Harrison, writer of one of my fave new blogs, has a summer wedding to attend and has asked me a couple of questions about suits. Odds are pretty good that you’ve got a spring/summer event, wedding, or holiday coming up and more formal attire will be expected of you. There’s NO reason for you to stress (or sweat) about this, there are LOTS of different options that will keep you both looking AND feeling cool.
First a note about suits. When I wrote about custom made shirts last year I talked about it being a dream. That they are expensive, but that they fit better than anything you could get off the rack. The same holds true of a well made suit. A bespoke tailor is one who will take your measurements and custom make a suit to fit you perfectly. A bespoke suit is STILL a dream for me, but if your pockets are lined more fully than mine well, then, this is probably a good option.
For the rest of us, suits don’t have to be as financially challenging, and starting your shopping NOW in the winter will likely save you a few bucks by shopping out of season. Realistically, a really nice suit is going to cost you northwards of $150. How much more north than that is up to you, but you can save money by comparing stores/sizes (go get sized at a men’s store) online, and again, right now is GREAT sale time, even at higher end retailers.
Summer suits come in three major different fabric camps (with scores of blends) wool, linen, and cotton. I’m going to talk a little bit about all three, but I want to hit on color first – avoid white. It’s tempting to go for the white suit, because a hot butch in a white suit is well, hot, but white gets DIRTY fast. Also, it has a tendency to make you look either dated or like you should be selling ice cream or starring in a certain 70’s movie about dancing. I will make the exception that if YOU are the one getting married? You can wear the white suit if you like, but damn, boy, you better make sure you look tight.
Wool suits specifically made for warmer months/climates are made from tropical wool. This is an easy breathing, lightweight wool that keeps the crisp lines and full look of a regular wool suit but without smothering you by being too heavy or warm.
I think that suits made of tropical wool can be really really sexy, and also, if the event is more formal (even black tie) than casual, a darker colored wool suit will really do you well.
Like most summer suits, tropical wool ones will wrinkle more easily than their worsted or tweed cousins, and the fact that the weather is warmer means more frequent dry-cleaning as well, but it won’t be tooooo expensive.
Linen is another option for summer suit attire. Linen is REALLY light. Really. It feels incredibly freeing to wear linen. It is a natural fiber and wearing it can be good for the environment. Also, it doesn’t really have any allergic properties. It’s a fairly durable fabric.
However light and comfy linen may be, it does come with a few downfalls. It wrinkles really easily. It can also be hard to clean, and if you’re one who sweats a LOT when it’s hot, especially from the armpits/back of the knees, this may not be the best choice for you, at all. It also tends to stain really easily as well. Linen can tend to wear unevenly and stretch out in a not good way.
That said, some of the problems with linen can be addressed by a good dry-cleaning/starching, however this is time consuming and can be, over the long run, this type of fabric is going to cost you the most in cleaning. Because of this, it also will not wear as well, or last as long as some of the other fabric options. But…it can be a really good looking suit.
These two fabrics are great options – but my favorite is most definitely the cotton camp. These suits are definitly not suited to black tie, but for most holiday and event wear will do you fine, and will be amongst the most durable and easy to care for summer weight suits you can buy.
Seersucker is usually made of cotton/poly/other blends. It’s got a ripppled/smooth two tone pattern and is perfect for holiday wear and day/outside weddings that aren’t black tie, though some seersucker can be worn (like the second example) for a more formal event. Lightweight and easy to care for, but a look that not everyone can pull off. But if you can??? Awesome choice.
Twill is perhaps the MOST durable of fabric choice for a summer suit. Twill is a woven cotton fabric that has a diagonal weave to it. Most jeans and khaki’s are made of twill, but suits are as well. It is a little heavier weight than linen, but I think that twill has more pros than cons in this summer suit battle. Twill is terribly easy to care for, available in MANY colors – and hint – if it’s a casual summer event? You can get twill pants and a sportscoat of a different color and totally rock that kind of look. I LOVE the way khaki colored twill suit pants look with a blue sportscoat or blazer.
Poplin is a tightly woven, plaine weave fabric that can also be made from cotton into summer suits. Poplin is very lightweight and extremly durable, and also very very easy to care for – in fact sometimes it can be water/stain resistant. It’s available in a variety of colors as well, and can definitely be put together for a more formal event or stay pretty causal.
Not that this is a battle of fabrics or anything, and you’ll try on and wear and make your own choice, but the SB favorite summer suit is definitely going to be twill or poplin. In fact, writing this post has totally made me re-think my outfit for a late summer/early fall event of my own….
Anyway, enough daydreaming. GOOD LUCK with your search for the perfect summer/warm weather suit. As usually, my favorite places to go for this kind of thing? Brooks Brothers and Macy’s. Let me know how you fare!