The year started so well, didn’t it? Or maybe our recent nostalgia is especially heartbreaking because we had so many plans, just to have them melt away like so many ice caps. But even if the only sunshine you can get is on your way to pick up essentials, dust off and don those summer togs for a little thread therapy. If nothing else, imagining yourself actually enjoying festival activities can transport you to warmer thoughts for a bit of safe escapism. Need some inspiration? Try the following…
Even though most of us dread the unbearable humidity and heat that comes with summer, we still need to dress professionally. While we can likely endure wearing year-round or three-season suiting in air conditioned offices, the clothes that tend to bring us the most joy in summer – as in winter – are those made from fabrics specific to the season. Our garments for summer can be as particular, as interesting and as beautiful as those for winter, in that they have different characteristics in make, color, weave, and the like. However, in order to complete the outfit, you still need the right accessories; only then will you ensure that the ensemble is complete.
Fabrics for summer ties are similar to those for our garments. While there are ties that can work all year long, or for most seasons – grenadine, silk rep, printed silk all come to mind – you might want to add a little seasonal variation by adding an interesting element into an outfit. Just as is the case with an odd sport coat, crunchy or slubby textures, open weaves, or unstructured designs all help make a tie more summer-friendly. Playing with color, as you would with said odd jacket, also helps a tie to be more appropriate for warm weather – pastels or subdued neutrals work well for summer. Personally, I enjoy a six or seven-fold tie for less structure, especially when paired with a more open weave, such as grenadine in a light but muted blue or green. It gives it a sort of nonchalant look that works for most occasions, excepting the most formal or serious business meetings.
Shantung, or tussah silk, offers a slubby texture that helps bring an informal element to the tie. This is a wild silk that is obtained from silkworms that feed on leaves in an uncontrolled environment; because there is less control over the process, the silk worm hatches to break the filament length, creating shorter and more coarse fibers, which provides a more ‘matte’ look.
Ties made of linen or linen blends have the benefit of inherent slubbiness, but they wrinkle easily. They do retain that crisp nature that all linens share, which allows these fabrics to drape well especially when lined. Just keep in mind that they work best for less formal outfits, and work especially well when paired with linen or cotton suits.
Cotton and cotton-blend ties are similar to linen, serving as a more relaxed option. They tend to wrinkle – like linen – but do not have that crisp characteristic; this means that they exhibit less of an elegant drape. I recommend cotton ties for the most relaxed environments, and they would be at home more with an odd jacket or a cotton suit.
Here is a list of some examples for summer appropriate ties that we think are worth considering, and a few tips on how to pair them.
This tan shantung silk tie from Calabrese 1924 via No Man Walks Alone provides a classic stripe, but the subdued, neutral tan and the slubby fabric help to make it more of a summer affair. This self-tipped tie provides a structured neckpiece that could work in most occasions.
This Liverano&Liverano seven-fold silk tie is the epitome of a tie for the more conservative striped style. The colors scream Ivy League (if you ignore that the direction of the stripes are European instead of American), and it begs to be worn under the staple hopsack blazer in everyone’s closet. The orange almost evokes that quintessential go-to-hell attitude that you might not dare pull off with colored trousers.
This tie from Drakes features tussah silk in a natural color. Paired with an odd linen sport coat, the tie would wear well, seeing as it has hand rolled blades and less structure than a normal tie.
How many times in your life have you seen a seersucker tie? This gorgeous muted green tie from Vanda Fine Clothing is extremely neutral, and would pair lovingly under blue, tan and brown jackets. The handrolled edges and light lining complete the nonchalant air.
This tie made by hand from Vanda Fine Clothing out of Solbiati linen is a great warm weather accessory. The texture and wrinkles with the classic Glenplaid pattern and subdued neutral colors makes this an exceptional tie under a wool-fresco or linen jacket.
Brown, blue, and green make a great combination, and after taking some time this week to discuss the utility of the brown blazer, we thought we’d share an autumn-appropriate outfit that makes use of some of our advice. In this case, the colors are soft and seasonal, as are the textures. This is not a “formal” outfit, but the type of ensemble that is appropriate 90% of the time. Note the classic touches – such as the blue button-down – combined with some less classic elements – an eye catching pocket square, for example, and a jacket that’s neither boring nor too loud.
Woven from the fibers of the flax plant, linen textiles have been in use for millennia. The use and sale of linen fabrics is attested in many Egyptian papyri, and Egyptian mummies were wrapped in linen; ancient Mesopotamians used linen to make fine garments; and the Greeks even produce a type of linen breastplate armor called a linothorax. Early human civilizations flourished in warm climates, and linen was used for everything from sailcloth to bags to garments. Although the weight and fineness of linen fabrics has been historically variable, we now usually associate linen with a loosely-woven “homespun” material. Contemporary linen is usually used as a lightweight textile with a plain weave, which is tellingly also called a “linen weave.”
Although the linen industry had its origins in Northern Africa and the Fertile Crescent, the fabric and the plant eventually made their way north. Today, most commercial linen is produced across Europe, and Ireland has been the metaphorical and physical capital of linen production for several centuries. Debate continues as to who introduced flax to Ireland – likely Phoenician traders – but the plant took to the climate and linen production became commonplace during the Middle Ages. Flax thrived in the Irish climate in particular, and the Emerald Isle has long been a source of quality linen, as well as wools. However, Irish wool manufacture was subject to a series of oppressive laws throughout the 17th century, aimed at preventing Ireland’s wool exports from competing with the wool coming from England, and it suffered further due to the advancement of the linen industry.
Throughout Victorian times, Belfast was the capital of European linen production, and contemporary Irish Linen is the best-known linen brand in the fashion industry. However, the flax used in Irish Linen is no longer (mostly) grown in Ireland, but is imported from elsewhere in the world for spinning and weaving – primarily from France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The branding of “Irish Linen” refers solely to the production of flax into fiber.
Linen is a characterful fabric. Flax fibers are stiffer and scratchier than cottons, and woven linen is also more prone to wrinkling. Any consumer should certainly take the feel of linen fabrics into consideration before a purchase, because while the fibers do often grow softer with wear and washing, linen shirts will largely retain an airy crispness that some people find scratchy and uncomfortable. However, this same crispness helps with air circulation and warm-weather comfort, and it means a linen shirt is less likely to stick to you when the temperature rises.
That said, heavy linen and linen blends are very much an option for fall and spring. Although autumn nights are cool, the direct sun means that wearing thick wools or flannels is often a poor idea. Heavy woven linen offers weight and warmth, as well as breathability. These fabrics tend to be harder to find, but if you can get your hands on them they’ll provide a welcome change from your usual digs.
In particular, a knit linen sweater or jacket can offer perfect transition-weather comfort. These tend to be knit more loosely than your standard cotton or wool knit, which I find very pleasant when the weather is capricious. A loose knit can go under an outer layer without causing you to overheat, and it can be worn alone over a shirt just as easily.
Finally, linen offers a wonderful counterpoint to the Super wools and fine cottons that still dominate the contemporary RTW tailoring market, particularly in America. Although the most common linen product (outside “linens,” or bedsheets and the like) remains the linen shirt, linen suits and separates have become an increasingly prevalent warm-weather choice thanks to growing awareness and interest in men’s tailoring, as well as the success of online made-to-order suits and accessible suiting brands such as SuitSupply that offer rotating, seasonal options.
Linen fabrics, especially wovens, do have a tendency to wrinkle. They are often seen as more casual fabrics than wool, particularly when not blended with wool or silk. The yarns tend to be slubbier and less matte than cotton or wool yarns, but even so, fine linen shirts are anything but slobbish. And while linen suits are inevitably wrinkly the effect is one of casual elegance rather than disregard, and have been the choice of well-dressed men the world over.
Speaking of knit ties, let’s take a look at an easy way to embrace some color and texture for fall. Tweed sport coats pair wonderfully with knit neckwear, and a simple oxford stripe shirt with easy-wearing trousers and shoes is a simple way to look great. In this case, the green of the knit tie is subdued without being boring, and picks up the texture of the jacket.
Functional clothing never felt so good. The combination of a sharp utility jacket, heavy chinos, and fine cashmere means that everywhere you go this fall you’ll be prepared – and comfortable. Comfortable suede derbies round out the walkability of this look, and rugged luggage from Master-Piece will keep your prized positions safe from autumn weather.
My birthday marks the beginning of the school year, the end of summer, and the opening of glorious fall. That wonderful season when you are not freezing, but at the same time, it’s not so hot that you wish that you had better abs (truth time – abs, period) so that you could just hang out with no shirt on all day.
With fall comes rain, and I’ve suffered many a shower in a leather jacket because it’s always been really hard to find a cool-looking, but breathable, rain coat. Last fall, my suffering came to an end with the discovery of T. Michael’s expertly designed Norwegian Rain coats. I spent a summer in Bergen, Norway, from whence Norwegian Rain comes, and having lived in a city where it rains over 250 days of the year, I can understand why T. Michael decided to create Norwegian Rain.
My only question is “where have you been for the last 30 years or so?” The Japanese waterproof textiles are breathable and come in a variety of colors and weaves which absorb light, giving the coats a rich depth and making them great outerwear general, rather than merely coats that are nice to wear when the skies are pouring down.
Normally, I write these product recommendations with mixed emotions, because it means that the product is much more likely to be gone by the time I have enough money in my discretionary budget to indulge myself. This time, I do so with light heart, since my wife has imposed a strict spending budget that does not accommodate this coat, and the best that I can hope for is that a benefactor send it to Styleforum HQ for me (size Medium, please). Or, barring that, that someone cool buys it and posts cool pictures of it on the forum.
The “Single breasted” coat is one of Norwegian rains standard models, and looks good over both suits and jeans. The real appeal to this particular example is the rich “denim” color, a complex blue with a variety of low tones that allow it to complement most type of blue jeans, grey or black pants, and even moss greens.
Norwegian Rain mixed denim raincoat, from www.nomanwalksalone.com, $605.