Fabrics that help you stay cool when the weather heats up

Southern classic. (Photo: Staff)

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Spring is here, but as I typed that, the thermometer read 48 degrees. It was overcast and raining. But now, we’re getting a few glimpses of the heat and beautiful weather that will be here for good soon enough.

Knowing that the heat will rise, I want to talk about some ways to stay cool with fabrics for the upcoming seasons. What I hope to accomplish as a byproduct is to allow you some time to evaluate your needs, see if you like any of these fabrics and buy them cheaper during a spring sale before summer comes. Just like coats in the winter, most of these fabrics won’t be discounted in season.

Natural fibers such as cotton, merino and other wools are better at regulating moisture and heat than synthetic fibers. Although those synthetic fibers may seem to feel better on the skin, they don’t breathe as well and in turn hold on to moisture and bacteria.

Let’s look at a few of my go-to summer fabrics and how to wear them.

Coming from the Persian words for “milk” and “sugar,” seersucker, a cotton fabric, is woven with variations in tension that produce a wonderfully inconsistent texture. The ripples caused by the manufacturing technique allow for less of the fabric to come in contact with the skin. Although most famously seen in a full suit in the South, the fabric can be made into any item. When wearing anything with seersucker, keep it on the slimmer side-or risk looking like Col. Sanders or a kid dressed up for Easter. Here is the best way I’ve seen to style seersucker.  

Made from the flax plant, this wide-weave fabric has been around for thousands of years. Prized for its flowing, loose nature, linen is the epitome of warm-weather fabric. It’s made a resurgence in suiting, but as a casual option. Linen, specifically flax, is a very stiff material, so it will wrinkle. Embrace it, embrace the wrinkles, and stay cool.

Although normally attributed to fall, sweaters and pumpkin spice lattes, wool is actually four-season fabric. Because natural fabrics will always be cooler, wool has benefitted from better manufacturing techniques that make a lighter fabric. If you have to don a suit in the spring and summer, look for lighter-weight wools, specifically labeled “tropical” wool. Remember to stay away from wool blends, as they are mixed with polyesters and other synthetic fabrics that will trap heat and moisture.

Because it is a cotton-based fabric, denim can and may be cooler that a lot of other summer fabrics. Clothing companies have taken note and started to produce more summer-weight denim and similar fabrics. Look for denim weights between 9 and 11 ounces. Traditional denim has weights anywhere between 11 and 13 ounces. With denim, a lighter weight will be more flexible, and will stretch and wear out a little more than beefier, heavier-weight denims. Chambray is a cotton fabric woven in the same way as denim with a dark and light thread pattern. It hovers around 4 to 5 ounces and has a great, light texture.

I hope you can stay cool as the weather warms. Stay on the lookout for these fabrics and how people are wearing them, and try to grab a deal before retailers capitalize on the demand.

Alan Baird writes about men’s style and occasionally fashion. He thinks fashion is temporary, while style is forever. His personal style is classic, preppy and contemporary. If there are trends you like or if you want to argue about the utility of cargo shorts, feel free to contact him at [email protected] or on Facebook or Twitter. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.