Summer heat can pose a challenge to those of us that wear suits everyday, and as the temperatures heat up, we’re often asked for recommendations on the types of fabrics to create some lightweight, breathable suits. The fabrics we always recommend for summer are high twist fabrics, linen, cotton, and blended fabrics.
Crispaire / Fresco: High Twist
If you imagine a fabric swatch, that swatch is composed of tiny threads weaving in and out of each other. And in between each thread is a tiny amount of space that allows air to pass through, making a garment breathable.
Crispaire / Fresco fabrics are wool fabrics whose individual threads are spun tighter than normal, creating larger gaps in between the threads and allowing more air to pass through it as well as making the fabric less likely to crease.
This tends to give the fabric a rougher, more textured look, making it a more casual, relaxed fabric, perfect for summer.
The terms Crispaire and Fresco are actually brands, like Kleenex is to tissue. Fresco, meaning cool or fresh in Italian, was a term patented in 1907 by Hardy Minnis and Martin & Sons Co., a fabric mill now owned by the company Huddersfield, while Crispaire is the term popularized by Holland & Sherry of England. Two different brand names, but both refer to the same type of fabric.
Made from flax, which is a nondescript plant that grows in many different forms all over the world, Linen is one of the oldest textiles known to man. Ancient Egyptians were known to produce linen from flax flowers to make their robes, and linen was also used to construct the Israelites’ Tabernacle, a portable place of worship used to house the Ark of the Covenant.
But today, linen is primarily known as a lightweight, breathable fabric for the summertime. It’s also known for its ability to wick moisture away from the body; it is said that linen is able to contain 20 times its weight in moisture before it begins to feel damp to the touch.
Linen’s fibers are naturally stiff and stay bent, which causes the wrinkling often associated with a linen suit. While we at 1701 personally find the wrinkles of a linen suit add character as well as show a much more relaxed look, linen is often combined with silk to mitigate the wrinkles. The stiffness of the linen fibers, though, aids in keeping you cool, by keeping the fabric away from your skin and not sticking as opposed to other fabrics like polyester.
Linen is a staple of warm climates and is typically worn in office environments in the tropics, although not as popular in office environments in the north. While it’s certainly not a faux-pas to wear linen to work, our more conservative clients end to err on the side of caution and have their suits made from a lightweight wool.
One of the most comfortable suits you can wear is a cotton suit. The big advantages of a cotton suit is its breathability (especially if the jacket is unlined) as well as its softness. They are definitely known as a casual fabric for suits, but with the right details and accessories can be worn in the office without a problem.
The downside of cotton, just like linen, is it is susceptible to wrinkling, although not to the same degree as linen. Cotton is often blended with linen to reinforce the yarn, making it tougher to wrinkle, so if wrinkling bothers you, I highly suggest looking for a blended fabric.
The most three common blends for Spring/Summer are cotton & linen, linen & silk, and cotton & wool. With blended fabrics, you really end up getting the best attributes of each fabric.
Cotton & Linen: These fabrics are going to breath easily, and absorb sweat as well, but aren’t as susceptible to wrinkling as linen alone is.
Cotton & Wool: A very soft, casual looking fabric that breathes well and won’t wrinkle like a cotton or linen suit.
Linen & Silk: A very luxurious blend that is extremely soft, breathes very well and doesn’t wrinkle.
I hope some of you are encouraged to start looking at your wardrobe from a seasonal perspective. Not only will it help you feel more comfortable year round, but it will add an extra element to your style that sets you apart from the working masses.