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Lighten up this summer

Timothy Barber
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IT&rsquo;S summer in the City, which means months of stuffy, sweaty Tube trains on the one hand, and jolly days out to cricket and polo matches, racing meets and garden parties on the other. You&rsquo;ve got to be able to dress appropriately, which for gents means dispensing with the thick woollen suit you&rsquo;ve worn all winter and getting hold of a lightweight summer number or two. And there&rsquo;s more choice in that respect than you might imagine.<br /><br />For most people, a linen suit in a light colour is the summer classic, but it can be a tricky look to pull off since, by its nature, linen creases very easily. That creased look can be fine for a semi-casual afternoon passed in a box at the Oval watching England get flattened in the Twenty20, but might not do for anything smarter &ndash; one man&rsquo;s dashingly crumpled threads are another&rsquo;s bedraggled sackcloth, after all.<br /><br />For something you can wear to an office meeting while avoiding the heaviness of a full woollen suit, James Sleater of City tailor Cad &amp; the Dandy recommends giving linen a swerve and opting for mohair. Made from the wool of goats instead of sheep, mohair is extremely versatile &ndash; it can be woven thick or extremely fine &ndash; and at its lightest makes an excellent summer suit. A mohair suit jacket also looks very good worn casually with jeans, giving you more bang for your buck.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a happy blend between the formality of a standard wool suit and a casual linen one,&rdquo; says Sleater. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s such an incredibly light fabric, but its versatility means you can do patterns like herringbone and pinstripes, whereas with linen you&rsquo;re limited to plain colours.&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>SUPERIOR PRODUCT</strong><br />There are other steps tailors can take to make a suit ideal for the warm season, and more sophisticated tailoring methods and materials mean a superior product to what was traditionally possible. Instead of the traditional satin lining, cupro &ndash; made of wood pulp and cotton &ndash; creates a thinner, lighter material perfect for summer. It comes in many colours, meaning you can use the lining as a way of livening up a pale seasonal suit. Canvases, chest-pieces and shoulder pads &ndash; the inner elements intrinsic to the cut and structure of the suit &ndash; used to be made of horsehair, but these days lighter fabrics are available that do the job just as well.<br /><br />&ldquo;Classic British tailoring in the old days meant suits that were a little like suits of armour,&rdquo; says respected London tailor Tony Lutwyche. &ldquo;It used to be that the lightweight fabrics didn&rsquo;t last so long, but the technology has moved on and there&rsquo;s a far greater range of weights and fabrics than there used to be.&rdquo;<br /><br />For those attached to the linen look, Lutwyche &ndash; who recently launched a collection of lightweight suits in Palm Beach, Florida &ndash; recommends getting a suit in linen blended with other fabrics such as mohair, silk or fine wools of the kind traditionally used in Italian tailoring.<br /><br />Wool with an Italian &ldquo;handle&rdquo; is now made regularly in British cloth mills, resulting in a fabric that&rsquo;s much lighter than normal wool and has a glossy, summery sheen. So what cut to go for? &ldquo;I&rsquo;d go for a slim cut with one button for the summer,&rdquo; says Sleater, &ldquo;it&rsquo;s a bit more on the racy side of things than the normal two or three button look.&rdquo;