The song “Summertime” by George Gershwin is the perfect introduction to our exploration of the Summer Jacket…

Summertime,
And the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’
And the cotton is high

Your daddy’s rich
And your mamma’s good lookin’
So hush little baby
Don’t you cry

One of these mornings
You’re going to rise up singing
Then you’ll spread your wings
And you’ll take to the sky

But till that morning
There’s a’nothing can harm you
With daddy and mamma standing by

Summertime,
And the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’
And the cotton is high

Your daddy’s rich
And your mamma’s good lookin’
So hush little baby
Don’t you cry

There’s an ease about the season named Summer that George Gershwin captures in this classic song. Summer time temperatures in many countries rise above the norm, and people slow down the pace of living. In countries where the four seasons (summer, autumn, winter and spring) can be found, the temperature changes can be significant. In other countries like our beloved Nigeria, we only have two seasons, dry and wet, with temperatures staying constant and high year round, but that is the blessing of being close to the equator. These seasons dictate what we wear in response to the prevailing conditions. Since the temperatures in Nigeria stay high all year round, we are in perpetual summer, merely accompanied by rain or dust.

To guide our exploration of the summer jacket, we will look at the fabrics used to make many of them and then some samples of the jackets themselves.

Cotton – Seersucker & Cotton Twill…

Gershwin also mentions cotton, one of the staples of summer living. Summer fabrics must be lightweight and breathable and cotton is exactly that. We will not be looking at cotton in itself, as that would take us into the very technical underworld of fabric production with gnomes, elves and the likes featuring. Rather we will look at what we can do with cotton. One of the more interesting summer fabrics is seersucker, which is woven from cotton.

Seersucker is a thin, puckered, all-cotton fabric, commonly striped or chequered, used to make clothing for spring and summer wear. The word came into English from Hindustani (Urdu and Hindi), which originates from the words “kheer aur shakkar”, meaning “milk and sugar”, probably from the resemblance of its smooth and rough stripes to the smooth texture of milk and the bumpy texture of sugar. Seersucker is woven in such a way that some threads bunch together, giving the fabric a wrinkled appearance in places. This feature causes the fabric to be mostly held away from the skin when worn, facilitating heat dissipation and air circulation. It also means that pressing is not necessary.

Common items of clothing made from seersucker include suits, shorts, shirts, and robes. The most common colours for it are white and blue; however, it is produced in a wide variety of colours, usually alternating coloured stripes and puckered white stripes slightly wider than pin stripes.


Seersucker Summer Jackets

One more use of cotton we must mention is not as a fabric but rather as the main component in a process for creating fabrics. This process is cotton twill. Twill is the name given to fabric woven in such a way as to produce diagonal parallel ribs. These ribs strengthen the fabric. Cotton twill fabric is heavier than normal cotton material, making it more durable and resistant to tears and wrinkles. At the same time, cotton twill is light, breathable and water-resistant. Examples of fabrics created this way are denim, chinos and gabardine, all of which are indispensable for summer.

Linen…

Another fabric that is a summer time staple is Linen. Linen is a textile made from the fibres of the flax plant, Linum usitatissimum. Linen is labour-intensive to manufacture, but when it is made into garments, it is valued for its exceptional coolness and freshness in hot weather.

Linen textiles appear to be some of the oldest in the world: their history goes back many thousands of years. Fragments of straw, seeds, fibres, yarns, and various types of fabrics, which date back to about 8000 BC, have been found in Swiss lake dwellings.

Linen was sometimes used as currency in ancient Egypt. Egyptian mummies were wrapped in linen because it was seen as a symbol of light and purity, and as a display of wealth. Some of these fabrics, woven from hand spun yarns, were very fine for their day, but are coarse compared to modern linen. Today, linen is usually an expensive textile, and is produced in relatively small quantities.


Linen Summer Jacket

Seersucker, denim, chinos, gabardine and linen are all “in” summer fabrics. Lightweight wool also features strongly.

Silk…

The ultimate luxury jacket for summer is made of silk. Silk has been always the fabric of kings and noblemen but since the French revolution its use in menswear has been reduced mainly to ties, pocket-handkerchiefs, fancy waistcoats and evening wear. Summer seems to be the only season that permits a gentleman to choose silk as a suiting. There is a wide variety of colours, weights and finishes. For summer one can opt for the classic shades of cream, brown blue or elephant gray in a shantung like quality. If one does not want to draw the attention to the fact that silk is worn you can find silk suiting that looks like fine cotton or even wool. It is considered as the height of understated elegance to show up in a navy silk jacket that looks like worsted to anyone but the connoisseur.

The Colours…

Summer calls for bright colours, and vibrant secondary hues. Purple, orange and turquoise blue, like the sea, freshen up the fashion in the summer heat. Yellow, like the sun, is a main primary colour.

When it comes to summer, neutral, natural colours, like sage green sand and beige are ever so elegant.

Summer begs for prints, they’re bright and fun. Stripes have been re-polished: forget gondolier or French Riviera sailor styles, stripes take on a whole new, modern feel. The floral print trend continues, as does the foulard print, but with a twist of patchwork, paper or postcard prints work too.

The Jackets…

The summer wardrobe is basically a lighter version of the classics that are worn between October and May. The light coloured summer jacket though, has no direct counterpart in the other seasons’ range of jackets.

To truly understand the construction of summer jackets, one must go to its natural surrounding – Naples in the summer. You might be lucky to see some well-cut and magnificently tailored examples on the backs of some Italian or indeed foreign gentlemen. Chances are that the jackets are made by one of the famous tailoring houses that have fitted out some of the world’s best-dressed men since the 1920s. These tailors are famous for their unlined, unconstructed linen suits/jackets in white, blue or tobacco.

Although linen is notorious for creasing and losing its shape very quickly, the right weight of material determines how quickly the process will set in. Linen is surprisingly heavy compared to woolen suiting, 300 or 400 g/m are not unusual. Lighter qualities are available but they will crease much more and might also be too transparent.

The tailors in Naples are well known for their jackets that feel more like a shirt than a jacket. As hardly any padding can be used in this type of construction the cut is of great importance as it is the only way to give a good line to the garment. Despite the natural shoulders and the soft drape on the chest these jackets enhance the male shape beautifully. But of course the impression is one of lightness and softness.

The American answer to the Italian linen jacket is the single-breasted seersucker jacket. The classic style is unlined, self-lined or half-lined. It is recommended to line the sleeves on any styles otherwise it is hard to pull the jacket over the shirtsleeve. Natural shoulders, patch pockets and vents would be in keeping with the unlined construction and the rather informal look. A double-breasted Seersucker suit is an unusual choice but a very stylish alternative. In the 1940s this style was popular.

Another important point that will influence the way that the jacket feels in summer are the interlinings, paddings and linings. The Italians love unlined suits or half-lined suits while men in middle or northern Europe tend to find the inside of an unlined suit to be untidy or only half finished. The unlined construction for summer jackets allows air to pass through the fabric much more easily.


Paul Stuart Summer Jacket

Paul Stuart combines Canadian styling with Italian textiles, and this jacket is no exception. Constructed of herringbone cotton shirting fabric, it is lined with mesh for exceptional comfort in sweltering weather.


Richard James Cotton Blazer


Summer jacket from Etro

For any gentleman who lives in the tropics, a summer jacket or two are indispensable. Time to upgrade that wardrobe…

Written by Babatunde Olaoluwa Jeje for Mode Men Magazine