I’m weak on warm weather suits. A love of sturdy cloth has left me with few choices on suit-wearing occasions June through September. I can usually scrape by on linen or cotton trousers, a mid weight blazer and several cool drinks. Compromise of this sort can be pleasing, but I have been unhappy and creased enough times to do something in the pursuit of suited coolness this year. Having a somewhat irregular need of suits in general, I based my selections upon the most extreme but still realistic situations I might encounter. A fairly good strategy, I think.
One of the weddings we are attending this year is taking place on a beach in Mexico. In July. In the afternoon. I’m told some of the men will be wearing guayaberas, as is the custom; while handsome, I don’t think my first foray into this traditional shirt should be at a wedding surrounded by its habitual wearers. Goodness knows what faux pas lurk. Instead I will play the visiting northerner in his sole well-cut, albeit rumpled, linen suit. The idea is that while anybody might wilt in the expected conditions, doing so in linen is perfectly acceptable.
Chris Despos and I poured over dozens of linen samples before deciding the ten ounce offerings from the London Lounge had the nicest balance of body, porosity and charming irregularity. The shade is that of Connecticut shade wrapper cigars—a light, golden brown. This choice was informed by versatility; with three patch pockets and minimal lining the jacket will wear particularly well as a casual separate. But I admit a certain timidity in the selection as well. I love cream linen, but a suit of it on the wrong person (me, for instance) can easily seem like a costume. Maybe in another decade when what’s left of my hair silvers.
At the other extreme, I needed a suit that would handle an oppressive day in the city. This project poses a greater challenge than the beach scenario. Whereas linen might rely upon an expectation of some rumpling, a creased and bagged worsted suit is always sad. Instead, the ideal stays crisp, works from day into evening, and never appears obviously casual nor too conservative. Inspired from one of my own cloth galleries, I settled upon nine ounce Fresco—a high-twist worsted woven to permit good air-flow while remaining virtually wrinkle free. The winner is a mottled mid-grey with a very subtle windowpane.
I think this cloth ticks most of the boxes, perhaps leaning a tad conservative. I decided to alleviate any fear of appearing like a banker by employing two design elements: the hip pockets will be patch (the breast remains welt) and the buttons are perhaps two shades lighter than what might be expected on a gray worsted. The buttons are purely a lark, but the patch pockets, at least in theory, should help keep the suit cool by eliminating some of the guts normally required to suspend a pocket.
Patch pockets, minimal linings—these, I suppose, are the tricks that make summer suits fun. But they all point to something I like to think of as the summer suit conundrum: In a proper swelter, anything more than a modal scarf around the waist is uncomfortably hot. This might seem dispiriting at first—as if relief is just a mirage. But I’ve learned to find comfort in the idea that the field is even—from guayaberas to linen to smart worsteds—and that coolness is in the eye of the bespeaker.