The Suit Fabric Guide – Because It’s What’s Inside That Counts


Suit fabric really does make the suit literally and figuratively. Linen, polyester, wool, cotton, tweed, herringbone, flannel, silk, poplin, seersucker, and cashmere, are the materials that usually make up a suit.

A men’s linen suit will not feel the same as a polyester suit, and a polyester suit will not feel the same as a wool suit and so on and so forth.

Also a suit’s price will vary greatly depending on what kind of material it is made up of.

Below you will find a brief overview of the different types of suit material you may find while searching for your ideal suit. Click through each to get a quick rundown on the advantages and disadvantages of each suit fabric.

Cashmere Suits

Cashmere suits are highly coveted for their soft feel and incredible comfort.

Advantages

If you live in an area with cold winters, cashmere is great at providing you with insulation without weighing you down.

Cashmere is also luxuriously soft.  You won’t find a material that feels better against your skin than cashmere.

This may be a good fabric choice for your winter rotation.

One Final Advantage

If you’ve ever watched Seinfeld you know that beautiful women will walk up to you and feel your jacket before asking, “is this cashmere?”  I saw this on television, so it must be true.

Disadvantages

Cashmere is not cheap. You will probably pay an exorbitant amount of money to have a suit woven completely with this material.

Additionally, this type of suit may be hard to find nowadays as most designers experiment with material blends – silk combined with wool and polyester combined with wool to name a few.  Many companies are moving towards more synthetic materials for all types of suits.

While this suit most certainly sends a stylistic message, it’s not always the most practical. Most of the time, cashmere provides too much warmth. It works in a rotation and for special occasions, because cashmere requires a lot of maintenance. It’s known for its softness, not its durability, and must be delicately treated.

Moths love cashmere (and not in the same way you do) and will seize any opportunity to create some holes in your new suit, so make sure you have a cedar closet or moth balls.

Final Thoughts on Cashmere

A cashmere suit can make for a great luxury suit, but won’t be practical for most people.

This being said, remember that you don’t always have to get a 100% cashmere created suit. A suit can be made in a nice blend that includes both wool and cashmere. This keeps the price down and gives you the advantages of wool with some of the comfort of cashmere.

Cotton Suits

The cotton suit is not the most popular or renowned type of suit on the market, but cotton is without question the most popular fabric for every other type of apparel.  These suits can range from dirt-cheap to exorbitantly expensive depending on the quality of cotton used.

The better the cotton, the less likely it is that the suit will wrinkle.  Seersucker suits are a type of cotton suit.

Advantages

This material is nice and breathable and makes for a comfortable fit.  One might wear a cotton suit to summer party or wedding.

Disadvantages

Wrinkles are much more prevalent with this material. Cotton also has a tendency to shrink, which means extra care will be needed when cleaning it and caring for it.

Even expensive cotton suits tend to be less durable than your typical wool suit.

Flannel Suits

The flannel suit is made from thick worsted wool or a wool/cotton mix. It is similar to tweed and herringbone suits, in terms of pattern, but much softer in feel.

Advantages

This material is heavy enough to make a great winter suit but not uncomfortably heavy to preclude its wear and tear in spring and fall temperatures.

If you’ve been turned off by these suits in the past, you may want to give them another try as today’s flannel suits are nimbler and thinner than older flannel suits.

The versatility of the fabric gives it the ability to provide both plain and textured patterns. Also, its soft feel makes it more luxurious than most winter suits.

Disadvantages

Suits made from this material are more rare than standard worsted wool suits and can quickly cost more. Although this suit will be lighter than most winter suits, it is still a winter suit and can be uncomfortable to wear during the hotter months of the year.

Final Thoughts on Flannel

Flannel is not a bad option if you are trying to add a little spice to your winter wardrobe, but this suit is not ideal as your first suit to buy.

Herringbone Suits

The herringbone suit is much like the tweed suit in weight and feel. Its zig zag pattern is the defining feature. You will find this type of suit in a lot of vintage 1940’s models, as this style suit was very popular during that time period.

Although these days the suit is not quite as popular, it is still sold brand new in a variety of stores. Companies such as Joseph A Bank and Ralph Lauren are still making beautiful suits in herringbone patterns.

Advantages

Herringbone suits are heavy which make them ideal for winter wear. Also the coarse fabric is one of the best for longevity and durability.

Wrinkles are uncommon and creases are unlikely to form. Fading of the material is possible but much less prevalent than in its counterparts.

This fabric style is also good for those trying to break up the monotony of their wardrobe without straying away from conservative fashion. Wearing a suit like this won’t make you look out of place at the office.

Disadvantages

Heavy herringbone suits are not as versatile as the lighter wool suits and don’t make good suits for Summer. Also the coarse nature of the fabric makes it less luxurious than a lighter smoother material.

Those of you that can’t stand to wear anything thicker than finely spun wool should look towards another type of suit to wear.

Linen Suits

The linen suit is probably the most comfortable suit one can wear. Linen is one of the oldest materials in the world and has stood the test of time for many reasons.

Advantages

These suits are lightweight and resist moisture which make them a great summer suit.  People in climates that are hot all year round love to wear this suit since it keeps the sun off of them without making them hot.

They are also machine washable meaning you won’t have to read my page on finding a good dry cleaner after all. When you can quickly and easily wash your own suit, you know you’ll save lots of money throughout the year.

Of course, you also know that your suit materials really aren’t all that special. This leads me into the disadvantages of the mens linen suit.

Disadvantages

A linen suit will wrinkle very easily and creasing can occur at heavily folded areas. Crease a linen suit for too long and the crease will become permanent.

You’ll also find that fading under direct sunlight occurs quite easily which is bad for a suit that has specifically been designed for summer wear.

Lastly, you may find that these suits do not look professional enough to wear to the office. For many people, this suit will be one that can only be worn to summer outings.

Polyester Suits

Polyester suits are not quite as common as they were in the 1970’s. However you can find many fiber blends these days.

Most suit designers make wrinkle resistant versions of their suits which will invariably have some polyester mixed into them. They are sometimes known as Traveler’s suits.

If you’re looking for a suit that is 100% polyester you may have to look into a vintage suit.

Advantages

This material is hard to wrinkle or shrink and less expensive than any other type in its class. It is a great suit for somebody that is prone to getting caught in the rain because of its low water absorption levels.

In addition to this, the durability of this suit can be stronger than other materials.

Disadvantages

These suits do not have a natural feel to them, and are not very comfortable when compared to wool or cotton suits. Trapped body heat is also an issue which can lead to discomfort after prolonged wear.

Also, this suit is usually easy to spot because it is much cheaper looking. The suit does not have a natural drape to it and will appear stiff at many different areas of the suit.

Final Thoughts on Polyester

It is rare to find a new suit made from 100% polyester and you probably wouldn’t want to either.  This being said, polyester can be a great addition to a wool suit blend.

Poplin Suits

The poplin suit is made of a combination of lightweight fabrics to include: silk, cotton, worsted wool, and even polyester. This silky smooth material is found mostly in high end models.

Advantages

This material is lightweight and makes a great summer suit. Also the silky smooth feel to the fabric makes it a great luxury suit. You can’t go wrong using this material for your luxury summer suits.

The big advantage comes in the form of being able to take advantage of all of the benefits of the different materials used in creating poplin. Fabric makers just need to make sure they get the right mixture or risk combining all the disadvantages of each material.

Disadvantages

The major disadvantage to this fabric is its poor versatility. Do not wear this suit in late fall, winter, or early spring – it is much too light. Durability can also be an issue for the more aggressive suit wearer.

Unfortunately, this material does not pick up the bulk or durability of a wool or polyester suit. This being said, it does provide better durability than a cotton suit or a silk suit.

I’d imagine that in order to capture the durability of a polyester or wool suit, one would have to also take on the bulk and warmth of these suits. This would eliminate the luxurious feel you get from a nice poplin suit.

Seersucker Suits

Seersucker suits are a type of cotton suit specifically made for warm weather.

These garments are great for keeping cool in late spring through summer and are very common in the southern part of the United States.

Materials are woven differently from the traditional cotton clothing.

Strands of fabric are bunched together in some areas of the design to help keep the jackets and pants away from your skin.

Colors are usually white with blue stripes, but you can find just about any color imaginable.

This makes this suit a bit funny looking, but also makes it easily identified for what it is.

Advantage

The superior design of this suit helps keep the wearer nice and cool and eliminates any need for ironing. A side benefit is the ability to machine wash this garment.

Disadvantages

This material is noticeably different than your average fabric and may not be appropriate for your line of work.

Also these suits are generally made in festive pinstripes with bright summer colors making it completely inappropriate for somber occasions.

Final Thoughts on Seersucker

The best places to wear this suit are churches, day time weddings, parties on yachts and other events that require a suit that doesn’t have to be too formal.

Also, I’d save this for events in areas where seersucker suits are commonly worn.

I can’t imagine that this suit would go over very well in Philadelphia or some other large northeastern city.

Silk Suits

Silk suits originate from the same insects that ruin suits…moths. Ironically, once we have a suit, we need to do everything we can to keep moths away from them.

This is because moths are likely to put holes in our garments. For more information on keeping moths away from your clothing, visit my page on moth protection.

Advantages of Suits Made From Silk

Silk fabrics are extremely smooth and cool to the touch. Have you ever wondered why people refer to things as being “silky smooth”? It is because silk is one of the smoothest materials on the planet.

You’ll notice that silk can shimmer under certain lighting. This makes this suit great for people looking to wear an expensive suit to a night club or some other after hours event.

Another advantage of silk is that it can be very difficult to wrinkle. This means that, if you can keep it clean, you can wear it longer before having to get it professionally pressed.

Disadvantages

This suit can become hot and sticky in warm conditions and might need to be cleaned more often to keep it sanitary.  This can negate the last advantage we just mentioned.

Another disadvantage is that this suit does not hold up well under cold weather conditions. Since it isn’t great for hot climates and it isn’t great for cold climates, you really need to be in a very comfortable climate to pull off wearing this suit.

Tweed Suits

Tweed suits are basically heavy suits made from a form of wool. They are made from a coarse woolen material created by combining three different color yarns.

These yarns are then twilled, which leaves a distinctive pattern not found on other types of suits.

Some of its more popular forms are Harris tweed, Lovat, and Donegal.

Advantages

This material makes a great winter suit. The reason for this is that it is thick, warm, and resistant to water.

The durability of this suit is fantastic. This is because the suit material is thick enough to resist tears and other issues that you might have with a thin suit made from cotton, linen, seersucker, or worsted wool.

Disadvantages

Warm weather makes this suit useless for the owner until it gets cold again. People living in cold climates can wear this suit all year round, but people living in tropical ones shouldn’t even bother looking at this suit.

Another disadvantage of this suit is that the coarse feel and heavy weight of tweed can be a turn off for some people.

Wool Suits

Wool suits are currently the most popular suits on the market. The reasons for this is that wool is a very versatile material, it is easy to work with, and it can be abundantly harvested.

There are also many different types of wool that one can make a suit out of.

For instance men’s suits can be made from virgin wool and worsted and can even be spun at different speeds to provide different comfort levels.

You’ll also find many heavier wool materials on the market for winter weather use.

This material can be spun at super 90’s all the way up to super 200’s. The higher the number the higher the quality.

This being said, there really isn’t a good industry standard, so some super 120’s might be better than other wools said to be super 120’s.

This goes for all spins too, not just super 120’s. I just used that number for illustrative purposes.

Advantages

These suits are the most durable on the market. They are also wrinkle resistant and will not crease or crumple nearly as quickly as a cotton or linen suit. The versatility of this material has led to it being used for both summer and winter suits.

Winter suits are made from heavier wool while summer suits are made from lighter wool. Also, suits made from this material are the most common on the market and are easy to find.

Disadvantages

Dry cleaning is a prerequisite for cleaning these suits. Cleaning costs can become quite expensive if you wear suits everyday.

This is different from the cotton and linen suits that can be machine washed on a regular basis.

suit fabric

 

Final Thoughts on Suit Materials

Keep in mind that their really isn’t a perfect suit material. While wool is your best all around suit material, you’ll find that each material has a specific time and place where it really excels. This means that the best suit material may vary depending on when and where you are wearing your suit.

The best advice is to choose a suit material that is both comfortable on you and on your wallet. My personal opinion is that it is always safe to go with a wool suit and you could fill up your wardrobe completely with wool suits and be set for life.

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