First published at Wall Street Journal
Even in summer’s sweltering months, there are times when men can’t avoid a tailored shirt. The trick is, how to wear one and be comfortable?
Paul Trible, co-founder and chief executive of Ledbury, a luxury shirtmaker based in Richmond, Va., says there are simple strategies that can help.
For starters, Mr. Trible advises men to take a close look at the fabric of the shirt. “Lightweight yarns with a loose open weave—those are the two things that keep air flowing, particularly on hot days,” Mr. Trible says. He notes that he generally likes a yarn count of 120 in a summery tailored shirt; most dress shirts have yarn counts between 60 and 100. A yarn count of 120 “is incredibly soft and comfortable and lightweight but it’s not too, too sheer. You don’t see light coming through.” Yarn counts of 140 or 180 are definitely too sheer, he adds.
Cotton-linen blends are another one of Mr. Trible’s go-to’s. “People have been wearing linen for thousands of years for the sole purpose of beating the heat,” he says. Linen alone wrinkles too much, though. “Linen blended with cotton gives you the best of both worlds. It manages the heat and absorbs moisture, but the cotton is a great thing because it prevents a shirt from wrinkling up and looks more polished.” A shirt that’s perhaps 60% or 70% cotton, with linen, is ideal, he says.
Airtex, a fabric that has been popular in Europe and has been used in British military uniforms, is appearing in dress shirts now, too. “It’s 100% cotton and has a gauze-like open weave—tight little holes—that allows air to go in and out of it,” Mr. Trible says. “It’s one of the more breathable shirts for the summer and it works really well.”
Royal twills are a big no, as they tend to trap heat. “I wore one to a summer wedding and almost passed out,” he says. “And I would stay away from anything synthetic. Polyesters and rayons will get you in trouble in the summertime,” he says. “They just don’t breathe so you’re going to sweat and your body’s going to heat up, and it all has nowhere to go.”
Chemically treated shirts, such as those advertised as wrinkle-free, are another mistake, Mr. Trible says. “The chemicals make the shirt less breathable,” he says.
If you pick the right fabric, it won’t matter if the shirt is cut close to the body, Mr. Trible says. In fact, he cautions against what some men do in an effort to stay cool in summer—wear baggy, loose shirts. “If it’s too big and you’re not wearing a breathable fabric, it’s going to be very, very warm,” Mr. Trible says. The more fabric, the more heat trapped in. Similarly, he advises against wearing an undershirt. “Another layer is going to make you hotter,” he says.
The cut of the collar can help you in the heat. “Go for a button-down collar or a small spread collar,” Mr. Trible says. “A bigger spread collar is going to be more weight and more fabric around your neck and go higher up on your neckline.” Similarly, for summer he prefers button cuffs, as opposed to French cuffs, so he can easily roll up his sleeves if he needs to.
Most people don’t think about it, but button placement down the front is important as well, Mr. Trible says. “It’s a small detail, but if you’re not wearing a tie, having your second button placed just a little bit lower lets your neck and chest breathe a little bit more,” he says.
If you have a tendency to perspire profusely, Mr. Trible suggests picking light-colored shirts with patterns. “Small checks can hide perspiration at times,” he says. “Larger patterns are great, too, but they’re more of a weekend thing.”
Finally, Mr. Trible sometimes employs this trick to keep himself feeling fresh—especially if he has been wearing a shirt all day that has become soaked, but he needs to wear it at night, too. “Vodka is a good deodorizer,” he says. “Just put some vodka in a spray bottle and spray it on the shirt,” he says. “That will dry it out in half an hour and it kills the odors. It’s a cheap way to do your own dry cleaning.”