Now that spring is pretty much, but not completely, here (at least in Philadelphia) I have been receiving numerous questions on what men should be looking to add to their wardrobe for the upcoming warmer months.
First off, I put away your flannels. Second, break out the linen and fresco; if you have any. They are two of the ideal summer suit fabrics. Yes, spring and summer are generally times for lighter shades of colors (like pastels), but it is really the type of fabric that I have found makes the biggest difference in body temperature regulation (ie limiting how much you sweat).
True, there are those lightweight wools (oft branded as ‘tropical wools’) and cottons but it is the open weave structure of linen and fresco fabrics that I find really make them ideal for warmer weather. The open weave allows air to pass through the fabric more easily, even at heavier weights. The passing air is what will keep you cooler, and thus happier. This said, the first thing I advise people to do is acquire shirts, suits and pants in linen, cotton/linen or fresco. Linen is especially useful when one does not need to be in a more formal business setting. But for those that need something more formal for the office, look no further than fresco. It has all the benefits of linen but without the wrinkling issue. Just keep in mind that fresco is a suiting and not shirt fabric; whereas linen serves as both.
Then we have the more exotic fabrics; silk, mohair and then blends involving them. I have a wool/mohair fresco, or at least Holland & Sherry’s version of such, that I absolutely love (pictured above). Personally, I am not a huge proponent of mohair (or silk) by itself because of the sheen that it carries. I also have pants in a linen/silk blend, which I have come to love because they have the open weave of a linen and the added silk serves to reduce the wrinkling. Additionally, I have heard others speak good things on silk/wool blends, but cannot speak from my own experience. Lastly, I have heard people speak well of high twist wools, but again, have no experience myself. And then there is always seersucker.
The second thing to mind, regarding suits, is the jacket construction. Generally speaking, the less fabric and lining, the cooler it will wear. I tell guys to look for unlined or half lined jackets, as they will allow more air to pass through the back of the jacket. However, the ideal is a buggy lined jacket, one that is unlined in the back and lined only by the suit fabric in the front. Along a similar in the shirt jacket that Joe over at MyTailor showed me last summer (Old Man Boehlke spoke on it last week). Essentially it is an unstructured buggy lined jacket made up of shirting weight fabric; which sadly for now I can only dream about.
After professing my love of summer fabrics I am almost always asked where to acquire such items. Given my predilection for custom and made to measure garments I always recommend places like MyTailor, CottonWork (who to my knowledge has the widest selection of shirt fabrics online), Indochino (who has some linen/wool and cotton/wool suits) or whatever other tailor you may use that carries seasonal fabrics. For those of you who prefer ready-to-wear clothing Paul Stuart and Suitsupply do an excellent job at incorporating seasonal fabrics in their collections. Lands’ End has a few jackets and pants in linen, I have 3 pair actually, and thus far am quite happy with them. And oddly enough there is Zara (I know, you’re probably thinking I’ve lost it). Over the past few years I have seen a few pretty solid linen pieces come from the brand. Most recently, I purchased an unlined navy sports jacket from them that I expect will get considerable wear this summer (although I wouldn’t recommend their jackets if you are taller than 5’10” as they will be too short for you). It was only $160 and required only $25 of tailoring, not bad.
In summation; linen and fresco fabrics are your best friends and keep the lining to a minimum. Next time we’ll talk on colors and a few classic summer items.