Summer temperatures can make spending time outside almost unbearable. You’re sweaty. You might be smelly. Your favorite button-down is now sporting some serious pit stains. The easiest way to avoid this seasonal struggle is to choose clothing made from lightweight fabrics. From rooftop happy hours to backyard weddings, you’ll find yourself actually enjoying the outdoors instead of always searching for air conditioning.
Best Fabrics For Heat & Humidity
The dark and heavy fabrics you may wear year-round can become suffocating during the summer months. You’ll want to wear something that sits loosely on the body (to increase airflow), and lets sweat evaporate. For your casual-wear and weekend wardrobe, incorporating our recommendations is a breeze. But don’t limit yourself. Choose wisely, and these fabrics are great for your work uniform too. Buy pieces cut in office-appropriate shapes to strike a balance between the business of business and job of keeping cool in summer.
So light it feels barely there, linen is a classic choice for the summer months. Linen is made from flax and conducts heat so well that it feels cool to the touch. The downside: It wrinkles extremely easily, so steaming or steam-ironing your threads is a must. If you’re comfortable with a more lived-in look, linen is a great option for looking effortlessly cool and staying cool too. When the humidity is oppressive, liberate yourself with a linen suit. Remember that the lightweight, wrinkle-prone nature of this fabric means it’s a notch or two down from formal.
As the most casual fabric on this list, chambray usually comes in a lightweight weave. It is the cooler alternative to its cousin, denim — though both are cool in the style sense. Look out for thread-count. Shirts with a higher thread-counts will be more lightweight than shirts with lower ones. Pair a chambray button-down with white linen shorts for a weekend lunch, or with colorful chinos for a more business-casual look.
Seersucker is a mainstay in the South, and for good reason. This cotton fabric is woven so that the color stripes lay flat while the white pulls away from the skin. That little bit of extra space allows for greater airflow and heat circulation. The seersucker suit is for the bold, and you owe it to yourself to have one. At very least try out some shorts for a weekend at the beach, or start with a jacket for Casual Fridays.
Once you go Persian, there’s no other version
The word ‘seersucker’ comes from the Hindi sirsakar. This is said to be a corruption of the Farsi (Persian) shir o shakar, which literally means “milk and sugar.” This was an idiomatic reference to the alternating smooth and puckered surfaces of the stripes. Click these links for some intel on how it is made, and some further notes on the name ‘seersucker.’
When you think of ‘wool,’ you might immediately imagine an itchy sweater or scratchy socks you’re forced into wearing on raw, snowy days. The tropical or summer weight version of this classic fabric is another matter altogether. Merino wool comes from a particular breed of sheep that produces a much finer and softer fiber. It’s so fine that it is often blended with cashmere and silk fabrics. Similar to cotton, it both absorbs moisture and helps it evaporate, keeping funky odors at bay. Merino wool is perfect when you need to dress-up a little in the warm summer months. Wear a summer wool suit when you’re going somewhere with a formal dress code (like weddings), or where the reigning notion of “business attire” excludes linen. Choose navy or black and it’ll be nearly impossible to tell the difference between this and your standard wool suit.
Cotton is everyone’s go-to fabric for something breathable, and for good reason. (You’re probably wearing it in some form right now.) This natural fabric absorbs moisture and allows it to easily evaporate. Cotton suits are much cooler than wool suits. If you are buying a cotton blazer, choose an unlined (unstructured) or half-lined one: linings trap heat. Chinos, made from a twill fabric with a majority cotton blend, are perfect choices for summer evenings. Lighter colors like tan or olive will keep you cool.
When the mercury is on the rise, any of these fabrics will help keep you cool and dry. Don’t be afraid to loosen your tie a bit. Step into something a little more casual. It’s summer, so go brighter, go lighter, and have fun negotiating the borders of stylish and comfortable, professional and temperature-appropriate.
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