Q I have two pieces of clothing that I recently broke out now that summer is here because I think of them as summer clothing. But when I wore them, they seemed too heavy for 80-degree days, let alone 90 degrees. Am I wrong that my Barney's pink blazer and my white silk shirt are summer clothing?
A You are right that the season has a lot to do with whether (and when) a piece of clothing is appropriate to wear. Everyone knows that garments made of certain fabrics, such as heavy wool, corduroy, or velvet, are worn only in the cold seasons, and that light cotton, such as seersucker, is only worn in warm weather. These are the obvious ones; other distinctions are much more subtle.
Some variations that mark seasonal clothing choices are recognized by the knowledgeable fashion crowd. But they are not so well understood by the average guy who would like to be thought of as well-dressed. Fabric, color, weight, texture, and cut can all contribute to making an item work.
One way to acquaint yourself with what is and what is not summer clothing is to check out the catalogs and online offerings of some of the better men's clothing stores. You will see handsome items that say "warm weather dressing." Paul Stuart, Baumans, J Duke, Jos. A. Bank, Brooks Brothers, and other quality stores show a variety of currently available, modern clothes that will appeal to you at this time of the year. Among brand names you might check out are: Banana Republic, Nautica, Orvis, Tommy Bahama, Old Navy and The Gap.
When browsing through the men's clothing ads, some terms to look for in summer wear include: cotton, pure linen, cotton/linen blend, summer-weight, tropical-weight wool, lightweight silk, bamboo fiber, short sleeves, tropical print shirts, white jeans, shorts, straw Panama hats, suede bomber jackets, moisture wicking, odor-resistant and sunglasses.
To be specific about the items you mentioned, I am very fond of pastel jackets, less so silk shirts. Your Barney's pink blazer is flattering and seasonal, and warm weather is the ideal time to wear one. Summer is generally the least formal dressing season, making a pink blazer in tropical-weight wool, pure linen, or a silk/cotton mix almost as versatile as a year-round navy blazer. But a heavier, winter-weight wool blazer in pink (which is what I suspect you own) would be appropriate for far fewer occasions, making it not the best investment. I'm not saying it is incorrect, only that there are many fewer times when it would be the right choice. Other stylish light colors for summer blazers are white, ivory, pale blue and lilac.
On the other hand, your white silk shirt has a limited usefulness, because silk can be too warm and also because it cannot be counted on to be breathable on hot, humid days. To explain a bit further, lightweight blazers and modern sport coats made of silk are more comfortable on warm days than clinging silk shirts.
Linen, cotton, wool, and some silks are smart summer choices. It is always a temptation to buy clothes made of easy-to-care-for synthetic fabrics, but I urge you to emphasize natural fibers that breathe for your summer wardrobe. The iron is not your enemy. Keep comfortably cool by wearing clothes that are breathable or moisture wicking. Don't make the mistake of including rayon in your list of synthetics. Since rayon is made from wood pulp (and is not oil-based), it has many of the qualities you want in warm weather: it is moderately breathable, has a silky texture, drapes nicely, and dries quickly. (Fabric content labels may use either viscose or rayon to refer to the product.) Bamboo, too, is highly breathable and moisture wicking; it has the additional bonus of protecting you from ultraviolet rays. Also, look for fabrics that have a loose weave. If you're not sure, hold the fabric up to a light source. The more you can see through it, the cooler it will be.
With the right fabric, weight, and clothing choice you should be comfortable in summer settings: comfortable that you've chosen correctly, and comfortable that you will remain cool.
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