Developing A Seasonal Wardrobe

Although it may not seem like it here in Britain, summer is nearly upon us. Admittedly, it’s likely to be a typical summer full of sudden bursts of heat and humidity followed by unexplainable downpours and showers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get excited. And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start getting ready for it either.

Preparation is a style-conscious gent’s best friend when it comes to managing seasons. Unless you’re content with a wardrobe full of varied cottons, lightweight fabrics will need to be a serious consideration when choosing clothing for the upcoming warmer months. Now’s the time to pack away your winter tweeds, corduroys and wools – they will only invite sweat and feel oppressively hot once June arrives.

It doesn’t matter whether you enjoy layering or not, if you don’t pick the right fabrics for each season then you’re making your life much harder than it needs to be.

Key Warm-Weather Fabrics

But why buy seasonal fabrics? Well, not only do you get to experience the feeling of excitement that comes with unveiling a ‘new’ wardrobe every six months, but you also get added comfort and longevity out of everything you purchase.

Furthermore, seasonal pieces often work better as separates and are much more versatile than the standard ‘four season’ fabrics that are pedalled in most high street stores.

Honestly, once I made the change, the difference it made to my personal style was huge: my clothes lasted longer, I felt more comfortable and the amount of complements I received dramatically increased. You’d be surprised how much women appreciate a man who understands his textiles – it’s a subtle differential that instantly marks you out as a stylish, well-informed gent.

With all that in mind, let’s start narrowing down the fabrics that every man should consider adding to his warm-weather wardrobe…

1. Cottons

Although a year-round option, cotton comes into its own in summer. The best thing about it is that it’s able to hold its shape regardless of the type of garment – especially useful when it has been blended with other less structured materials such as linen.

Cotton construction is ideal for smarter pieces like shirts and blazers, where you want to retain the garment’s sharp cut and silhouette. If you only buy one item in lightweight cotton this season, make it a white, beige or cream suit – all of which are on trend, perfect for summer events such as weddings and can be split into extremely versatile separates.

For example, team the jacket with slim jeans and a white polo for Saturday afternoon drinks, and use the trousers in exactly the same way you would a pair of chinos – they will instantly take any casual look up a notch.

Lookbook Inspiration

Strellson ss14 he by mango summer 2014 avva ss14 reiss 2014 feature ti for men ss14 massimo dutti june 2013 he by mango summer 2014 reiss ss14 tommy hilfiger tailored ss14 tommy hilfiger tailored ss14 h&m summer 2013 zara man may 2014

Key Pieces
  • United Colors Of Benetton Cotton Stretch Suit Jacket
  • United Colors Of Benetton Cotton Stretch Trousers
  • Officine Generale Slim-fit Slub Cotton Blazer
  • Antony Morato Suit Jacket In Casual Cotton
  • Antony Morato Suit Trousers In Casual Cotton
  • He By Mango Unstructured Cotton Blazer
  • Williams & Brown Cotton Blazer
  • Wooyoungmi Slim-fit Unstructured Cotton-blend Poplin Blazer
  • Wooyoungmi Tapered Cotton-blend Poplin Suit Trousers
2. Linen

Durable, strong, breathable and resistant to stretching, linen is arguably the perfect summer fabric. However, it does come with one major drawback: it creases easily. But do you know what I say to that? Embrace the wrinkles. Not only does it give the fabric (and therefore your outfit) its own unique character, it adds a touch of sprezzatura to any look.

The best pieces to purchase in linen are suits, shirts and knitwear. When opting for a shirt, keep in mind the lightweight and see-through nature of the material – consider darker hues such as navy and grey to start with.

Linen knitwear is a personal favourite of mine as you can never tell what the weather is really going to be like in England. Whether in cardigan or sweater form, this is a great piece to have with you on the beach (or in the beer garden), ready for when the temperature drops in the evening.

Due to the nature of the material, linen knitwear tends to hold its shape quite well – even after repeated wear, unlike a lot of cotton or wool versions – making it an investment purchase that you will get good use out of for many summers to come. That said, these knits are priced at a premium and often difficult to source, so keep your eyes peeled when rummaging through vintage shops or wait until MR PORTER, Ralph Lauren or Brooks Brothers are on sale.

Linen suits shouldn’t be used in corporate environments (this is where wrinkles would be perceived as sloppy), but for business-casual dress codes or summer garden parties they look superb and ooze effortless chic. Opt for a timeless colour such as blue or grey in a lighter shade and it will prove its worth many times over. Dress it up with a shirt and tie, dress it down with a polo and loafers, split it into separates – the options are endless.

If you really aren’t a fan of the wrinkles pure linen naturally attracts then you could also consider cotton-linen blends, which are much sturdier and resistant to creasing.

Lookbook Inspiration

he by mango ss14 massimo dutti april 2014 sarar ss14 h&m ss14 h&m 2014 massimo dutti april 2013 gant rugger ss13 jigsaw ss14 ami ss14 he by mango summer 2014 massimo dutti april 2014 massimo dutti nyc 5th avenue ss13

Key Pieces
  • Reiss Berry Linen Long Sleeve Shirt White
  • Canali Button-down Collar Linen Shirt
  • Uniqlo Men Premium Linen Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Asos Slim Fit Suit Jacket In 100% Linen
  • Ted Baker Endurance Pierz Checked Linen Double Breasted Suit
  • J.crew Slim-fit Woven Linen And Cotton-blend Suit Jacket
  • Richard James Striped Linen Knit Sweater 188910
  • Nn.07 Knitted-linen Sweater
  • Beams Plus Knitted-linen Cardigan
3. Seersucker

Seersucker is a slack tension weave made from cotton and characterised by its puckering, which causes the material to hang away from the skin – increasing airflow and therefore helping avoid sweat.

Each year, seersucker is becoming more popular with designers, brands and high street stores. Previously only available in traditional blue and white stripes, newer, more contemporary pieces are now being produced in solid block-colours, utilising the fabric purely for its natural cooling effect.

My favourite seersucker pieces have always been shorts and ties, but the seersucker suit is fast becoming this summer’s must-have piece of tailoring. If you opt for classic striped seersucker, which is a statement in itself, remember to anchor the fabric with neutral wardrobe staples.

Seersucker looks particularly at home within nautical-, preppy- and Riviera-inspired aesthetics.

Lookbook Inspiration

de fursac ss14 sarar ss14 massimo dutti may 2014 unknown faconnable ss13 comodo square ss13 unknown tommy hilfiger sportswear ss13 el burgues ss13 next ss13 next ss13 henry cottons

Key Pieces
  • Topman Grey Seersucker Stripe Blazer
  • Topman Grey Seersucker Stripe Shorts
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Seersucker Shirt
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Gilford Seersucker Blazer 196477
  • Brooks Brothers Striped Seersucker Shorts 186808
  • Nn.07 Florence Cotton-seersucker Shorts
  • J. Crew Cotton Tie In Seersucker Stripe
  • Incotex Montedoro Slim-fit Lightweight Wool And Silk-blend Seersucker Blazer
  • Thom Browne Cotton-seersucker Trousers
4. Madras

Madras is a lightweight cotton fabric, traditionally featuring a plaid design, used primarily for trousers, shorts and sports coats.

It’s particularly popular with our American cousins and takes pride of place in many preppy wardrobes once the weather starts to pick up. Available in vibrant plaids, stripes and patchwork patterns, it can be a great way of introducing a statement piece to your wardrobe while helping you stay light and breezy in the summer sun.

Looks best when used for short sleeve shirts (team with cotton shorts and boat shoes) or blazers (pair with neutral linen shirts and chinos).

Lookbook Inspiration

gant ss11 Polo Ralph Lauren GANT Ss13 calibre ss14 ganr pre spring 2014 gant ss14

Key Pieces
  • Topman Navy Checked Satin Lapel Skinny Fit Blazer
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Shirt In Madras Check Slim Fit
  • Asos Chino Shorts In Chambray Check
  • Boglioli Checked Blazer
  • +people Constantine Checked Blazer
  • Ted Baker Checked Linen Tie
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Golf Barrow Fit Madras Chino Shorts
  • Gant Rugger Button-down Collar Madras-check Shirt
  • Pure Cotton Madras Checked Tie
5. Tropical Wools

Wool may seem like a peculiar choice for a summer fabric, but it has many advantages: it absorbs and evaporates moisture (read: sweat) more effectively than most other textiles, making it an excellent temperature regulator, while it is also sturdier and much more resistant to creases than fabrics such as madras or linen.

However, you need to pick the right type of wool. Tropical wool (ideally less than 10oz in weight) is woven less densely and therefore offers superb ventilation, making it a considered choice for suiting or business wear during the warmer months – the open weave keeping you cool without sacrificing the sharply tailored aspect of the piece.

If any of you have the means to go made-to-measure or bespoke, be sure to consider this type of material when designing your next summer suit. Just make sure it is unlined in order to reap the full benefit of the fabric.

Final Word

Although it can be done, it’s not recommended that you create outfits that consist entirely of one material (the exclusion being cotton) – it screams overkill and, ultimately, means you sacrifice texture, definition and character.

Instead, limit yourself to just one or two pieces in each fabric and complement them with similar materials. For example, a beige linen suit would look great paired with a cotton dress shirt and a madras tie, rather than a linen shirt and tie.

But as always, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts – do you look to invest in seasonal pieces or think it’s all a bit pointless? Is maintaining two seasonal wardrobes expensive and just not an option for guys with a smaller budget? What are your favourite summer fabrics and how do you use them?

Let me know in the comments section below…