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