Todd Snyder Chief Product Officer Alejandro Rhett knows the feel of fabric under his fingers. Starting his career in merchandising, the 37-year-old literally felt season after season of menswear pass through his hands, which provided an intimate on-the-job education in textiles and their uses.“Most guys didn’t really know the difference between a madras, a cotton [or] a linen,” he recalls from his office in New York. But after the “menswear renaissance” in 2008, more and more men began engaging with the components of their seasonal pieces, he argues.
As we approach the warmer months, Rhett and Snyder are rolling out the brand's spring and summer collections. Beyond just playing with proportions and patterns, the pair plan to switch out fabrics, too. And men are taking notice, but there's still some hesitance. No matter whether you’re a veteran summer sartorialist or just awakening to the world of hot-weather wear, there’s a lot of ground — and hundreds of yards of fabric — to cover. That makes now the perfect time to pin down Rhett for his thoughts on the best — and worst — fabrics and textiles to wear during warmer months.
First, he offers two general guidelines for summertime menswear pieces, regardless of your fabric of choice. First, examine a piece’s weave as the first sign of suitability. "We’re seeing a trend toward — and I know this sounds scary — mesh or open-weave fabrications,” he says. And that’s a good thing: the wider the weave, the more air it allows to pass, and the cooler you’ll be. Second, judge its drape on your body. If it’s more like a Tour de France kit (aka tight) than a Tommy Bahama shirt, you’re bound to have the sweat rolling down your back unless you’re cycling down the Champs-Élysées at 35 miles an hour.
The Naturals: The Best Natural Fibers for Warm Weather Menswear
Rhett is an unabashed fan of natural fibers, especially in the spring and summer. “Natural fibers tend to be more breathable than man-made,” he says.
Rhett could write a book about the myriad benefits of linen, a fiber derived from the flax plant which has tens of thousands of years of use, and often in hot climates. It possesses inherent moisture-wicking abilities, and can absorb 20 percent of its weight in water, which helps cool. Then there’s the break-in: It becomes softer with every wash. “And it’s breathable,” he continues. “It’s a porous fiber, so it lets in air as a natural coolant.”
It can be pricey, but its myriad properties justify its use on hot summer days. Find it in trousers and shirts, though Todd Snyder is expanding its inclusion in just about every category this season, from suiting to polos, shorts, pants and even a crewneck sweater. All this is part of its dedicated Linen Shop. "We think that’s the best fiber and fabric for summer," he says.
“Cotton is the most prevalent material in [Todd Snyder] clothing,” Rhett says. From T-shirts to button-downs to pants, it runs the gamut. Seersucker — a puckered cotton weave — is practically a summertime institution in the South and on the East Coast. “[Cotton is] a more natural way to be cool than any of the synthetics,” he adds. While not as breathable as linen, it holds a commanding second, and because of its ubiquity, you can find a range of offerings across budgets to outfit you for the season.
Pima cotton. Supima cotton. Cotton canvas. It seems like with every new year there’s a new cotton variant, with a silkier hand-feel or the durability to deflect bullets. Rhett and the Todd Snyder crew go gaga over Sea Island cotton, which is grown in the Caribbean and is spun so fine as to be described as “gauzy.” “This is one of the reasons why [cotton] has been so prevalent: it’s versatile,” he says. With the breathability recommendations in place, his advice is to pick the fabric based on the application. Are you looking for a barely-there T-shirt or a polo? Go fine and soft. For bottoms, chore coats and the like, go for thicker, which equates to ruggedness.
With the relaxation of cannabis laws and overall agricultural reform, hemp has become increasingly visible in menswear. Rhett, while not having direct experience with it at the brand level, believes it to be in a similar vein to linen but with a coarser finish. “Rustic,” he says with a laugh. But one thing he says in earnest is it and others’ role in sustainability initiatives in the fashion industry in the future. Find it in T-shirts, pants, and the entire Jungmaven lineup. Regardless of where you fall on its wear, “Hemp is having a moment,” he says.
Yes, wool may be found in your fall and winter closet, but its equatorial brother, the tropical wool, has a place in a summertime wardrobe. Its coarser weave and narrower gauge allow more airflow while creating a finer texture when compared to linen. Todd Snyder offers two suits in the fabric year-round. Still, Rhett cautions against its too-frequent use: “It’s definitely not a cooling fabric,” he says. Avoid the woolier, hairier tweeds, which he says have very narrow applications in non-Oceanic climates. “There’s a small window where that feels comfortable.”
Bamboo is another natural fiber with green potential due to its fast growth. Rhett sees a future with fabric derivatives as the fashion industry strives to leave less of a footprint. While TS hasn’t expanded into it yet, like other natural fibers, he sees it as a better warm-weather option than synthetic alternatives.
Do not wear corduroy in warm weather. Rhett speculates its thick weave and heat-holding wales can be used in the shoulder seasons briefly. “But that’s it,” he says, the final nail banging home. The one exception: West Coast surfers chopped their cords off at the thigh, and some menswear houses, including Todd Snyder, have crafted their own version of this ocean-adjacent short style. If you can smell kelp in the air, you may be able to pull it off.
Made by weaving the fine strands of a few kinds of insect larvae, silk is often used in sweater-polos and other fine-textured garments. While it has some breathable properties, they’re not as great as others on this list due to the compact nature of the weave. Opt for blends.
Second only to linen, Rhett lights up when the subject of cashmere comes around — and it’s understandable. Preceding the Linen Shop is TS’s Cashmere Shop, and it shows the breadth of the fabric’s use across categories: beanies, suits, cardigans, and even joggers all get the luxury treatment from this premium fabric. And while you might look askance at the fabric’s application during the summer, he offers a counterpoint: “The U.S. is the land of air conditioning,” he says. “You think of summer, you think of the beach, but everyone is still going to office. So a lightweight cashmere sweater is perfect year-round.”
Lenny Kravitz can pull off leather pants at Lollapalooza during summertime in Chicago. You probably can’t. “[It's] not a traditional summer fabric,” Rhett says simply. Although there are exceptions: lightweight suede jackets and leather footwear, including bucks and loaders in unlined suede, which Rhett hints will be available for the first time through Todd Snyder later this year.
Tencel, Lyocell, Rayon, and Viscose
The various names and brands of a wood pulp derivative, these materials are often used in camp shirts, possess a distinctive sheen and hold a softer look than cotton. Still a natural fiber of sorts, it falls well below linen, cotton and even cashmere in terms of breathability. Wear it, certainly, but select pieces that are cut bigger, so that they allow for greater airflow. “Otherwise it has the tendency of clinging to the body,” Rhett says.
The Synthetics: If You Must, Blend
Synthetics rarely appear in Todd Snyder collections — and for good reason.
Spandex or Elastane
For these workout-specific synthetic fabrics, “the end use that they were designed for, sure,” Rhett says, i.e. workouts and leggings. He’s skeptical, however, of any warm-weather application, and Todd Snyder itself doesn’t touch it. Its narrow context is within the denim category, in which most men appreciate a bit of stretch. “We only would use it in a blend,” he adds, "never a hundred percent.”
“That, to me, sounds like a sweaty disco night,” Rhett says. Polys are associated with cheaper quality, often aimed at imitating the sheen of premium natural fibers. Steer clear in your menswear — especially in the summer.
A Rain Poncho
An appropriate use of plastics, and great for viewing Niagara Falls. Avoid wearing one under the sweltering sun.