Rebuilding Your Wardrobe: Suits for Summer (Part 1)

I’m reminded of the influence my mother had on my style growing up. From bold golds to tiger stripes and whites, she’s never been one to hold back on self-expression. As any experienced designer will admit, women’s fashion influences men’s wear from the perspective of striking lines and daring colours.

While I may not have been one to wear suits as a child, my mother always made sure the outfits my siblings and I wore were carefully crafted and sometimes coordinated the night before. During summer months, we didn’t step out in just anything, our golf-shirts matched with our knee-high socks, and our shorts communicated well with our shoes.

Of course, many things have changed since we last had the pleasure of being styled by our mother, fortunately the apple(s) didn’t fall too far from the tree. Both my brother and I wear suits, especially to weddings in the spring/summer months between September and December and both of us have been caught giving a disapproving stare at men who’ve obviously put together their outfits at the last minute. Our senses are often assaulted by such fashion faux pas as the common attempt at executing the smart casual look by wearing jeans with some ridiculous looking jacket.

As with most things in life, due consideration should be given to the weather. Depending on which province or country you’re in, here are some summer suit options to choose from, ensuring you always remain cool under pressure.

Linen

This is one of my absolute favourites, and I have found it to be perfect for Pitti Uomo 98 in the hot Italian summers of June. It is a lightweight and breathable fabric which can be a summer lifesaver, ensuring you always look the part despite the sweltering heat. Another plus is that its durability means you won’t have to replace it too often. It is a moisture-wicking fabric, and a conductor which means that it absorbs sweat while keeping you dry. Made from flax seed plant fibres, its visible weaving reveals that this is a naturally textured fabric, which wrinkles easily and loses shape the moment you touch it – this makes it generally unsuitable for office wear, unless you’re going for the ”dapper” look on casual Fridays.

They’re really easy to wear. Formally; you can wear this suit with a complementary coloured cut-away or English spread collar shirt and tie, and a pair of rubber-sole leather or suede brogues. Informally, a white V-neck t-shirt with plain white plimsolls or cup sole sneakers are match winners. Word to the wise; try a cotton-blended linen option if you want this to wear this suit when seeing clients.

Seersucker

Also known as the railroad stripe, its name originates from a combination of the Persian words “shir” and “shakkar” (read shir o shakkar) which translates to milk and sugar because of the resemblance to the smooth and bumpy textures of milk and sugar, respectively.

It gained popularity during the British colonial period in India and was largely worn by labourers in the rail and oil industries who valued keeping cool while working alongside hot furnaces and engines of locomotives. Because of its popularity with the working classes, this fabric was shunned by the snobby upper classes. It was not until the 1920s when students at Princeton university started wearing seersucker suits to lawn parties as a rebellious statement about economic status that this stigma faded.

The material is similar to linen in that it is moisture-wicking and lightweight. However, unlike linen, it would not need ironing because the wrinkly texture, known as “puckering” is one of its most flattering features. “Puckering” is a natural creasing, which is a function of the bunching together of some of the threads in its unique cotton weave. However, this puckering isn’t consistent, and alternates in a pattern which gives the seersucker its cooling trait. Moreover, this is also the main reason the fabric doesn’t stick to the body, thus enabling air circulation.

This suit is definitely a showstopper in summer for outdoor events and weddings. Depending on the colour combination of the stripes in your seersucker suit, it’s always an easy match with a complementary coloured v-neck t-shirt or white spread collar shirt, plimsolls or cupsole sneakers and even a panama or boater hat.

Fresco

I’m fresher than your average”, said the dandy in his Fresco suit. Derived from the word ”Alfresco”, which in Italian literally translates to fresh, the open-air weave in the fresco fabric enables breathability, which is perfect for harsh summer conditions.  This fabric is made from twisting several yarns together, which not only offsets the loose weave, making it more durable, but it also makes the fabric quite bristly.  It is lightweight and has an element of transparency when held against the light.  To make it less “see through”; fabric manufacturers have resorted to adding various shades of a colour in the weave.

When choosing the fresco fabric for your suit, go with a heavier grammage. You can ensure an amplified cooling effect on summer days by commissioning an unlined version of the suit. Formally, you can wear this suit with a variety of spread collars and even a cutaway collar shirt with a tie. As for footwear, you complete this outfit  with oxfords. For a more casual look, you can never go wrong with brogues, loafers, or even a choice between plimsolls or cup sole sneakers.

In summary, with such a large variety of options to choose from, one has to ask themselves a simple question; What does the occasion call for?

Once this has been addressed, the solution should become clear. The one thing you don’t want is your mom still having to make your choices for you.

written by Ndzutha Mngqibisa (Creative Director of NDZU Tailored)

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