**Disclaimer: I am a huge Gisele fan and love any excuse to write about her.

August 2010
Elle Italia
Highlights: Texas, sparklers, beer, cutoffs, swimming

We know that many summer nights are marked by fireworks, but when you're too young to light them, what are you handed? A sparkler. Sparklers illuminated much of my childhood, and certainly many of my Fourths. I love when they're used as props, and this August 2010 Elle Italia editorial with Erin Wasson is no exception. Wasson is often described as an All-American girl, and here she returns to her roots in this Don't-Mess-With-Texas-themed shoot. The entire spread is well-done, but my favorite shot is the simplest: Wasson behind the outline of a sparkler-made star, encompassing the blurry and bright aesthetic of so many of those summer nights.