More often than not, picking the right material for your custom suit can seem like a daunting task. In addition to the various styles, colors, and lapels that are made available on custom suits, there is also a great deal of variety when it comes to the fabric that holds it all together. While wool is generally considered the gold standard when it comes to suits and formal attire, some people swear by linen or even silk. Many others who buy suits directly off the rack may not even consider the fabric at all or have the mindset that it really doesn't matter. But as we will reveal in this article, it certainly does matter, perhaps more so than any other aspect of a custom tailored suit.
Think of the material of a suit as something that is comparable to tires on a car; without good ones, the thing you're sitting in would be pretty useless. This is exactly why here at Enzo Custom, we use only the finest fabrics available to ensure that your tailored suit will provide not only longevity but also durability, comfort, and style. With colder weather approaching fast, it is even more imperative to be concerned about the material that goes into crafting your suit. While synthetic fabrics are touted by some as a viable alternative to materials such as wool, cotton, and linen, there is a reason why natural wool and cotton have prevailed for thousands of years in the way of clothing. A natural material will always breathe better than a synthetic one, and this is a very useful property in terms of keeping your body temperature at a comfortable level, even when the weather outside is blistering hot or bitterly cold. In addition to being more comfortable and longer lasting, wool, cotton, and linen are renewable sources of fabric as opposed to synthetics such as polyester, many of which are made from petroleum byproducts. So if the environment is one of your major concerns, you can rest easy knowing that your suit made of natural materials is contributing far less to your carbon footprint than a synthetic suit ever would.
Now, we shall move on to the fabrics themselves.
Wool, as we mentioned earlier, is the go-to material for suits and other articles of formal wear. Taken directly from sheep fleece, it undergoes relatively simple processes such as scouring to remove the oily compound lanolin, carding by rolling drums to smooth it out, and looming to weave the fabric together for practical use. As a suit material, it is highly desirable due to its ability to breathe better than most other fabrics while at the same time keeping you insulated from colder temperatures.
Given the structural makeup of wool, tiny gaps in the fabric allow small pockets of air to become trapped inside, which gives it superior insulating properties. It also has the ability to draw moisture away from the body to keep you cool, and this latter process is known as capillary action, or wicking in the clothing world. In addition to all of these desirable properties at the molecular and chemical levels, wool is soft to the touch, making it more comfortable to wear than many other materials. With various thicknesses and thread counts available, wool fabric can be made to fit a broad range of personal specifications, and with proper care a custom suit made from wool will last decades, keeping you looking sharp and stylish throughout all of your life's paths.
Harvested and made into various types of cloth for thousands of years, cotton is a viable alternative to wool. Like wool, cotton is a very breathable material that is good at both insulation and keeping you comfortable regardless of the outside temperature. Before it is woven into fibers, cotton bales are run through machines to remove seeds, dust, and other debris. After a dyeing and looming process, the cotton is ready to be made into clothing. In many cases, a casual observer won't be able to tell the difference between a custom suit made from wool and one made from cotton without touching it.
The biggest advantage of a suit made from cotton is a slightly lower price point. If we're considering pros and cons exclusively from a style perspective, there isn't too much of a difference, barring the finer details of how it feels and how it will hold up over time. Also keep in mind that cotton tends to absorb moisture more so than wool, so this may be good or bad depending on the time and place you'll be wearing your suit the most. While a suit made from cotton might be beneficial for everyday office use, you may want to stick with wool for outdoor formal events in fall and winter.
Human innovation throughout history has enabled us to have our cake and eat it too in a lot of respects, and what better way to have the best of both clothing worlds than in a wool/cotton blend? Combining the lighter feel of cotton with the extraordinary wicking properties of wool will keep you both comfortable and stylish in all conditions and applications. A custom suit made from a blend will also generally have a lower price point than pure wool, and while it may not be as exclusive or fine as a 100 percent wool product, fabric hybrids tend to be more durable than either of their component materials alone.
As both wool and cotton are abundant and widely available, you'll run into no trouble at all finding a wool/cotton blend for your next custom suit, and given many of the similar properties between the two materials, you'll still look just as stylish as you would with a suit made completely from a homogenous material. In contrast to wool being more popular in winter, blended material is a good choice all year round. Thanks to the intertwined fibers of wool and cotton that add a bit of extra strength to the overall structure of a suit, it won't wrinkle as easily as a pure material would. In the long run, this might even save you a few extra trips to the dry cleaners.
Considered by most to be the lightest of all suit materials, linen is an ideal fabric for summer months when everyone is more prone to bring out their pastel-colored suits as a way to shine an extra style edge as the weather gets warmer. Linen is made from fibers of the flax plant, and while it doesn't have nearly the same wicking properties as wool and cotton do, its constituent material makes linen relatively light and comfortable, especially for spring and summer outdoor formal events. An Italian-style suit made from linen might be just the thing for you if you want that extra cherry on top when it comes to your personal style.
As Italian-style suits are cut closer and more tapered to the body, a lighter fabric is usually considered better than a heavier one for this suit type. Many people find that linen is much easier in which to move around, so if you plan on moving about for an extended period of the day a suit made from linen is always a good thing to have hanging in your closet. Compared to cotton, the fiber is actually stronger and dries faster, so this is an added benefit for those hot sweltering days of summer when your office or formal event requires a suit.
In stark contrast to linen and with winter just around the corner, flannel is a popular material for suits if you're looking for some extra warmth that's even superior to standard wool. Flannel is traditionally made from wool, with the key difference being that it is woven less tightly in order to provide more insulation. As we mentioned earlier that wool has extraordinary insulating properties due to tiny air pockets forming between the fibers, flannel works in a very similar way; but as the air pockets between the looser flannel fibers are larger, more heat can be retained. This particular property is what gives flannel that extra feeling of warmth, softness, and coziness over standard wool. A suit made from flannel might allow you to forego any heavy overcoats or scarves when the weather gets chillier.
Keep in mind however, that these days many flannels are blends made from wool and some other synthetic material, so it is important to double-check the source of your fabric. This might be feasible for a suit that you plan on wearing only during the fall and winter, but if you need something for year-round use, we would strongly suggest going with wool or wool/cotton blends to ensure that your suit is made from all-natural materials.
Synthetics: A Brief Word Of Caution
Synthetic fabrics often use the promise of durability as a selling point, and while artificial materials such as polyester will stand up better to heavier short-term handling and use, the material itself will disintegrate more readily over time, sometimes in as little as 20 years. A suit made from natural materials that is properly cared for will last much longer, so if you want a suit that will look just as good on you many years from now as the same day that you bought it, you will be eternally grateful to yourself for settling on wool, cotton, linen, or a wool/cotton blend.
Polyester and other synthetic fibers also tend to be more uncomfortable due to the itchy nature of the fabric and its inability to breathe. A polyester shirt on a hot summer day is bad enough, but imagine wearing an entire suit made out of that material; pocket squares are supposed to add to your style, not used to blot your forehead every five minutes. Many suits sold directly off the rack also contain polyester blended with other natural materials, so be sure to always check the label before you make a final purchase. Here at Enzo Custom, we only use the finest natural materials available, and we hold firm to the belief that fabrics such as linen, cotton, and wool will always be superior to synthetic substitutes in the context of formal wear.
Now that you know a little bit more about the benefits and drawbacks of the common suit materials, it's time to get you fitted. Schedule an appointment with one of our clothiers, browse our website, or stop into one of the Enzo Custom showrooms. We'll make sure to get you into a suit that perfectly fits not only your style but also your needs in terms of comfort and utility.