The Definitive Guide To Summer Fabrics And How To Wear Them
Milan, June, 2017. Photograph by Mr Robert Spangle
When the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer hit, there’s often a mad dash for cooling clothes. One way of making the season less crazy – and your style focus less hazy – is to put aside winterish things – your tweeds, your woollens, your corduroys – and embrace the lightweight, breathable fabrics that will keep you chilled, but still sartorially fulfilled when, as the songwriter Mr Cole Porter put it, “the thermometer goes way up and the weather is sizzling hot”.
The fabrics you wear make a difference, so we’ve put together a primer to help you breeze through the torrid months. We’ve also given you a few pointers as to how to wear them well, courtesy of some street-style exemplars. Follow our advice, and their lead, and you won’t be sweating the small stuff (or the big stuff, or even the inbetween stuff) as the temperatures rise. Even if you don’t make it to the beach this summer, you’ll still be riding the crest of these particular weaves.
Florence, June, 2014. Photograph by Mr Adam Katz Sinding
Mr James Abbot McNeill Whistler never painted “Harmony In Navy And White”, but if he had, he couldn’t have come up with a more resplendent vision than that of Mr Alessandro Squarzi, the Milanese entrepreneur and street-style blog mainstay, who provides a masterclass in summer shading with his pristine ivory trousers, tonal gilet and double-breasted cotton-linen blazer. Cotton-linen is the smart choice when going for a deconstructed, formal-informal warm-weather look. Both fibres are highly breathable, absorb a decent amount of moisture and are fairly open in weave to allow air to circulate through the garment. Blend it like Mr Squarzi and you’ll keep your cool while all about you are in danger of losing theirs.
Florence, April, 2016. Photograph by Ms Valentina Frugiuele/Blaublut-Edition.com
There are fewer shortcuts to summer flash than investing in a key piece: the satin bomber jacket. It’s a modern take on the souvenir jacket, which originated in Japan before being popularised by returning GIs after WWII. The dragons, tigers, palms, cherry blossoms and military iconography embroidered on the glossy weave still confer an ornately exotic edge, while the satin’s fine-spun, silky texture means the jacket is perfect for slipping on over a daytime T-shirt for statement sundowner style. All of which means we won’t be saying “sayonara” to satin for some time yet.
Florence, June, 2018. Photograph by Guerreisms
Linen: the flax plant’s finest product and the quintessential summer cloth, right? A Brideshead-meets-Riviera-meets-Our Man In Havana blend of debonair and dishevelled? Actually, a new breed of tighter-weave linens needn’t necessarily leave you creasing up and are even robust enough to work with more formal styles, as this double-breasted look from the sun-drenched parade ground of Florence’s Pitti Uomo trade fair proves. Keep the styling breezy – a white shirt and knitted tie, working cuff buttons for added ventilation – and your suit, as well as your brow, should stay unfurrowed even as the mercury climbs, setting the sartorial bar blue-sky-high at al fresco weddings or garden parties.
Paris, June, 2015. Photograph by Ms Kirstin Sinclair/Getty Images
If this outfit is the epitome of laid-back summer elegance, it’s got a lot to do with the cocktail-terrace slouch of the sweatpants and the airy clasping of the man-clutch, which doubtless conceals a revitalising water spritzer. But it’s got most to do with the cotton poplin shirt – poplin being a featherweight iteration of the already pretty light fibre, the corded surface of which is made to gently waft in the lavender-inflected breeze of the Sirocco or similar. Take inspiration from this shirt, which further stakes its claim as a summer staple, thanks to its Côte d’Azur-redolent navy/white stripe and its drawstring hem, which adds a sporty, hang-loose twist.
Milan, June, 2017. Photograph by Mr Robert Spangle
“My jacket’s gonna be cut and slim and checked,” sang The Who in “I’ve Had Enough”. “Maybe a touch of seersucker with an open neck.” Sound sartorial nous, because seersucker – the bunchy, puckered cotton fabric whose natural wrinkling makes it an effective heat disperser and whose rough/smooth blue/white stripes are as welcome a summer signifier as the first swallow – is the go-to weave for jackets, trousers or shorts that combine preppy zip and Southern-gent savoir-faire. You might be tempted to add a bow tie and a straw Panama – seersucker is nothing if not a gateway drug to the classics – but we’d advise keeping it more mod and less costume party with the aid of a plain white T-shirt and some high-top Chucks.
Florence, June, 2015. Photograph by Mr Christopher Fenimore
You can trace the cotton-piqué weave, which is characterised by raised parallel cords or fine ribbing, back to the 1920s, when it was at the cutting edge of performance fabrics for athletes such as Mr René Lacoste, who took the cotton-piqué polo shirt off the tennis court, appended a crocodile logo and conquered the smart-casual universe. Today, the piqué weave has spread to shirts as well as polos, and has become a stalwart warm-weather friend, celebrated for its vim and vigour, lauded for its adaptability – it looks as good nestling under a blazer as it does complementing a pair of print shorts – and welcomed all the more warmly as the humidity intensifies for its sweat-wicking élan.
The men featured in this story are not associated with and do not endorse MR PORTER or the products shown