I don’t know about you, but I find spring and summer the trickiest seasons to dress for affordably. I can never quite stomach spending the same amount of cash that I do on autumnal and winter tailoring, because in our climate, most mid-weight garments can be worn a solid eight to nine months of the year. The prospect of spending upwards of four hundred pounds (and often closer to six) on a summer-weight suit that will sit in the wardrobe for nine months of the year is simply not an attractive one. If I ever have the capital to invest in cloths which differ considerably in character and weight for both autumn-winter, spring and summer, I’ll do so, but until then sensible purchases and clever investments must be the way forward.
Nevertheless, its always frustrating when in late spring and summer we do enjoy bouts of warm weather and the wardrobe is devoid of summer suiting – not an ideal scenario. This is a problem much compounded by my love for linen. Although not everyone’s favourite (and certainly not an ideal fabric for regularly worn business suiting), there is something uniquely appealing about the prospect of a relaxed, crisp and featherweight pastel coloured linen two-piece for dapper summer days and evening parties. Of course, the very best quality linens do behave themselves and hold up to regular use quite well, but I just can’t afford expensive linens. Nor can I afford summer suits in equally expensive tropical and summer weight wools and wool-mohair blends – a situation which I’m sure many readers will sympathise with.
Thus, I’m left with only one solution, either face the mania and inevitable rush of hope and subsequent disappointment of trawling the summer sale rails, or to look for suits made in more affordable cotton-linen blends, this being something I’d recommend you to do unreservedly. Besides affordability, there are a number of reasons why I recommend investing in tailored pieces cut in such a fabric. It is, without a doubt the high-street’s answer to expensive bespoke quality cloths and having owned three cotton-linen blend suits, I really do think its offers a great alternative to more expensive materials.
Its not rocket-science – in blended the different fibres, you get the benefit of both in one cloth. Both fibres are highly breathable, absorb a decent amount of moisture and are often fairly open in weave, to allow air to circulate through the garment and keep the wearer cool. Crucially however, the cotton yarns also add a suitable amount of body and crease-resistant properties which keeps the propensity of linen to crease in check. The cloth will never be as smooth or pristine as a pure summer-weight wool, but it behaves a hundred times better than a pure linen, its more durable, useable and responds so much better to pressing or even machine washing in the case of off-the-peg trousers. I wore a cotton-linen blended suit several times a week during the summer terms during Sixth-Form and I still wear that suit today – it comes up as crisp as ever after a light press, and the trousers have been through the washing machine hundreds of times and are no worse off for it.
True, cotton-linen is less luxurious than silk, or even wool-linen blends, but it is a more affordable and undoubtedly more practical decision. Cotton is considerably tougher than silk and both resists and recovers from creases more effectively. In the same vein, when blended with linen, often wool fibres have to be quite dense and thick for the blend to work, which can (particularly when we’re talking about high-street rather than bespoke cloths) result in a rather heavy or dense cloth which loses the qualities of lightness and breathability required of summer tailoring. Cotton linen therefore bests both alternatives in my opinion.
If you look for cotton-linen blends, you’ll find them in most decent high-street retailers. I’d recommend Austin Reed personally, who’s spring-summer collection I often think is rather good; they use lots of good quality Italian woven fabrics when designing pieces for the warmer months, and at sale price they offer excellent value. Jaeger often do the same, and Chester Barrie I believe have some blended cloth jackets which look rather handsome. So, there you have it really – I hope this encourages those of you looking for affordable summer suiting to spend some time browsing – and I hope that you find, as I have, that cotton-linen is a real contender for a cool summer cloth.