I get the question more often than I care to quantify; ‘I want a suit that I can wear year round, what should I get?’ Given that a vast majority of the inquiring parties are based in New York, DC and Philadelphia I am ultimately relegated to one appropriate answer: ‘it doesn’t really exist.’ The climate of the northeast/mid-atlantic region of the US, as with any place with seasons, is too varied between the summer and winter months to have the same suits clothe you well in both seasons. But if you live in an area where there is not near as a significant of change between summer and winter, say, Florida or the Southwest, then this discussion will be of little interest to you. As you have the great fortune of wearing linen, fresco and light weight wools year round. But back to the issue at hand for those of us who live with seasons.
Time and time again I have seen companies peddle suits and fabrics as being ‘year round.’ But that is a myth. I have found those suits leave me cold in the winter and hot in the summer. They are typically of a mid-weight worsted wool, which is the most appropriate fabric to be worn year round but the weight between the seasons needs to change. Lighter weight for the warmer months and heavier weight for the cooler ones. But unfortunately there is the reality of things. It takes time and money to build out your wardrobe to avoid these ‘year round’ fabrics (which are really best for spring and fall) during the hot summers and cold winters. Although they are the best place to start your suit wardrobe, they are not your one trick pony.
You see, it really is a matter of specialization of labor. There are whole other types of fabric that are ideal for the hot and cold. Linen and fresco are ideal for the former. Flannel, tweed and twills for the latter. Linen and fresco have a more open weave allowing air to pass through the fabric more easily, even at heavier weights. Flannel, tweed and twills have a very tight weave which are ideal for blocking out the chill of winter. They also are best had at heavier weights; first for warmth and second for a better drape.
With the spring and summer approaching us, give thought to what you commission at your tailor. Put down the worsted book and pick up the fresco (Minnis and Holland & Sherry) and linen books. That river of sweat that runs down your back in the hot and humid New York summer sun will dwindle to a trickling stream. A sadly crude, but true analogy.
Justin L Jeffers