SUMMER IS COMING: HOW TO WEAR A SUIT AND LOOK SHARP WHEN IT’S TOO HOT
Spring is in full flower, and that means that summer’s just around the corner. Since a JAKE suit takes us a few weeks to create, that means that now is the time to start thinking about how you’re going to look and feel cool.
WHAT TO/NOT TO WEAR
Cotton & Wool While it might go without being said, not all suits are created equal. Though most tend toward a three-season fabric weight suitable for summertime, you want to retire any heavier winter-weight fabrics during warmer times. Synthetic fibers like nylon, polyester, or viscose trap air--and heat--so leave those in the closet. Unless obvious in its price, velvet is often made out of synthetic materials; but you’re already probably not going full-on Keith Richards during the summer, right? When it’s hottest, natural fibers like cotton and wool are your best friends. Silk, though a natural fiber, traps heat and moisture, making it entirely unsuited for summer use except as an accent fabric. Fortunately, there are types of fabrics that are designed specifically to help when it’s hottest, like linen and seersucker.
Linen is traditionally made out of the flax plant. It creates a light, very cooling fabric. While it seems to wrinkle very easily, high-quality linen is best treated by rumpling it even more. When you’re traveling, instead of ironing it, just gently crumple it when packing. Before dressing, shake it out, and you won't look buttoned up with starch, but you will feel as relaxed as a Corona commercial. At most, a touch of steam may be all that it needs. Speaking of linen, if you’ve never slept in a set of linen sheets during the summer, pick up a set and you're in for a treat, to say the least.
Seersucker is a cotton fabric woven in such a way that the threads pull against each other, resulting in a seemingly rumpled fabric that, as a result, sits above your skin instead of on it. While you may have it mentally pigeonholed as something to wear only while catching a horse race in Kentucky, it’s far too comfortable of a fabric not to have in your life. Blue and white stripes are most common, but there’s a whole rainbow of gentle pastel combinations that feel less clichéd.
Other cotton fabrics include madras, a brightly patterned cotton fabric, often in plaid or a mix of patterns; khaki, the tan cotton fabric also charmingly called drab (really); and poplin, which is sort of like a slightly textured khaki.
HOW TO STYLE
Style Slim & Shady A lot of these fabrics work best when they fit you comfortably: not too snug, but not so flowing that you look like you’ve never returned from that beach vacation. If you don’t wear them but once or twice every few years, consider having the tailoring readjusted before the start of the season so you don’t discover with dismay that the set of clothes you thought you were going to wear no longer fit you. Nothing makes heat feel much worse than when you can barely fit into your pants, and nothing makes you look worse than wearing something that looks like a boxy tent because you’ve lost weight.
When you’re shopping for a new summer suit, err on the slightly small side. For example, with the pant cuffs, go with a slight break or even no break. The break refers to how much fabric sits on your shoes; a slight break keeps the cuff higher up on your shoes, making it perfect for the no-socks look. For the jacket, avoid anything more than 2 buttons--you just don’t need the extra fabric. The shoulders should be very slim and lightly padded, if at all. Think sprezzatura.
If want to look fashion-forward, but aren't prepared to sacrifice comfort, go with a short suit. Really, we're serious. Even better, the next time you're getting a summer suit, either have a pair of matching shorts made, or, if you're buying off-the-rack, buy a second pair of pants and have them hemmed into shorts. That way, you're not committing to anything much beyond what you'd already be comfortable wearing, so it's a simple enough decision for you to make. A short suit is an easy look to pull of, and since it's never occurred to most people, you'll look fantastic and one-of-a-kind. You'll probably want to pair the shorts with a nice pair of dress shoes--nothing too large or clunky--without socks, unless you're in Bermuda.
Light Suit: Dark Shirt If your suit has a light tone, don’t pair it with a light colored shirt as people most commonly do. For an easy, uncommon look, pair it with a darker shirt and a lighter tie.
Pocket Squares are always a good idea, but during summer months, skip the silk and go with cotton, which can double as a sweat mop when necessary--using a silk square to wipe your brow would kill the silk.
No Sweat is, for many, at least as great of a goal as looking good is. Paradoxically, covering up more can often help more than wearing less: if you’re wearing a loose, lightweight natural fiber in a darker color, you keep the sun off your skin while promoting a cooling airflow. As an added benefit, dark-colored clothes hide sweat stains much more readily than a light colored ones, on which every drop of sweat becomes painfully obvious. If you must go light, bright white is your best bet for hiding sweat.
Humidity is usually more of a problem than heat alone, since it’s hard for your body to evaporate sweat when the ambient moisture is too high. Counterintuitively, adding an undershirt can especially help when it’s humid, because it will absorb sweat before your outer clothes do, which helps cool you without making your clothes appear damp, at least for a time. Be sure to wear either a deep v-neck or pair your outfit with a tie or bowtie, because no one--no one--looks good with their underwear showing. Note that wearing only an undershirt with a suit is slovenly. A fitted, well-designed t-shirt--which is certainly a reasonable option, provided it pairs well with the suit--is not the same thing as an undershirt, so please don't pretend that it is. If undershirts aren’t your thing, you can radically increase the lifespan of your shirts by only wearing deodorant that does not contain an antiperspirant. While most deodorant sold also contains an antiperspirant, hunt down one without it, because it’s the antiperspirant that builds up over time, fading colored shirts and staining white shirts yellow. In the short run, you may suffer from more sweat stains, but in the longer run, you’re killing your shirts.
No Socks? Wearing a suit without socks can work, but it depends on the suit and the shoes. Make sure your shoes are top-quality and immaculate. Don’t pair them with a large suit; if your pant cuffs have a full break, keep your socks on. And if your shoes aren’t broken in, or if you get caught in the rain without socks, you may rub your feet raw. Head that off with a blister stick--they’re like miniature roll-on deodorants that invisibly make your skin a little too slick to blister. Band-aid makes the best ones we’ve tried.
Confused? We’d say don’t get too hot and bothered, but if you’re unsure how to proceed, that’s exactly your dilemma. Stop by your friends at JAKE for a free style session, and we’ll guide you through the creation of a summer look that perfectly meshes with your sense of style. And don’t worry, if you’re not sure what kind of style you have, we’ll ensure you end up with fashion aspiration instead of fashion perspiration.