Summer Suit Fabrics

Summer Suits & Tips to Stay Cool When It Is Hot

Lately, we had a number of readers asking us for advice about having summer suits made. Interestingly, most men were thinking about cotton or linen fabrics and all of them emphasized the lightness of the fabrics, but these are only two aspects of warm weather menswear. Hence, I’d like to share about summer suit styles today, so that the summer heat will not prevent you from both enjoying the weather and employing your suit wardrobe as much as possible. So, here are a few ideas for looking elegant even as the pavement sizzles.

Characteristics of a Summer Suit

Sky Blue Linen Suit

Sky Blue Linen Suit

Although a summer suit needs more than just one characteristic in order to wear comfortably, the most important aspect is neither weight nor the choice of material – it is breatheability.

High Breatheability Due to Loose Weave & Lack of Lining

When it is hot, you definitely want to feel every breeze coming your way,  and the best way to do so is with an open-weave fabric. Loosely woven Panama, a basketweave fabric,  is usually popular in summer and achieves the desired cooling effect. When you hold a piece of this fabric against the light, you can see through the weave of the cloth, even it if is dark navy. If the fabric is a heavier weight, it will also keep you cooler than a featherweight cotton fabric that is tightly woven. The more open the weave, the more patterned your fabric should be to keep it from becoming see-through. However, bear in mind that lighter colors are better than darker ones since light fabric reflects the sunlight whereas dark cloth absorbs it, making you feel warmer.

Open Weave Wool Suting Fabric

Open Weave Wool Suiting Fabric

Also, you want to make sure that you get at least a half-lined jacket because, again, the finer weave of the lining will decrease your garment’s ability to breathe.

Half lined denotes that the back does not have any lining except for the top, and fully unlined usually means that there is no lining except in the sleeves. No matter how warm, I always prefer to have lining in the sleeves. Unlined sleeves are uncomfortable because the shirt sticks to the sleeve fabric and restricts movement.

Light Weight Fabric

Tightly Woven Shirt Fabric

Tightly Woven Shirt Fabric

Once you have settled on a open weave, you can turn to choosing the weight of your suiting fabric. Fortunately, modern high quality fabrics have a beautiful finish, and although the drape is not perfect, they are still the way to go. When I was at Oxxford, I flipped through their 7 ounce (210 grams) summer books with gorgeous open weaves and imagined all the possibilities.

Holland & Sherry also has some great tropical summer fabric qualities such as the Crystal Springs.

Fresco – The Hot Weather Wool

Another great summer suiting fabric is the Fresco fabric, which I already described in more detail in our Fresco article.

 

Wrinkled Linen Suit via Stile Maschile

Wrinkled Linen Suit via Stile Maschile

Linen for Summer?

Linen is a classic summer fabric because of its light weight and fabric structure. It is usually a little coarser than fine merino wool or cotton fibers. As you know, linen’s purported virtues are easily negated by the fact that it wrinkles heavily. After a day wearing a linen suit, you will appear anything but dapper, though some people like this nonchalant look during the summer. In my opinion, a linen suit is perfectly suited for a vacation on Capri or for casual events, but it is not a good choice for office wear. If you nevertheless want to wear linen at the office, try to find some blends with cotton or even silk. They will still have this beautiful casual look and feel, without the wrinkles.

For all others, linen can look great – especially in unusual colors such as this inspired sky blue linen suit.

Summer Cotton

For most men, cotton seems to be a default choice during the summer. Now, there is a lot of cotton on the world market, but there are huge differences in terms of fiber length and thickness. In terms of summer clothing, the weave is more important. For example, khaki colored twill trousers or fine “summer” corduroy are not desirable since they impede air circulation. Instead, try to look for open weave poplin fabric.

Pink Double Breasted Seersucker with Boater Hat via Dandy Portraits

Pink Double Breasted Seersucker with Boater Hat via Dandy Portraits

If you cannot see through the fabric when holding it against the light, it is not well suited for warm summer weather.

Seersucker

Seersucker is a summer staple that seems to be particularly popular in the US.

However, the fabric has its roots in India. Back when the country was ruled by the Mughal, Persian was the official language at court. Consequently, a lot of Persian was integrated into the local languages and then shaped both the Urdu and Hindi languages. As such the term seersucker derives from these languages referring to the dual tonality of the colors. In fact, “sheer”  means “milk” and “shukkar” means “lesser refined brown cane sugar.” Over time, the word evolved into “seersucker”, and it was first imported to Europe in the 18th century. It is not clear what material it was originally made of; some say linen, while others claim it was a blend of cotton and linen. In any case, it is a  puckered fabric and its special texture is achieved by pulling certain warp yarns tightly, while others are left looser. As such, the crinkling effect is permanent and as a result no ironing is required. Supposedly, the crinkling is supposed to help air circulation, though I personally doubt that.

In the US, it was first popularized in the South and originally it was considered to be the poor man’s linen suit. However, after WWII it became socially accepted as a proper summer suit. Although the seersucker suit consisted originally of pants, a vest and a coat, it is now generally worn without the vest. In hot climates, the extra layer of cloth is really not necessary, although it looks better.

Today, seersucker comes in various colors, although the most popular combination is blue and white. In the near future, I shall write a more extensive article just about the seersucker fabric.

Silk & Cashmere

Sometimes you will see blends of cashmere and silk advertised for summer clothing. Personally, I think these two fibers are better suited for cooler climates. Silk is mostly woven very tightly and has excellent insulating properties, which rules it out as a summer contender. Cashmere is also very soft but simply too warm for hot summers.

Cut of a Summer Suit

See Through Shirt Fabric

See Through Shirt Fabric

If your number one objective is to stay cool, wear only single breasted coats without a vest. If you want to be more unique, you can go for a double breasted seersucker in pink, and if you want to be really avant garde, get a vest to go with it and you will most likely never see anyone else wearing such an ensemble!

Summer Suit Accessories

Downton Abbey Earl of Grantham in Linen Summer Suit

Downton Abbey Earl of Grantham in Linen Summer Suit

To protect yourself from the sun and look put together despite the soaring temps, you should make sure to wear the right summer accessories with your suit. For shirts, I suggest cotton with an open weave and although short socks may be cooler, I still wear over the calf socks. -in my opinion, it is thoroughly inelegant to reveal one’s hairy calf when wearing a suit. A Panama hat or any other straw hat such as a boater will keep your face in the shade. Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and if you chose polarized aviators, things around you look even prettier.

In regards to neckwear, knit ties are great because they underline the casual character of the rest of your outfit. Linen ties are an alternative but just like the suit, they will wrinkle (ironing ties is never a good idea unless you rip it apart, iron it and sew it back together). A personal favorite from my collection is a Madras tie – its vivid pattern and colors are ideal with summer suits in whites, browns, and greens.

Shoes should be in lighter colors. Suede, saddle shoes and two tone shoes such as spectators are equally as good as loafers or canvas shoes; it all depends on the degree of elegance you are going for.

What do your summer outfits look like? What is your favorite summer wardrobe staple? Let us know in the comments!

17 replies
  1. Ahmed Sajeel
    Ahmed Sajeel says:

    Could not have agreed more … one may wish to add the spectrum of colours better suited under the sun.

    And you are absolutely spot on with the origins of the term “Seersucker”. However it is an Urdu / Persian derivative rather than Hindi (which predominatly relies on sanskrit as its base and then borrows from Urdu, Persian and Arabic on account of the Muslim regime cultures)

    In fact it is “Sheer” which means “milk” and shukkar” which is “lesser refind brown-coloured cane sugar”. So the two-tonal effect as well as weave and texture are pretty much encompassed.

  2. Turling
    Turling says:

    I do stick with linen, even in the office. I’m the only one who wears a coat, so I doubt the IT people in their Iron Maiden t-shirts are caring that I’m wearing a less formal type clothing.

    I did have a silk, linen, wool blended coat just made, and I have high hopes it will work. Unlined (except for the sleeves). It hasn’t reached blistering hot, yet, here in Southern California so time will tell.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider
      Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Thanks for your comment Turling, in a t shirt environment, a linen suit really stands out in a positive way, no matter how many wrinkles it has. Let us know how you like your linen silk blended coat.

  3. Ahmed Sajeel
    Ahmed Sajeel says:

    Absolutely … and from a puritanic stand point, it will have to be persian.

    You see the Mughal rulers were from the Central Asia and Persian was therefore the official / court language in the subcontinent that we now know as Pakistan and India. Therefore a lot seeped into local languages and shaped both Urdu and Hindi the way we identify them today.

  4. Roger
    Roger says:

    A wonderful guide! I’ve bookmarked it for future reference. I especially love the Seersucker, I’ll be sure to go out and hunt one down.

  5. Pajama Jeans
    Pajama Jeans says:

    Thanks for the summer fashion tips to keep cool. It seems like even if you have to wear a suit you have some options available.

  6. Arsch Sharma
    Arsch Sharma says:

    It’s a very fine article indeed. The different suiting fabric options makes everything appear so lucid and simple. Now, I know the perfect choice for my suit. Thanks.

  7. Park Jacob Weatheby
    Park Jacob Weatheby says:

    I would simply like to first of all start out by saying that I have just only recently become a member of your newsletter and I truly and sincerely enjoy every article I have had the opportunity to read.
    I find them most enlightening and imformative it’s wonderful to see that there are “Gentlemen” still in this world that greatly appreciate the fine art of dressing.
    To both you and your staff keep up the great work and may you continue to provide your readers with pertinent and truly valuable fashion information.

    Regards,

    Park Jacob Weatherby

  8. Patrick Coote
    Patrick Coote says:

    Congratulations on your excellent web site.

    I wonder if you might be able to offer me some advice. I am getting married in Monaco next year in the height of summer. I would like to wear my morning coat but would die of heat exhaustion; even a new lightweight coat would probably be insufferable. I cannot abide “modern twists” on traditional dress but are there any suitable alternatives?

    Any advice would be most welcome.

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