Q I will be traveling to a very hot and humid climate later this month. What fabrics are the coolest and most comfortable for me to take with me?
A Cotton, cotton and cotton. Nothing is cooler than all-cotton (100 percent) garments. When you look at the world of fabrics, cotton, linen, silk, and wool are the "natural fibers." They are traditional, classic, cool, comfortable, and more expensive than synthetics.
• Cotton is used in lightweight suits and jackets of poplin, seersucker, cord, and gabardine, in shirts, in summer dress pants, khakis, jeans, shorts, socks and underwear. Strong, lightweight, comfortable and cool, cotton's qualities are highly desirable. If a cotton fabric has any percentage of synthetic fiber added to it, the garment becomes less comfortable.
I would recommend your opting for cotton for much of the clothing you travel with and that you wear back home during the summer (assuming you aren't in northern Alaska). Every man's summer wardrobe should include these cotton classics: a khaki poplin single-breasted suit, pastel-colored blazer, dark dress trousers and light chinos, a sweater, several fine dress shirts, and an assortment of short-sleeved casual tops ranging from polos to T-shirts.
I would caution that if you are buying all-cotton no-iron shirts, you should buy one from each of a few different brands to determine which one feels the coolest. When a manufacturer adds the chemical wrinkle-free treatment to the fabric, it may affect its breathability, even though the shirt is 100 percent cotton.
• Linen, sometimes called "flax," an elegant and luxurious fabric, is a second choice or a pricier first choice. It's lightweight and its tendency to carry heat away from the body make it a favorite cloth for summer suits, jackets, and neckties -- expensive ones. Because linen wrinkles easily, manufacturers often blend it with cotton, silk, wool, or shape-retaining synthetics. Skip the synthetic blends. People who are knowledgeable about linen's distinctive properties say it has "regal wrinkles." Linen adds luster and subtlety to a jacket or pair of trousers. An outfit of rich ivory-toned linen is a handsome addition to a summer weekend wardrobe.
• Silk is another natural fiber to include occasionally in your warm-weather selections. Some silk can be affordable and others can be a once-a-decade splurge. Its incomparably smooth touch and light weight make it a good alternate choice as long as you realize that it can be wrinkly and can show unattractive evidence of perspiration. Armholes should be loose.
• Wool should not be totally overlooked as summer wear -- perhaps not for you on this trip -- but definitely back home. Here, weight is an extremely important factor. Featherweight and tropical-weight wools are very different from winter-weight and 10-month weight wools. A well-dressed man is likely to have at least one super lightweight wool summer suit and a navy go-with-everything tropical wool blazer in his closet.
• Manmade fibers should be shunned. In hot, muggy environments, avoid fabric blends that include the words polyester, nylon, or synthetic. Different people's bodies react differently to synthetics. Some do not tolerate any amount well in humid weather. But those who do not react so strongly can choose fabrics with small percentages of non-natural fibers. The big exception to my zero-tolerance-for-synthetics attitude: 90 or 95 percent natural fiber and only five or 10 percentage in a "stretch" (Spandex) fiber seems to work just fine, Also, notice that I did not warn against rayon fabric. As explained to me by my chemical engineer son, rayon is not actually one of the synthetics that are made from petroleum. Because rayon is made from wood, it feels like silk yet is similar to cotton. Its airy construction allows it "to breathe."
Unfortunately, there is no sure way to know ahead of time (that is, at the time you are making the purchase), which cotton garments will turn out to be the coolest and your favorites. A few clues that might help you choose are high thread-count yarns and a silky feel. But beware: Polyester also has a silky feel. Read the labels carefully. Stay cool.
Please send your questions on men's dress and grooming to
High Profile on 07/08/2018
Print Headline: Natural fibers like cotton make coolest menswear