To a certain set of people, all suits generally look the same. You’ve got your jacket, you’ve got your pants, and they’re either blue, black or grey. But go into any department store (or if you’re lucky, a bespoke tailor), and you’ll quickly realize that within one suit there are a multitude of customizable options. Peak lapels or standard notch? Single vent or double? Two-piece or the Bradley Cooper special? The choices can be overwhelming, but the first thing to ask yourself is which suit fabric is right for you? There are several factors to take into consideration from budget to occasion to season, so with that in mind, our resident expert is here to help. Read on fortips from Men’s Category Director Mayola Martinez on how to choose the right fabric for your suit.
“If you’re going to buy just one go-to suit, I always recommend 100% wool because it’s a natural fiber. It’s going to breathe better and last longer. Depending on the weight, it’s easier to keep in good condition; you don’t have to be so careful with it like silk.”
“You can do a blend, but it should be primarily wool fiber. 80/20 is a good ratio. 20% cashmere is great for cooler temperatures and 20% silk is nice for summer. Silk also adds more shine, so it’s a nice choice if you need something formal. A synthetic like rayon is a good value option — incorporating a man-made material reduces the price, yet doesn’t take away from the aesthetic, but I still don’t recommend going higher than 20%.”
“Cotton is good for casual use, like a simple sports jacket, but you have to be careful because it will wrinkle fast. A nice twill suit is good for summer months. Cottons blended with silk or modal also make great summer suits.”
“Velvet is super on-trend right now and a festive look for the holidays. It makes for a stylish dinner jacket, too. It’s made from a blend of silk, cotton, and nylon, and the texture is really plush, but it doesn’t breathe as well as 100% silk, so I’d discourage wearing it to the office.”
“If you’re able to splurge, invest in a cashmere or silk suit. Go with a higher blend of silk if you need a tuxedo for a formal occasion. It’s a good idea to have a special suit on-hand that you can wear to a formal dinner party or black-tie event. You can wear them as separates, too — pair them with denim for really polished look. It’s kind of like the men’s version of investing in an extravagant pair of pumps. You may not wear them everyday, but when you do, it makes a statement.”
Like your sheets, a suit tag will often indicate the thread count of the fabric used. The higher the thread count, the smaller the diameter of the yarns and the more tightly they’re woven. “A thread count of Super 100s or higher qualifies as a fine wool. A higher thread count means a finer, softer, more luxurious suit, but past Super 160s, it’s like the law of diminishing returns. The fibers can be too delicate: they may not hold their shape as well, and they rip more easily,” explains Martinez. “But if you’re looking for a special occasion suit, something you won’t wear often, then a higher thread count suit is a good way to go. For everyday wear, I recommend something like Super 100s or even 120s. It’s still a luxe fabrication, but it’s not as fragile so can withstand more frequent use.”
Besides the fabric content, another important factor to consider is the how heavy the fabric is and the time of year you’ll be wearing it. Most manufacturers will indicate the fabric weight on a tag in the interior chest pocket of the jacket or the waistband of the pants. “For a good year-round suit, opt for a fabric weighing in at 10 ounces,” says Martinez. “You may not be able to wear it in peak summer, but it works well for both fall and spring, and in the winter months you can layer it under an overcoat.”
“For a summer suit, look for a lightweight option at 7-8 ounces. Traditional winter weight is about 14 ounces. Flannel and cashmere are great fabrics for winter, but because they have heavier, nubbier yarns, they tend to pill faster — under the arms, at the elbows, anywhere there’s a lot of movement. They’re more expensive fabrics, but will show wear faster.”
“Wool is the best fabric for travel as it’s less prone to wrinkling, but you really can pack any suit, as long as you do it correctly. If you don’t have a garment bag, you should turn the suit inside-out and then fold it. That way, the wrinkles are on the lining and the exterior is protected from stains and the transfer of odors.”
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