Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Some summer suits

As I said in my last post, there's a sad lack of understanding amongst men of the importance of summer suits. So what are the options? Well - here's a (rather over-simplified) summary. I've broken it down into the three main materials - wool, linen or cotton - but it's worth noting that blends are relatively common, although one material will usually still dominate. As always, my thoughts and ideas are just guidance, and you're best off being guided by your personal taste and the actual qualities of the suit you have in front of you.

Wool
Probably 90% of a gentleman's suits and jackets will be made of wool and the summer is no exception. Nice though the thought is of dressing exclusively in fabulous cream cotton suits for two or three months over the summer (your mileage may vary. Especially if you live in the UK), that's hardly practical for those of us who still have to dress smartly for work, or even just for occasional social engagements, during most of that period. So, if you still need to wear a business suit then wool needs to be your first port of call and, simply by going for cloth in the 8-10 ounce range, you can have suits that are perfect for summer and needn't look drastically different to your everyday attire.


Of course, it may be that you want a summer suit that looks like a summer suit, and that's also an option in wool although it is, almost by definition, a little less formal. If this is what you are after, then a paler grey or blue is ideal; even a sky blue can look fantastic. Cream or brown wool suits are an option, although lighter brown works best. Single-breasted and two-piece are perhaps the obvious choice for summer suits for reasons of temperature, but don't ignore the possibility of either a double-breasted or three-piece summer suit. Both are classic and needn't be uncomfortable so long as the cloth is chosen carefully.

Linen
Linen is perhaps the 'classic' summer suiting material. It's most common in cream, closely followed by blue and then probably brown. It's a great choice, cool and breathable and with a tendency to crumple so quickly after being put on that it actually seems to hide any further heat-induced dishevelment. It is, of course, very casual and probably not suitable for the most formal office environments. It also requires steaming or pressing at the end of almost every day it is worn and, particularly in cream, can become dirty quickly.

Cut is important, I think, particularly with the trousers. If badly made or badly fitting, linen suits have a tendency towards an inelegant shapelessness and bagginess. It's also important to choose a suitable shirt and tie; my own preference is for something relatively smart, thus emphasising that you are wearing the suit because it is hot and not because you are, in any way, dressing down. Thus cutaway collars, formal ties and double cuffs are by no means incongruous and often preferable.

It's Bond again. But then, when it comes to Summer suits, nobody does it better.

As far as colour goes, I would caution gently against anything too brown and firmly against anything too white, particularly in town. The former can work if it fits perfectly and the rest of the outfit is good, but is hard to pull off. The latter often just makes you look like a novelty waiter, a disco dancer or a cheap gangster.

In almost all cases, shoes should be brown. George Lazenby appears as Bond in a lovely cream suit wearing white shoes but then he was in Portugal. Perhaps that makes it ok.

Cotton
Often ignored in favour of linen or wool, cotton can and should have a place in every man's wardrobe. Cooler and more casual than wool, it can also (when made right) be crisper and smarter than linen. Cotton duck is a form of plain cotton canvas which, in weights of around 7oz, makes for fantastic summer clothes. The bright white trousers most traditionally worn by real rowers with their blazers are made of cotton duck, as are many of the better cotton jackets. Almost every year, Hackett has one in their summer collection and they are, without fail, crisp and elegant.


Cotton can, of course, also be worn as a suit, in either blue or cream. Ideally it could be half-lined, and has a natural shoulder and relatively little waist suppression for a smart but relaxed look.

So, stock up, and hope that the sunshine returns. Or just leave the UK and go somewhere hot...

4 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Dear Jake,

    Thank you for this, its nice to see someone plugging linen and cotton so positively! Can I ask what you're view on colour is for summer suiting? I've just written a piece arguing that bright and pastel colours are a viable alternative nowadays, and I'm considering having a subtle lilac linen summer two-piece made up. I'd be curious to know whether you think that's a sensible option?

    Thank you,

    Aleks

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    Replies
    1. Hi Aleks,

      Just read your post - very interesting and very well argued. I agree that pastel in particular can work very well, and a pale blue is a great look. More unusual colours probably depend a bit on a chap's personal style and his general level of comfort with bolder and less classic style choices. (Mine is probably 7-10. On a totally arbitrary scale that I just made up.)

      In the right place (especially abroad, or on a boat) it would work fabulously. In London I think it might be a little tough to pull off but that shouldn't stop you trying. I think that you can wear almost anything so long as *you* like it, you are confident in it, it fits and is well made, and the outfit as a whole is considered and coherent.

      Jake

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    2. Dear Jake,

      Thank you very much indeed for the advice, that's most encouraging. I think that's a project that I'm going to put on hold for now, given that Autumn's approaching, but come next year, I may have to give it a try!

      Your new suit was looking marvellous at the forward fitting by the way, I'm looking forward to a post with more photographs!

      Best wishes,

      Aleks

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