Cotton, wool, polyester, linen… most men cringe upon hearing these words because, sadly, most people are oblivious to the attributes they bring to any garment or style. It doesn’t matter if you have the coolest shoes and tie, the fabric used in your suit is key to achieving a dapper look. Fortunately, you don’t have to go back to school to learn what fabric is best for your suit. After all, there are only a handful of fabrics designed for suiting. Plus you only need the basics, as most tailors and salesmen will guide you through the rest of the process.
The most popular fabric for suits worldwide. Also known as fleece, wool is obtained from sheep and has existed almost as long as these animals have been around humans. It’s the most versatile fabric and the best in comfort, wrinkle-resistance, and longevity. Another characteristic of wool is its ability to absorb moisture. Being breathable makes it comfortable to wear even in warmer temperatures.
Before WWI, linen was a symbol of the wealth and status of the upper class, whose members preferred very light colors (à la Colonel Sanders, in his best days). A key feature of linen is the irregularity of the yarn, which adds to the character of the fabric and gives it its signature casual look. But times change, and today linen is mostly used as a lightweight fabric for suits that will keep you very cool in the warmer months or in tropical settings. However, linen does have a downfall: it doesn’t necessarily fit into the modern man’s day-to-day life, plus it creases very easily.
The cotton suit might be one of the most underappreciated garments in a summer wardrobe. Cotton is a durable fabric found in most American men's suits. However it doesn’t quite fit Italian or English elegance. Its main attribute is that it might make for the most casual expression of a suit. Like wool, cotton can absorb sweat and keep you cool throughout the warmest months, which is useful in this day and age. So put away your cargo shorts, flip-flops and Sponge Bob t-shirt and get ready to sport this lightweight champ. As a huge bonus, this fabric is quite practical and has an easy upkeep since it’s machine-washable. The catch? Wrinkles galore. Cotton is known for this undesirable and unavoidable trait.
Polyester is a synthetic fabric. Suits in polyester are cheaper than wool, cotton and linen suits and are also easier to handle, but they will never feel as natural and elegant as natural fibers, although the look may be similar. The true deal-breaker of polyester, however, is that it retains heat and gets glossy with use, making it very uncomfortable for extended wear and short-lived in terms of wardrobe durability. Bottom line? If you can dish out the extra bucks, invest in a natural fiber suit.
Microfiber is also synthetic like polyester but it’s lighter and considerably more breathable, which makes it a better fabric. There is, nonetheless one issue—it is only used in the cheapest suits. Although they have enhanced washability, microfibers get even shinier than polyester with time, which will always make you look cheap, even if the fit and style are kick-ass.
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