Good fabrics make for good suits. Apart from embodying the entire look and feel of a suit, good quality fabric will hold the cuts and construction longer and better. They are a tad expensive but well worth their price in quality, longevity and appeal. So without much ado, lets look at what goes into making a good suiting fabric for all occasions and seasons.
1. Raw Material
This is what we would call fiber in technical terms. Cotton, wool (some men have a particular preference for English or Italian wool), cashmere, silk, mohair, polyester, linen and such are all different fibers with distinct characteristics. Fabrics can be made purely from one type of material (example 100% wool) or blended with another (cotton/linen).
Cotton and linen are summer fabrics. Since they also wrinkle quite easily, they are restricted to casual summer suits, usually worn for casual business meetings, summer weddings, parties and holidays.
Wool is the real deal for almost all suits. Its identified as many sub-types based on the type of sheep it comes from or the region in which the sheep were reared (England/Italy/Australia/India) or which type of animal it comes from – mohair and cashmere come from goats.
Polyester is synthetic and pretty much a no-no for a suit on its own but it does okay when blended minimally with natural fibers like wool or silk. It has durability and strong insulation for heat so it can be blended with something like silk that is delicate and prone to wear and tear.
In the end it all comes down to fabric quality, personal preference, occasional vs everyday usability and of course, the weather.
2. Make and Type
Without making things complicated, fabric weight is literally how heavy or light the fabric is. Lightweights are good summer options (7 oz – 10 oz), medium weights (11 oz- 13 oz) are the daily wear go-to options. They are versatile and practical for a majority part of the year. Heavy weights (14 oz – 19oz) are winter specials.
Fabric count measures the fineness of a wool fabric. In technical terms, it is the number of fibers twisted into making the yarn per square inch of the fabric. Higher the count, finer the fabric quality. Usually starting from 60’s (coarser varieties) going up to Super 140’s and Super 200’s (extremely fine), the ones suited best for daily wear are between 80’s and 100’s. Finer qualities are best worn at special occasions as their impeccable make renders them to easy wrinkling and thus careful handling.
Fabric types are usually defined by the weave of the fabric and at times by the material used. Worsted wool fabrics are what 99% of suits are made of. They are made of ‘combed‘ fibers and hence are fine and smooth, unlike the normal woolen fabrics like tweed and flannel that are coarser and fluffier. Hopsack or Fresco are loosely woven wool varieties – great for summer sports jackets owing to their light weight and airiness.
Cotton can be woven plain or different styles like seersucker (identified with puckering effect), linen is woven plainly or blended with cotton or silk (slubs are a good thing) and silk is a fancy fabric owing to its natural sheen and weaves like jacquard and velvet. Use these options sparingly, per occasions or not at all.
Solids, stripes, pinstripes, checks and plaids. These are the basic suit options. Solid colors are great for all occasions but its also nice to have a few options in a couple of patterns. Pinstripes are a classic must have for everyone, so are windowpane checks and glenn plaids for suit connoisseurs, plaids and checks come in many assortments, wider stripes look best on lean physiques.
Choosing patterns really does depend on your personal style and how they compliment your body.
Every man should have a black, navy blue and charcoal grey suit. Next in the hierarchy are brown, light grey and beige. Once you’ve got these basics covered and are the experimenting sorts, white, powder blue, baby pink are great colors for summer suits and bottle green, royal blue, maroon are good offbeat winter options.
The one thing that is universally recognized is the name Huddersfield. Some swear by it, some get confused by it. Huddersfield (Yorkshire) is to English suit textiles what Savile Row (London) is to English suit tailoring. Fabrics from world renowned Huddersfield mills and merchants set the bar for everyone in the business everywhere else. Needless to say, they are the finest you can get. On the other hand, the finest Italian houses like Cerruti, Zegna, Brioni, Canali, Armani and such use their own respective brands of fabric produced in Italian mills.
Of course such discernment isn’t everyone’s fortune, but these sources do make for fine acts to reproduce. We encourage you to invest in the finest indulgence that you would afford yourself. It would be well worth it.