Summer has arrived, and with it comes the sultry heat that can turn even the most dapper gentleman into a wilted mess. But fear not, for the key to staying cool and looking sharp lies in your choice of summer fabrics. This season, it's all about reaching for lightweight and breathable materials that will keep you comfortable, no matter the humidity levels. From breezy linens to breathable cottons, the options for summer fabrics are as varied as they are stylish. And with the right combination of open weaves, soft textures, and light hues, you'll be well equipped to beat the heat in style.
So, join us as we explore the 6 summer fabrics that will keep you cool and fashionable all season long.
Linen: A fabric that's stood the test of time, much like the pyramids of ancient Egypt, where it was first woven into garments. With its charming wrinkles, it's the epitome of relaxed elegance, making it just as suitable for a casual day out as it is for a formal suit.
Linen's popularity dates back to the Middle Ages, even among the less fortunate. From sheets to shrouds, napkins to towels, and of course clothing, linen was the fabric of choice.
Fast forward to the 18th century, and cleanliness was all the rage, with fine linen shirting and underwear becoming a symbol of wealth and status. How often one could change their linens was a measure of their financial standing, and Irish, Belgian, and Italian linens were the cream of the crop.
By the 19th century, good hygiene was a must, and those who could afford it changed their linens regularly.
Today, in the 21st century, linen has become somewhat of an art form, with the white linen dress shirt quickly becoming a staple among the sartorially-inclined. Tasteful colors like olive and navy are also great, as well as pastels, which look especially good on a sunny day. Black, on the other hand, is reserved for an evening out, much like a tuxedo at a fancy gala.
Whether you’re looking for an elegant summer suit or a comfortable, casual option, linen is the perfect choice. Its timeless, versatile, and an all around wonderful warm weather fabric.
For more on linen, read our article: "The Definitive Guide to Linen"
2. Worsted Wool
Wool has been the king of the tailored garments since the 18th century. With its natural moisture-wicking properties, wool has always been the go-to material for suits. But with the advent of technology, wool was transformed into something even better. The second half of the 20th century saw the rise of "Super" cloths - wool that is lighter, softer, and yet more durable than its predecessors.
Gone are the days when people had to wear heavy and stiff suits. Today, we have wool that weighs less than eight ounces per yard, and still keeps its shape. But, not all wool is created equal. The best wool comes from merino sheep in Australia and New Zealand. After shearing, the wool is sent to mills where the fibers are stretched out and combed flat. The result is a fabric that's perfect for suiting.
To determine the fineness of the wool, it is graded. In the olden days, this was done by hand, but today, an electron microscope is used to measure the fibers in microns, which are much finer than a human hair. The higher the "super" number, the finer the cloth.
This new technology has made wool crease-resistant and gives it a beautiful drape. And, let's not forget the best part - the right wool garment will keep you cool on a hot summer day.
For more on wool, read our article: "The Definitive Guide to Wool"
• Fresco cloths
Since the 1920s, fresco cloths have been a popular choice for summer. This traditional worsted cloth is made from wool yarns that are twisted before being loosely woven into a plain weave. Not only is it crease-resistant, but it's also breathable, making it ideal for hot weather. Additionally, your fresco garment can weigh in at as little as seven ounces and still be wrinkle-free; your carry on luggage will thank you. Fresco cloths provide the perfect combination of style and practicality, so make sure you own at least a few patterns.
Cashmere is the epitome of luxury and sophistication. Made from the hair of the cashmere goat, this lightweight fabric (7.5 - 8.6 oz.) has an extraordinarily soft feel. However, its fragility makes it better suited for special occasions where it can be used for a sports jacket instead of trousers. To increase its durability, cashmere can be blended with other natural fibers like silk and wool. This blend offers the best of all worlds – the crease-resistance of wool, the low luster of silk, and the softness of cashmere. When looking for an exquisite garment to make a statement, cashmere is the way to go.
Any gent worth his salt needs to have mohair in his wardrobe. Kid mohair is the most prized fleece from angora goats, as it is finer, softer, and has a lower sheen than that of its mature counterparts. Its beautiful luster makes it ideal for formal events, as it is usually blended with merino wool to enhance its softness and stretch. The stiff fibers make it cool-wearing, durable, and wrinkle-resistant, while the deep and vibrant colors range from aubergine to midnight blue. So if you're looking to impress in the city, mohair is the perfect choice.
Silk has been a luxury fabric for centuries, and its popularity has only grown since its introduction to the West via the Silk Road from China to Greece in 130 BC. Its soft hand and luster have made it a favorite for neckties and other garments, such as sport coats and dinner jackets. Silk's luxurious qualities are often combined with linen or wool to add resiliency while still retaining its signature softness. Although silk is now in abundance, it is still just as valued as it has been for thousands of years. Whether you're looking for a shirt, a tie, or a jacket, silk is the perfect choice for a luxurious wardrobe.
For more on silk, read our article: "The Definitive Guide to Silk"
Cotton has been woven into the fabric of our lives since the dawn of civilization; it has been cultivated for use in clothing since at least 6,000 BC and has been integral in the development of many cultures throughout history. Its durability, absorbency, and availability have made cotton a go-to for a wide variety of clothing.
When it comes to warm weather, cotton is a great choice, but its ability to keep you cool is largely determined by its weave. A plain weave like poplin will always be cooler than a twill weave, but not as cool as a specialty weave designed for warmer weather. With this in mind, it's important to choose wisely when shopping for cotton in order to make sure you stay cool and look good while doing so.
For more on cotton, read our article: "The Definitive Guide to Cotton"
Seersucker has long been a summer classic, and its unique puckered stripes make it stand out from other suits. This unique cotton fabric is created by a special slack-tension weaving technique that results in a naturally wrinkled texture. Originally from India, the style became quite popular in the American South as a practical choice for laborers, but was eventually adopted by the upper class and transformed into a status symbol. The most common seersucker suit is striped in blue and white, but other color combinations with an alternating white stripe are available.