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A Gentleman’s Guide

The Best Fabrics For Summer

As temperatures rise, yours needn’t with our guide to staying – and looking – cool in the heat

  • Photograph by Ms Valentina Frugiuele/Blaublut-Edition.com

Don’t look now, but the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are almost upon us. One way of making the season less crazy – and your style focus less hazy – is to put aside winter-ish things – your tweeds, your woollens, your corduroys – and embrace the lightweight, breathable fabrics that will keep you chilled, but still sartorially fulfilled, when, as Mr Cole Porter put it, “the thermometer goes way up, and the weather is sizzling hot”.

We’ve picked out some of the most efficacious cottons, linens and satins to breeze you through the torrid months that (hopefully) lie ahead, and 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 in-between 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.

Cotton-linen

  • Mr Alessandro Squarzi. Photograph by Mr Adam Katz Sinding/Trunk Archive

Mr James Abbot McNeill Whistler never painted a “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.

Get the look

  • Wooster + Lardini Navy Slim-Fit Linen Blazer

  • Polo Ralph Lauren Newport Slim-Fit Cotton-Twill Chinos

Satin

  • Photograph by Ms Valentina Frugiuele/Blaublut-Edition.com

There are fewer shortcuts to summer flash than investing in one of the season’s key pieces: the satin bomber. 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 finespun, silky texture means the jacket is perfect for slipping on over a daytime tee for statement sundowner style. All of which means we won’t be saying “sayonara” to satin for some time yet.

Get the look

  • Blue Blue Japan Embroidered Satin Souvenir Jacket

  • Reigning Champ Ring-Spun Cotton-Jersey T-Shirt

Linen

  • 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.

Get the look

  • Canali Beige Capri Slub Wool, Silk and Linen-Blend Suit

  • Loro Piana Linen Shirt

Poplin

  • 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, whose corded surface is made to be gently wafted by the lavender-inflected breeze of the sirocco or similar. This shirt from the Japanese brand Sacai further stakes its claim as a summer staple, thanks to its Côte d’Azur-redolent navy/white stripe and its drawstring hem, adding a sporty, hang-loose twist.

Get the look

  • Sacai Drawstring-Hem Cotton-Poplin Shirt

  • Comme des Garçons Leather Pouch

Seersucker

  • Photograph by Thousand Yard Style

Get the look

“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 tee and some high-top Chucks.

  • Beams Plus Blue Striped Seersucker Blazer

  • Converse 1970s Chuck Taylor All Star Canvas High-Top Sneakers

Chambray

  • Photograph by Ms Melanie Galea/Trunk Archive

Chambray – a lightweight cloth densely woven with white and indigo yarn in shades that can range from pale blue to dark blue-y grey – is denim’s nimbler, zestier, more breathable cousin. That makes it a summer shoo-in, both in terms of shirts – see how well it buttons up under a classic deconstructed cotton jacket – and shorts, and even suits. It’s smart enough to serve as a genuine alternative to seersucker, while also being supple and soft enough to match your trustiest pair of jeans for comfort. It might once have been associated with Depression-era factory workers, but chambray now makes a perfect partner for soaring summertime spirits.

Get the look

  • NN07 Frede Slim-Fit Cotton-Chambray Shirt

  • Illesteva Leonard Round-Frame Tortoiseshell Acetate Sunglasses

Cotton-piqué

  • Photograph by Mr Christopher Fenimore

You can trace the cotton-piqué weave – 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 to it 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 elan.

Get the look

  • Caruso Brown Butterfly Slim-Fit Linen and Wool-Blend Blazer

  • TOM FORD Slim-Fit Cotton-Piqué Polo Shirt