Not all fabrics are created equal.
Even among high-end suiting options, a difference in species of fiber, weave, and thread-width will yield very divergent results in breathability, wear, and drape.
To choose the best fabric for you next suit, the question is simply this: how will you be using the suit?
From a utilitarian standpoint, here’s how to answer that question.
Suits for the Office
Whether you wear suits to the office every day or just a few days every month, you will need a few durable yet classy ensembles in your arsenal. These suits will be part of your standing image, your retinue, and should be chosen accordingly … but with a certain versatility well in mind.
The Fabric: Wool (Super 130s, maybe 140s)
First, some terminology for reference:
- The “Super” number refers to the thread diameter
- Lower Super #s mean thicker thread diameters
- Super 130s are THICKER than Super 140s or Super 150s
- Lower Super #s (thicker tread diameter) will often mean coarser but more durable fabrics
- Higher Super #s (thinner thread diameters) mean softer, more luxurious fabrics
Thus a Super 120s wool should be more durable than a Super 150s wool.
HOWEVER: overall fabric quality plays a huge role in this as well.
If the fabric is of low quality (meaning the wool source, or the weaving and production process, are substandard) the fabric won’t be nearly as durable as it should be. A fine Super 150s from Barberis, for instance, can be much more durable and high-quality than many Chinese-milled Super 120s.
With that in mind, the current middle-ground between durability and luxurious handle belongs to the Super 130s.
The range of fabrics in the Super 130s is broad, the patterns ample, and the weaves various. They are perfect for professional suits.
Of course you’ll want to acquire your foundational suits first, with a three piece in each of navy, gray, and charcoal. Beyond that, a few patterned blazers will round things out.
Super 130s and some 140s ensure that the resilience, drape, and handle will be up to the task of “daily driver” for years to come.
These are middle of the road fabrics in every way. They aren’t the warmest, the coolest, the most resistant to wrinkles, or the flashiest. But for average day to day use, accept no substitutes.
Suits for Business Travel
Business travel provides a distinct panoply of stresses and discomforts.
Not only is one subjected to the grueling mudrun of TSA lines and boarding gates, but one is often doing so in business attire.
Low-quality, ill fitting suits turn the experience into a gauntlet of heat, pinching, and inevitably rumpled jackets.
But there is a better way.
The Fabric: Mohair Blend
Fabrics containing Mohair fibers, which come from the fabled Angora goat, are resilient and hold their shape well, making them very resistant to wrinkling.
Paired with a cupra lining and horsehair canvas, a good travel jacket is anything but stifling.
And thus the stressors placed upon the well-dressed traveler are reduced several-fold.
Mohair blends will be thinner and cooler than you would want to wear in cold weather, and it won’t have the same rich lustre of pure wool fabrics.
More importantly, Mohair isn’t as smooth or soft as Merino wool or Cashmere, so you’ll want to avoid a full Mohair suit with its coarse, inelegant handle. (However, most respectable blends only contain about 12% Mohair, and are quite versatile).
Also worthy of note: there aren’t many good “budget” options, in a Mohair blend. Otherwise, it’s an all around smart choice.
Whether you’re simply trying to stay cool during the summer workday, or need to look dashing while on holiday at whatever beach town draws your fancy, having a proper summer suit means avoiding sweltering discomfort in favor of breezy nonchalance.
The Fabric: Linen or a Linen Blend; Tropical Weight Wools
The key to summer fabrics is lightness of weight and superb airflow.
Thread-width and openness of weave help to accomplish these things and are handled with aplomb by linen.
Wool can achieve similar results if woven properly and with this end in mind.
100% linen will keep pace with summer, but it will wrinkle often and unapologetically. For many linen connoisseurs, this is a large share of the charm.
We understand, it’s not for everybody.
A linen/silk blend may be the better answer, but it certainly has a different drape than typical wool suits. It’s more supple and thus has a more “honest” fit, showing the wearer’s true frame in ways that wool suits might otherwise conceal.
To invest in a linen/silk blend, one must be conscious of this.
Tropical weight wool won’t keep you as cool as linen, and may be slightly less durable, but it will drape as expected.
Fall and Winter Suits
There is perhaps no better time of year to don a well-crafted suit than when the air is chill and the days are short.
A proper autumn three-piece should have good pockets, it should fit well, and it should keep you warm when the weather is anything but.
The Fabric: Tweeds and Flannels
Traditional and earthy, tweeds and flannels embody autumn and winter style with an old-world panache that few other fabrics wield.
They are thick, richly textured, and, for lack of a better word, they are cozy.
It goes without saying: these fabrics are heavy and warm.
You won’t want to wear them in the summer of course, and even some crowded holiday soirees may have you removing the jacket for a spell.
Black tie and white tie events are rare, for most of us.
But when they do come along they’re worth the extra effort of dressing your ultimately, invariably, incontrovertibly best.
Never skimp on your A-game.
The Fabrics: Wool (Super 150s and Above)
Formal suits and tuxedos in the Super 150s will have a perfect, delicate handle and drape, the choicest of patterns and weaves, and, often, a marquee brand name on the label.
They are pure luxury.
Suits made from high-quality Super 150s wool can be very durable … but as a rule of thumb, anything with a high Super # will require (or at least deserve) extra care.
They tend to be costlier. You might only wear them once or twice a year, and they should spend the rest of their days in a proper garment bag.
Use a good dry-cleaner, sparingly, and invest in a Kent suit brush (we carry them here in the shop).
Wools this fine are supremely elegant, but the trade-off is simply this: you’ll want to protect them.
Sometimes, you need to make a statement.
A bright plaid, a daring windowpane, something unique, something that represents you at the height of your bravado. Sometimes you need to own whatever room you’re in.
Every closet should have at least one suit that pushes you to the edge of, and maybe a bit past, your comfort zone.
The Fabrics: Anything Will Do, as Long as the Quality is Respectable
Bold patterns and colors can be found in almost any of the above-mentioned fabrics. Don’t worry about the rest. Just get something that speaks to you.
You’ll want to find a balance between “I would never wear that” and “tame.”
Exercise a bit of discretion and don’t overspend on something you’ll never have the nerve to wear in public.
But at the same time … you do want to be noticed, don’t you?
Whatever the occasion, whatever the purpose, there’s a fabric perfectly suited to the task.
And if you’re not certain how to approach a particular use for your next suit … a skilled Personal Clothier can talk you through the intricacies of each and every option.