Some responded that they would try wearing “looser fits.” Others mentioned leaning even further into their garden core aesthetic. But most of the respondents admitted that all they really hope for when it comes to summer heat and fit checks is to survive. After all, summer is a notoriously difficult season for both sweating and menswear.
For that reason, everyone more or less agrees that linen is the ideal summer fabric. For starters, per Heddels, “The natural flaxen fibers are hollow, which allows linen to provide more airflow over your body than other materials.” To say nothing of how easy it is to take care of.
But is there anything else out there for the guy who doesn’t always want to look like he’s on a safari?
Indeed. Here are three breezy summer fabrics that aren’t linen…
The sheer volume of clothes made of cotton makes it impossible not to include on a list like this, especially because cotton is cited as one of the more breathable fabrics. According to UCSB Science Line, cotton fibers — twisted ribbons that prevent them from stacking tightly together when woven — allow airflow that keeps hot air from being trapped near your body. “As a result, there are plenty of open spaces for air to pass through,” UCSB Science Line explains. “In contrast, synthetic fibers are usually very smooth and straight ‘rods.’”
Cotton is also hydrophilic (i.e., water sticks to the fibers), helping shield your skin from moisture in the air. “In combination with airflow, this aids in evaporation of that water, providing an evaporative cooling effect which can be greater than that of damp bare skin,” UCSB Science Line continues.
Here’s the thing, though: Cotton alone isn’t nearly as “cooling” as cotton mixed with a bit of spandex. In 2020, Susan Sokolowski, director and associate professor of sports product design at the University of Oregon, and her research team collected effusivity data from seven sport T-shirt materials made of polyester, recycled polyester, rayon, wool, nylon, cotton and spandex fibers. (The higher the thermal effusivity value a material has, the cooler it will feel to the touch.) “Effusivity combines thermal conductivity, density and heat capacity into one value,” Sokolowski tells me, adding that she and her team found that, of everything they tested, the T-shirt consisting of 95 percent cotton and 5 percent spandex had the highest effusivity score.
I’ve written previously about the cult of the rayon shirt. In my piece, menswear blogger Ethan Wong described the fabric as “soft with a bit of heft and sponginess that helps it take a beating.” He went on to say “there’s a sense of bounce and natural stretch that makes [a rayon shirt] conform to you if you’re lucky enough to own it for a while.” It helps too that, although rayon is human-made — it’s blended from cotton and has very thin fibers, allowing it to breathe more than other fabrics and giving it a lightness that prevents it from sticking to your body in hot weather.
You’ve probably noticed that most, if not all, activewear has nylon in it. But is it breathable? According to Sokolowski’s research, it is. But what makes nylon such an effective cooling fabric is less it’s high effusivity and more it’s wicking ability, which helps transport sweat away from the skin to promote evaporation. “As the sweat evaporates from the shirt’s material, it cools you down,” Sokolowski says.
Doesn’t that sound refreshing?