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Men’s fashion: To beat summer heat, settle on cotton, seersucker suits

Courtesy of Humphries and Begg and Pursuit

Jake Mendel is the Director of Development for Pursuit, a men’s clothing store located in the South Campus Gateway.

Wearing a suit during the warmer months is no easy task. From outdoor weddings to the Kentucky Derby, there’s just too much going on to let you ditch the business suit for the swimsuit when the temperatures rise. Designers have been aware of this issue for a while and have been using lighter materials and more unstructured cuts to give a little less insulation, but they have finally turned their eyes (and scissors) to creating garments suitable for more formal and business events. 

The best part about these suits? Once you’ve got one, you’re free to ditch the board meeting and rock them with a T-shirt and sneakers.

Cotton has always been the most obvious choice for summer suiting. It’s light, can be cut and constructed in any way, will hold shape relatively well and will keep you cool at the same time. Cotton suits are less formal than their wool counterparts, so it’s important to keep a few things in mind when dressing up a cotton suit for business. 

First, stick with the pattern of the fabric you’re using. A wool suit pairs nicely with a silk or wool tie, so a cotton suit shines best with a cotton tie and pocket square. It keeps the texture of the entire look in check. 

When picking out colors for a summer suit, try to stay in the lighter range of the palette. This will keep you a lot cooler than a black suit. Khaki, stone, light gray and medium blue are all business-ready options that will have you looking stylish and not sweating through your shirt.

If you’re looking for something other than cotton, there are a few other options available to you. Linen has always been a classic fabric for summer suits. It’s often woven with cotton to give it a little more structure. In addition, a classic southern look is seersucker. Known for it’s distinctive striped pattern, a seersucker suit will definitely set you apart from the rest of the pack. While appropriate for weddings and most outdoor events, keep in mind your setting. If you’re expected in the boardroom, a seersucker suit may be out of place (unless your boss is from south of the Mason-Dixon, then you might earn some style points).

One of the crucial things to remember about summer fabrics is how they wrinkle. Cotton, linen and seersucker all have a tendency to wrinkle very easily. The truth is, a little wrinkle in a summer suit is good. If gives it a lived-in, broken-in look that says, “I wear this suit often.” Look for wrinkles behind the knees and elbows, the two most common joints bent in a suit. Other than that, keep your suit looking fresh with a good steam every once and a while. Steaming a suit pulls out 90 percent of wrinkles, and doesn’t damage your suit the way dry cleaning does.

So the next time you’re invited to an outdoor event, don’t reach for your black wool suit unless you want to feel like you’ve been swimming within minutes of walking outside. Opt for a slim-cut suit with as little lining as possible, made in a lightweight summer fabric. It’ll keep you looking and feeling cool, and give you the opportunity to focus on more important things.

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