There’s something rather British about talking about the weather. If we’re not complaining that it’s too cold and wet, and how we wish we could ditch this country and live a better life in the sun, chances are by the summer we’re complaining that it’s far to hot! Why are we never satisfied?!
What to wear in this heat can lead to you wishing for nothing more than shorts and a T shirt. But they’re not always an option so here are a few thoughts on the materials you should pick.
Summer is about to arrive, but with business being so international and taking place in so many different climates, your wardrobe needs to be flexible and capable of dealing with all settings.
The idea of wearing wool in the summer might sound like an oddity because it’s something we all associate with the autumn and winter months. It’s true. But in fact a lightweight wool suit is a cooler option than a cotton suit because it’s more pourous. It’s rather like the concept of having a cup of tea on a hot day. It might sound like the wrong thing to do, but in fact it helps to cool you down.
It remains a fact that the heavier the material the better a suit will hang. Having said that, there has to be an element of practicality based on you life style. Perhaps you have to travel a lot? Perhaps you find yourself working in hot climates? Or perhaps you don’t mind having a suit a little heavier because you know you generally operate in environments with good air conditioning?
So to material…
Light weight wools
If a suit is made with a light weight merino wool it has a great ability to draw moisture away from the body and regulate your temperature. A natural product generated by over 70 million merino sheep each year in Australia, it is worn by us at very weights throughout the year. We all sweat, and the key is to be wearing a cloth that allows you to breath. Merino wool is able to absorb 35% of its own weight in water. In reality this means it can absorb the moisture from your skin and evaporate most effectively. Keep it light and it will do its best to keep you cooler.
Gabardine was invented in 1879 by Thomas Burberry who was the founder of the Burberry fashion house in Basingstoke and patented in 1888. The original fabric was waterproofed before weaving and was made from worsted wool before being tightly woven ready for use. Gabardine saw great popularity in the 1950s particularly in the production of jackets, trousers and suits. These days a Gabardine is a great option in the light colours. Cream, fawn, khaki, or light blues and greys are popular summer colours, and being a wool it also allows for good ventilation. A quick point to make on colour at this point: the lighter the colour that you are wearing, the less it will absorb the heat from the sunlight.
Unlike wool, cotton is a plant. The plant is native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world including the Americas, Africa and India. The greatest diversity of wild cotton species is found in Mexico, followed by Australia and Africa. It is used for so many different purposes, but for the summer wardrobe, a jacket or pair of trousers. Perhaps surprisingly, if you were to compare wool and cotton at the same weight – cotton will only hold 24% of its own weight in moisture. The point being that it can takes less moisture away from the body, leading to more sweat being left on the skin and you feeling warmer. It is also worth noting that cotton is more informal that anything wool.
Linen creases. Obviously. Having said that, many people love the idea of a linen jacket but hate the idea of it creasing. It will and does, and while it will look fantastic when it is brand new and after a lot of wear, the in between stages will crease in abundance. Buy into though, and you’ll have a jacket or suit that is the epitome of summer. It breaths and will keep you cool. It also ages extremely well, and out of any cloth looks better and feels softer the older it gets. As with any cloth, the heavier linen will drape better (the way it hangs on your body) than anything lighter. It is casual, and if you’re looking for a smart casual approach then it will fit the bill.
Linen is a cloth made from the fibres of the flax plant and is very labour intensive to manufacture, it is an expensive commodity, is produced in relatively small quantities, and is highly valued for its exceptional coolness and freshness. In Ancient Egypt it was often used as currency. Egyptian mummies were wrapped in linen because it was seen as a symbol of purity and a display of wealth. In those days it would be woven from hand spun yarns which were very fine for their day, but coarse compared to today’s standards.
This is a cloth that is such a good traveller. It is certainly a good summer cloth because it is light weight as well as for its moisture winking abilities, but do bear in mind that it will be a little warmer to wear than wool. For that reason it is often mixed with a light weight wool. It is considered a luxury fibre in the same way cashmere and silk are. One of the fundamental differences is that it comes from a goat. It is durable and resilient, naturally elastic and crease resistant. The first and last of these make it a thoroughly good choice if you are a businessman who needs a suit that travels well. It will keep its shape when you step off the plane.
These days, South Africa is the largest mohair producer in the world, with the majority of South African mohair being produced in the Eastern Cape.
This means ‘Fresh’ – which is exactly what we all want to feel a suit in the summer. The two points immediately noticeable are its coarseness and how porous it is. It is fair to say you will find this cloth more through a tailor than in a ready to wear shop, but for summer, it’s worth exploring. The multiple yarn has a high twist which allows for an open weave and highly breathable cloth. Indeed, this is probably the cloth with the best performance in the heat. What it is not is smooth to touch which the mohair is, so be prepared for a different feel. But wearing a suit in the blazing sun, your concern will lie with how cool you feel and how it keeps its shape.
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