When the summer heat beats down, our inclination is to simplify what we wear and drift toward the causal. But just because it’s hot, doesn’t mean we can’t have style. It is possible to be relaxed and comfortable without anyone thinking that we’ve dressed down. To pull this off, opt for lighter, more breathable fabric options that keep you cool while looking your best.
The pillar of all summer materials, cotton naturally absorbs moisture, drawing heat from the skin and cooling the body. Also, due to its open weave, cotton’s breathability helps circulate air. The fact that it gets softer (better) with age makes it a fabric that will make you want to wear it even more by Labor Day. Buy: virtually any kind of clothing item
Mostly made of cotton with a resemblance to denim, this once American “blue collar” material is now considered a classic staple. Born in France, in a town of the same name, chambray is woven with a colored warp and a white weft, resulting in a soft and versatile material. Buy: shirts, ties, shorts, pants
Made from flax plant, which is stronger and tougher than cotton, linen is a durable material. Its wide, open-weave texture creates a lightweight, incredibly breathable fabric that makes it one of the best summer options. It wrinkles quite easily, but that’s part of its relaxed charm and character. Darker linen items will help hide the crinkles and creases. Buy: shirts, jackets, suits
One of the most distinct patterns, Madras is an Indian reinterpretation of Scottish tartans. Their variation used a thin, cotton weave making it a lightweight material ideal for the heat. Colorful, yet muted (at least before some Americans got a hold of it), this cultural import is easygoing and comfortable – just be judicious with how you pair it. Buy: shorts, ties, shirts, jackets
For being such a remarkably light fabric, seersucker carries a definitively strong cultural weight. Originating in 18th-century India, seersucker made its way to the United States thanks to the British, but quickly became a fashion staple in the summer wardrobes of Southern men who preferred the fabric’s light and comfortable nature in the humidity. Made with all cotton, it’s woven with a thin combination of tight and slack threads. This creates small ridges of bunched threads giving the fabric its signature stripes of smooth and crinkled textures. A low-maintenance material, it never needs ironing and can easily be washed. Wearing seersucker makes a statement, but aim to be set apart, not a caricature. Buy: shirts, suits.
Note: For other summertime options, look for clothing made with:
Bamboo – Soft and luxurious, it can be comparable to silk.
Silk – A silk-linen blend can make for a fine sports jacket since it will wrinkle less.
Suede – Made from thin hides, suede is still tough enough for great shoes or light jackets.
Merino – It is wool, but its soft, light fibers are twisted and knitted to create millions of air pockets to keep things cool.
Photos by Apolis