Let’s face it, wearing suits in the middle of silly season isn’t fun and despite the crushing heat of the Australian summer, many workplaces still won’t budge on the requirement.
Air conditioning has come a long way but you probably still need a suit that lets you survive those feral 40-degree days without looking like a sweaty mess.
The following guide is a brief snapshot on how to attack an Aussie summer without abandoning your corporate wardrobe requirements.
Here, we talk fabrics, structure, and how to look after your summer suit, because the warmer season is well on its way and it doesn’t take prisoners.
Wool is the traditional standard of quality suiting, and for most of the year we think you should spend your working time in some variation of a 100% merino wool suit. In summer, the rules change a little a bit.
If you do stick to wool, wear finer cloths. Most suits now carry a labelled super rating, which is a fancy way of measuring the fineness of the wool. The higher the number, the finer the fabric: a s130 is finer than an s100, and so on. In short, these finer wools breathe better in summer. Unfortunately, there’s a real trade-off in durability, so don’t flog them too much.
Linen and cotton are our close second favourites. Both are natural fibres. Derived from plants, they can be woven into soft, lightweight fabric that in many cases beats wool at its own game. However, linen and cotton are prone to wrinkling, especially in humidity. They also can’t cope with sustained punishment in the way that some wools can.
The solution? A wool-linen blend. This combines the durability and crease-resistance of wool with the breathable qualities of linen. You won’t capture the fullest benefits of either fabric but a compromise is the best long-term answer.
While we won’t argue with structured tailoring if you haven’t let your Harvey Specter dreams go, but our money is on soft tailoring if a comfortable summer is a priority.
Soft tailoring takes out a lot of the weight in traditional suiting. This might involve binning excessive shoulder padding, heavy canvas interlining, and in some cases the lining itself. And it’s all for a good purpose.
While these features have important aesthetic and structural advantages, they add bulk to a suit – and this adds to the likelihood that you’ll sweat through the fabric and look like you just ran a marathon after a night on the beers.
This is part of an emerging market for ‘Aussie tailoring’ that takes the best parts of soft Neapolitan structure and puts it in context for the Australian climate. If you have the dollars, labels like P.Johnson are a good start.
Your go-to black and charcoal suits aren’t really summer friendly. Dark colours retain heat – which you’re trying to escape in the first place – and don’t look harmonious with the colours of spring and summer. Instead, look towards lighter shades of blue and grey, and earthier tones like soft browns if you can find them.
You should still avoid heavily patterned light suits for the nine to five. These look like something you’d wear to your mate’s wedding or the Melbourne Cup, and might draw a bit of heat if you haven’t paid your dues in the office yet.
Summer suits need a lot of love if you want to be wearing them this time next year, and not look like you just rolled out of the casino at eight in the morning.
In summer, it’s likely you’re getting a good sweat on running for the tram. Odours can accumulate over time, and you don’t want to be the silent perpetrator of a smelly board room. After wear, hang them up outside your wardrobe next to a natural source of ventilation, and let fresh air do its thing.
The summer linens and cottons we discussed above don’t have wool’s rigidity and end up with nasty wrinkles. Take them to a dry cleaner and get them steamed occasionally. If that’s not possible, or you have better uses for your cash, hang them up outside the shower and crank the heat.
The steam will pull some of those wrinkles. This is super useful if you’re a frequent flyer and spend much of your time hopping from hotel room to hotel room.