Mohair will forever be associated with the sharp two-tone suits worn by the mods of the 60s and 70s. Think Paul Weller, Ben Sherman, Quadrophenia and Swinging London, arguably the first time you could wear tailoring and look edgy. Utilised in a mix with wool to create the famous ‘Tonik’ fabric, it was a luxury fibre that gave a crisp, clean appearance to suits of the era – the perfect accompaniment to penny loafers and a Vespa scooter.
A natural fibre taken from the Angora goat (confusingly, angora wool comes not from the goat, but the Angora rabbit), whether it’s used alone or blended with other fabrics, mohair brings a slight sheen or iridescence to a cloth. It’s warm in winter and cool in summer due to its wicking properties, and it’s an excellent performance fabric – its crease resistance and ability to take dye makes it an ideal tailoring material.
Recently mohair’s reputation has suffered due to the poor treatment of goats in a few South African farms and a number of designers and retailers have dropped the fabric completely. However, where ethically sourced, mohair’s superb properties make it an excellent basis for a jacket or suit. Here’s everything you need to know about what to look for in a mohair suit.
What Is A Mohair Suit?
You don’t have to be Martin Freeman or Bradley Wiggins (both committed modern mods) to enjoy the benefits of a mohair suit today. Whether used on its own or blended with other fibres, mohair will be a versatile addition to your tailoring wardrobe. Christopher Modoo, creative director of tailoring brand Kit Blake says, “Mohair is stronger than steel and adds resilience to lightweight wool suits. Although pure mohair exists, I prefer it blended with other fibres.” You get the breathability and sheen of mohair, but without its sometimes harsh crispness.
Dormeuil ‘Tonik’ mohair fabric
Mohair is also popular with textile mill Luxury Fabrics Ltd, whose Matthew Simpson is a fount of knowledge on the cloth. “Traditionally mohair has been thought of as a summer season fibre. However this concept is now in flux as numerous international fashion houses are discarding the old ‘rules’ of menswear and are using mohair all year round. For autumn/winter 18 we are even producing twill fabrics in wool and mohair for both suiting and coating.”
It’s a popular cloth with tailors too. Celebrated bespoke tailor, Timothy Everest says that, “Mohair and mohair mixes have always been a staple fabric within my tailoring offer. The choice of the mods to 007, I often describe it as ‘shaken not stirred’ for its unique tailoring quality and its elegant lustre. From boardroom to cocktail bar, it’s always appropriate.”
Sean Connery wears a mohair Suit in Dr. No
So, it’s a cool, crush resistant cloth, but does it have any disadvantages? “It’s stylish, elegant, masculine and confident, but a high mohair content of more that 60% can be abrasive and uncomfortable,” Everest says. This slightly dry feel to the cloth is a result of its crease resistance. Get tactile before you buy: try it and see if you like the feel of the suit or the cloth you’ve been offered and go for a wool/mohair mix if a softer feel is preferred.
Wearing A Mohair Suit Today
Modoo sums up the main characteristics of mohair for today’s suit wearer: “It holds a great shape and always looks sharp. After its 60s heyday, in the 70s it was fashionable with skinheads in the iridescent shades of red and green, and blue and yellow – these were often cheaper imitations. Because of this, mohair has a slightly spivvy reputation, but it’s still a favourite on Savile Row for dinner suits, particularly in midnight blue.” He sees it as “the perfect cloth for an unstructured summer blazer”, which we struggle to argue with.
The heritage of mohair is never far away, which perhaps adds to its attraction now. “Film and fashion buffs have homed in on the film Get Carter, where Michael Caine wore a low contrast blue/black mohair suit through almost every scene,” says Simpson. Despite the film being distinctly 70s, this is the most contemporary way to wear mohair fabric today.
“The high contrast iridescent colour combinations are these days reserved almost solely for those seeking to recreate a ‘retro’ look – it can come across as gimmicky. Today, mohair is much more likely to be seen in the runway shows of international super brands in solid block colours or black and navy.” When in doubt, do what Michael Caine does.
In terms of who should wear mohair, keading menswear personal stylist, Sarah Gilfillan of Sartoria Lab, says that the fabric’s sheen can intensify its colour. “Both these characteristics are particularly flattering for those clients who have very dark hair and pale skin. It’s also an excellent choice of suiting for men that travel frequently on business, as it’s crease resistant and durable.”
Prolonged wear in hot weather, or on a plane or in a car doesn’t leave a man looking as if he’s slept overnight under a hedge. These same properties make it work as business suiting, but its fineness make it less suited to a casual suit.
That’s why it’s also the go-to fabric for cocktail attire, says tailor Susannah Hall. “We often use a mohair/wool mix when advising clients about the best fabric for dinner suits – it is such a crisp, matte cloth that makes up so beautifully. If you are looking for a James Bond-style dinner suit, choose mohair.”=
Separates can look good though – for smart casual wear try a mohair blazer with chinos, linen pleated trousers or jeans and an open-neck chambray shirt. Here the relaxed look of the trousers will complement and tone down the more structured look of the mohair jacket.
Mohair And Controversy
Animal welfare group Peta recently released videos showing cruelty to angora goats at a number of farms in South Africa. This prompted brands such as Topman, Gap, H&M and Zara to drop the fabric altogether. For the average consumer, it’s currently difficult to verify that the wool in your suit came from an ethical source because the industry is not well regulated, but brands are starting to take action.
Simpson of Luxury Fabrics Ltd (which doesn’t farm the goats) says, “We welcome the focus given to the ethical treatment of animals that are so critical to our industry and we ourselves are asking questions of our suppliers so that the message is carried through the supply chain. We look forward to a day when there is full transparency of the high standards of ethics and sustainability from farm to fabric and into the garment.”
5 Key Mohair Suits
In off-the-peg suits mohair is usually found in collaboration with wool, giving the suit the crispness and cool of mohair while retaining the softer handle and flexibility of wool.
A crisp blue wool/mohair number, this suit will keep you looking good at work, at a wedding and while travelling on business. The bright blue shade is a modern take on classic navy, and this coupled with the contemporary cut – short body, nipped-in waist – makes it incredibly easy to wear.
A classic navy wool/mohair suit ideal for warmer weather, business and travel, if you only need one blue suit suitable for any occasion, this could well be it. More traditional in its cut, it’s slightly longer in the body and has medium width notch lapels, making it something of an all-round classic.
A cool summer suit makes for a forgiving combination for warmer weather at work or play. The pale grey shade of this two piece from the modern Savile Row stalwart has a distinctly summer feel. Pair with a light blue button down shirt and navy knitted tie and you’re on to a winner.
Here’s an affordable suit in mid-grey for those looking to try a mohair mix at an affordable price. An ideal business suit with a slight sheen, it’ll work formally with a white shirt and patterned tie. Think of it as a slightly more interesting alternative to the standard grey work suit.
An example of how mohair is ideal for evening wear. This satin silk notch lapel dinner jacket in black makes best use of mohair’s crisp and crush-resistant properties. Keep it classic and wear with a white dress shirt and bow tie, or when the weather cools opt for a black rollneck underneath for added Bond villain chic.