Meeting in 29C heat? Wedding when the temperature hits 31C? Or a summer party with scarce shade? No problem. Even when etiquette says you need to wear a suit or, at the very least a shirt, there is a way to look good and feel comfortable while the sun is beaming down. And it comes down the fabric you choose.
Science tells us that natural fibres like linen, wool and cotton tend to be the best for regulating body temperature. There’s also something to be said for lightweight fabrics, which is why you’ll find lots of suits coming in at under 270g per metre around at this time of year. But there’s more to it than fibre and weight – the open weave of a fabric also makes a huge difference to its cooling abilities.
When you hold up fabric with an open weave, you should be able to see light through it. To give you a head-start on the ones to look for, here’s a run-down of the best materials for hot weather.
Made from natural flax fibres and with an open weave, linen fabrics are breathable. That means your body heat escapes while the fresh air flows in for a cooling effect. It’s also naturally moisture-wicking, which helps to get rid of that unpleasant sticky feeling when you’re a bit hot.
Suits made from linen will keep you cool when you need to dress smart for an occasion, like a summer wedding. They do tend to crumple slightly during the day, but the upside is the stylish relaxed look a few wrinkles creates. Suits in a linen blend cloth will also do the trick and they’re usually a bit more resistant to creases. If the occasion allows, try to wear your shirt open-necked for even more air flow.
From bedsheets to shirts, cotton is universally considered a breathable, lightweight fabric that helps to keep you cool. The trick with cotton is to choose fabrics with open weaves, like seersucker, panama and poplin.
Seersucker is woven to create crinkled stripes through the cloth. These crumples allow some of the fabric to sit off the body, helping air to circulate. The other bonus with seersucker is that you don’t need to iron it because the crumples are part of the look.
Also called basketweave, panama’s threads are woven in a criss-cross pattern that leaves plenty of gaps for air to flow.
Made from mercerised cotton fibres that chemically make them looser, poplin weaves look plain but have a more open structure for breathability. You’ll see some shirts made from poplin, which are great worn under a suit or on their own on a warm day.
People often wonder if wool is too hot to wear in the summer. Although a thick woollen jumper might make you feel like you’re about to melt, fine wool fibres are actually praised for their ability to let your body heat out when it’s hot but keep it trapped in when it’s cold.
To make the most of this quality in the summer, mills often create wool cloths with an open weave to be even more breathable. Hopsack is a great example of one of these weaves. It errs on the side of casual so works well for relaxed weddings, and it’s also one of the more crease-resistant wool cloths, so ideal for when you’re travelling. If you would like something a bit smarter, a summer-weight suit made from a wool blend will drape smoothly while offering the comfort of a lighter fabric.