Summer Shirts

By Film Noir Buff

What do Ninety degree days with similar humidity have in common with snowstorms? They are wonderful if you don’t have to fight your way to work in a suit.

Ah, summertime, summertime, sum, sum, summertime, or so the song goes…yeah, right. At least not for work when early morning jaunts become Foreign Legionnaire-like meanders down the sun bleached pavements. The occasional stumble onto the tarmac lasts just long enough to marvel at how it melts under your cap toes. If you alight from a commuter train or descend into a subway you are greeted with a blast of sweltering fumes. The sky is lit up as one brilliant, cloudless sun; the horizon shimmers, collars are loosened, jackets come off and handkerchiefs come out.

Still there is the thought of summer nights with friends. Sipping frozen drinks you wouldn’t be caught dead handling during cooler months. White wine or sangria in an outdoor locale; a garden barbecue in the ‘Burbs, a Caribbean resort, a trattoria overlooking Mediterranean ruins or simply downtown at the newest, chicest restaurant around.

If you live in New York City (NYC) or the NYC area, and you are a man who has to wear a jacket and tie (or a woman who wears a jacket and blouse) to work you are probably dreading the sticky approach of summer’s panting breath. The question is what shirt fabrics will offer you maximum comfort and relief?

Most of the shirting’s that men find good for winter are just not up to snuff for the exigencies of summer’s unyielding discomforts. Even the steadfast and fine 100s 2×2 cottons can be a little too dense and heavy for the muggy yawns our American cities release in our faces whenever we step out of our air-conditioned offices.

Color choices for summer are a bit icier, a bit darker, a bit more vivid or even playful. American offices have a built in casual attitude in summer and there is a more ice cream pastel and tropical fruit color palette available for the regimental grey and navy suits. Lighter hued suits look more handsome with stronger colors and the summery cloth qualities whether tropical worsted, mohair or seersucker pair well with semi-sheer or light weight cottons.

If you have the desire to get special shirts made for yourself both for business and for casual then this may be of interest.

Acorn Fabrics in the United Kingdom offer a goodly range of shirting which can help a man who wants to beat the heat and stay looking crisp and feeling comfortable.

Voile: This fabric is very sheer – great for keeping cool – not so good if you don’t want to show your chest hair through the shirt!

This fabric is not recommended for the American workplace and is mainly a casual shirt. Even for casual, one may not want to wear it where people from work may be in attendance. A double front of voile for the chest area makes the shirt less diaphanous and somewhat more acceptable for the American office but one needs to ask if all this trouble is worth the effort?

Mostly sold for dress/tuxedo shirts as the fronts are usually pleated. Voile is good for this because it remains looking crisp but is very soft and cool to wear; useful under dinner jackets that are rarely removed during the evening’s festivities. Also used in ladies wear. Derives from the French language and means “veil”


Classic Summer shirt – the more creased, the better the linen! Gives an unstructured look and is good at absorbing moisture, thus keeping the wearer cool. Linen always lends a prosperous, refined look to the wearer. Made from flax – extracted from plants of the species Linum usitatissimum – “Linen” being a derivative of the latin.


Barbados is a 50-50 blend of bamboo and linen.

Environmentally friendly – Bamboo is lighter than linen and mimics characteristics of cotton. When it is blended with linen, bamboo prevents the linen creasing as much as pure linen and the shirt is lighter in weight. Bamboo is excellent at “wicking” the moisture away from the skin. If a fabric is good at wicking, it will keep the wearer cooler than a fabric such as polyester which holds moisture against the skin – making the wearer uncomfortable.

Bamboo is grown easily ( 3 – 4 feet a day ) – and does not require the same intensive farming as cotton. This fabric is much easier to iron than linen and in some cases the finer quality broadcloth.


Three colored gingham checks are popular at the moment and in the zephyr weave, colors take on a summery, almost madras like quality.

My favorite – this cloth combines breath-ability, feel, luster, drape and wear-ability – it feels cool to wear, it is light yet it recovers well after creasing – great colors in the range too.

A mint green is pleasant for the summer when color rules are relaxed

Summer pinpoint:

In many ways this “summer pinpoint” combines the properties of regular oxford and pinpoint oxford cloth.

So named as it looks like pinpoint but it is lighter in weight – a nice alternative to pinpoint, this fabric breathes better that pinpoint but yet still has “body” for the customer who does not want a “flimsy” fabric.


Cambridge has an open weave which allows for air circulation. The cotton is opaque like oxford cloth until placed against direct sunlight. The English like the white shirt for casual because they do not associate it with work. However, when it is broiling hot outdoors, even Americans appreciate a white shirt with an odd jacket.

When you see a cotton designation as 100s 2×2 that means the yarn is two strands twisted together in both horizontal and vertical weaving directions. Cambridge is a 3 ply fabric – meaning 3 yarns twisted together as one – instead of Acorn’s more common 2 ply (2 yarns twisted as 1).

This is done primarily to allow a relatively open weave but the bulkiness of the yarns prevent the fabric from becoming too “see through” or sheer. It also helps maintain the strength and stability. These characteristics make this a good summer weight fabric with a rich look.

Offered for a long time in white and two shades of blue it is currently discontinued. However, Cambridge will be revived and in additional colors such as cream, lilac, mint and pink; colors reminiscent of their Zephyr range. It possesses the overall look of an oxford cloth with the breezy relief of a voile which makes it a perfect choice for the American in summer.


Americans like dark blue or black stripes and the 140s quality creates a crisper color resolution.

140 2×2: A great fabric – feels very silky, nice sharp stripes, cool to wear and crease recovery is not bad if one considers that in this area of fine shirtings, creasing is a given. Due to the increased weight which makes it more robust, the 2×2 140s is easier to wear often and for longer periods than the 2×2 160’s and 170’s.

Grassmere GV-Yellow.

160 2×2: Often mistaken for Sea Island cotton because it feels amazing (It is almost indistinguishable from silk) – the only down side is the crease recovery. Acorn’s 160s have a light airy property to them which make them an excellent selection for American summers. Grassmere customers usually wear nothing else.

170 2×2: Very similar to the Grasmere but a bit heavier – at this level of fineness it is hard to distinguish between 160’s, 170’s & 180’s. Acorn’s fine broadcloths are usually lighter in weight than those of the competition because the English like a lighter shirt. Their preference is our gain.

White shirts

White hasn’t been incredibly popular at the office lately, at least not in its time honored guise of a smooth broadcloth. However, in the summer, white can offer a refreshingly cool blast to the eyes; it does, after all, resemble snow. It hides sweat and it reflects light, including sunlight…get it? Also, white goes well with printed ties or any sort of tie you care to grab on your way out the door.

Although the shirt in the photo is a 160s Grassmere broadcloth you could wear white in any of the qualities mentioned above; however I would not wear voile, linen or bamboo to work in the USA.


Yeah baby! If a reserved gentlemen were required to go to an Austin Powers party, this is the range of shirt cloths he would choose from!”

Florals are “Trendy” at the moment – not only do they make a refreshing change to the norm, they are a bit of fun and feel great against the skin – The secret lies in the lawn square-sett construction. Although the result is softer, this construction is similar to the Zephyr and therefore feels and wears similarly. The patterns have a certain universality about them (They make older guys look more “with it” and younger guys more refined without being prematurely “stuffy”) and can be used for a variety of social occasions.

Short sleeves:

Chatsworth in red with short sleeves. This cotton takes vivid colors and this shirt would look fantastic under an open weave or linen jacket.

This is from Acorn’s Regent range. It has enough pattern and color to be casual but it also has enough white background to look good under an odd jacket. If the background were colored this same pattern would be perfect to wear with shorts.

Although still unacceptable for business in most industries, they are indispensable for casual when it is simply too hot or humid to wear long sleeves; even rolled up. Everyman should have a few.

These Acorn fabric ranges offer a man of refined tastes a variety of appropriate shirts. The colors and patterns are a sartorial mirage while the fabrics themselves serve as an oasis from the Sahara like conditions of the urban summer.

All Shirts from Acorn fabrics

All shirts made by Paris Custom Shirts in NYC:

Paris Custom Shirts
38 W. 32nd Street
New York, New York


  1. Cyclo2000    Apr 7, 10:39    #

    My article about the originators of Zephyr

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