Beat The Heat!
A little like the McLaren 650S, which I had the pleasure of taking for a spin this week, the British summertime goes from 0 – 60 in about 3 seconds!
For no sooner had I taken receipt of my new double breasted pinstripe suit, made of Harrisons 11oz plain weave cloth, which is not a particularly heavy cloth by any means and one which I believed would see me through the summer months, and I’m already planning a linen and mohair number and an 8oz to get me through this insufferable heat!
And whilst the 11oz is by no means a winter weight suit, and nor the plain weave a worsted flannel, it’s not as lightweight as 8/9oz cloth, nor does it have the heat wicking properties of linen. So, if you really want to beat the heat, you’d be wise to consider the following;
8/9oz is probably as light as you need in order to feel that your are wearing a lightweight, summery, garment. Lighter weights exist, but bear in mind that the lighter the cloth, the more easily it will crease and the less easily it will drape over a frame that suffers from more than the usual bodily anomalies – which most of us suffer from, I hasten to add – scoliosis, for example.
The type of weave which a cloth is woven with will affect, to a greater or lesser degree, the cloths ability to release heat. Suits made purely of wool will breathe, naturally, whereas those made of wool blended with man made fibres will not. But if you consider that clothes were designed to keep us warm, among other things, and the weave of the wool was designed to trap air against you, which in turn would warm up and keep you warm – the same principle as a wetsuit – whereas cloths woven with a plain weave (or Panama weave as it is also known, given that it shares the same weave as the famous hat), typically with one yarn in the warp (vertical), and one in the weft (horizontal), release heat and do not trap it against you.
This type of weave creates a mesh-like pattern in the cloth, which releases heat, or, rather, does not trap the heat. It will come as no surprise then, that two of the most popular cloths used for summer suits, linen and mohair, both share this type of weave. And whilst you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was the light weight of these cloths which is the reason for their suitability for summer suits, however, it should be pointed out that these cloths are not necessarily always light in weight.
But these two cloths could not be more different in their characteristics. While they both hold a crease, the mohair holds the type of trouser crease which Farah’s 1970’s Stay Press trousers, mods, and also the military old rear guard would die for, or, rather insist upon. Whereas linen, on the other hand, holds the type of crease which polarises men and women alike. The dishevelled appearance of a creased linen suit, which epitomises the linen suit look, is either for you, or against you.
In addition to the weave of these suiting staples, which both afford us the luxury of releasing heat, linen has the upper hand when it comes to beating the heat. Flax, from which linen is woven , is able to absorb more than 35% of it’s own weight in moisture, it is quite literally natures own Gore-Tex. Impressive, huh?!
Which brings us to the age old dilemma of ensuring that your wardrobe has sufficient summer suits to get your through, what I anticipate will be, an Indian summer, and in the nick of time before you melt away. But this is no mean feat.
I remember waxing sartorial with the father of the late great Amy Winehouse, Mitch, one day, who told me that his uncles, who all had accounts with the various tailors of East London and also Savile Row, always ordered themselves a new suit when collecting the previous one. This may seam a little extravagant nowadays, but if you consider that up until the late 1970’s suits were de rigueur for the majority male society, whether as a uniform for work, for day-to-day, as a lounge suit, or as a fashion statement for myriad sub cultures, then it made perfect sense. And in doing so, I bet they always ordered their suits in good time for the coming season.
This summer may have taken Bristol’s local tailor by surprise, but next year, we will be ready..