There was a time, albeit long ago, when I scoffed at the very idea of wearing a suit in summer. Anything heavier than shorts and a tee was unnecessary for a country where temperatures can swelter in the high 40s. But one cannot go about life conducting meetings in cargos and flip-flops – not everyone is lucky to work in tech in Silicon Valley, right? So, for the rest of us, especially in jobs where the decorum of dress still holds sway, here are a few summer suit tips, as also some myths duly busted with regard to being dressed to the nines even when the mercury is ragingly high.
Always choose natural fabrics over man-made ones. Sure, they cost more and require more care – and let’s not even get into how easily some of them crease once worn. But, they breathe i.e. they allow air to pass through, and that makes them ideal for wearing in hot weather. Donning polyester, nylon or blends thereof, for all their slickness, is equivalent to strapping on a sauna chamber and walking around all day in it. Linen and cotton are by far better choices.
That said, a lot of my jackets are made of wool because it doesn’t keep you warm, or cold – it merely insulates and maintains temperature. It is as natural fabric as the ones mentioned above, so, by all means, feel free to get measured up in a 100 per cent woollen fabric. Just try and aim for something with a thin yarn, so that it feels fine to the touch and isn’t heavy, like tweed or similar weaves.
The next trick with a suit is to opt for a half-lining. This entails that the inner fabric doesn’t run the entire length and breadth of the suit on the inside, just around at the shoulders, half of the front panels vertically and half the back horizontally.
The reason you need that little fabric is for a few reasons:
(a) so that sweat doesn’t stain the suit
(b) to provide rigidity to the jacket
(c) to accommodate pockets if you want them (and I always do, especially for pocket squares, even if they are merely a visual add-on).
If the above points don’t matter to you, then consider a jacket with no lining at all. There can still be some decorative piping to hide the stitch-work on the inside, but beyond that, the jacket is as light and airy as a shirt. Personally, I still haven’t been able to bring myself around to rocking this silhouette – I’m too stocky to attempt such stylistic-side – but it can work on many a lithe frame. You can’t have pockets, though.
This might sound obvious, but colours do matter: lighter ones will reflect heat, while dark shades will absorb it all. So think bright shades or earthy, pastel hues, and play with chevrons and herringbones and pinhead textures, as long as it all helps reduce heat absorption.
A Full Suit
Frankly, there is no way of buttoning up in a three-piece suit and not feeling like you are melting. The reason is the layering of fabrics, which traps air and insulates only too efficiently, and reduces air exchange. So skip the waistcoat and also skip the trouser lining, for that matter. And if you feel brave enough to do it, rock a jacket and shorts combo, instead of trousers.
It is okay to discard the socks and go with loafers or ditch the tie for a pocket square. The idea is to junk the jetsam of formal wear in such a way that it retains its classic appeal and yet is aligned with the weather.