The case for the Summer Suit. With tie

Monday, September 6th 2021
Share
||- Begin Content -||

Thomas Mastronardi is one of the best-dressed men I know. So, in the spirit of welcoming a greater range of voices onto Permanent Style, I asked Tom to bookend the summer by writing something on the seersucker and linen suits he loves so much.

We disagree on some things, as will become apparent. But that is inevitable between passionate people and never an obstacle between friends.

Instead, it reminds me poetically of the things I already know I love in a summer suit and tie; and it encourages me, whenever I am on the borderline, to take the opportunity for greater beauty and self-expression.

Enjoy Tom’s florid farewell.

By Tom Mastronardi

Like most fellow followers of Permanent Style, I eagerly anticipate the pleasures of autumnal dressing and the siren’s call of flannel, tweed, and cashmere.

But, if I may, I’d like to take a moment to note that despite September’s arrival, there are still several weeks left in this long, hot, wet, relentless summer. And though the wilted, weary end of the season is in sight, I still take genuine pleasure – temperature be damned – in wearing Summer Suits.

Note I say suits.

Because I’ve found that recently the ruthless weather has practically dared me to put aside my sport coat and open necked shirt – despite the preponderance and utility of both in my wardrobe – and stare down those dog-days in natty defiance, turned out in a flawlessly tailored suit, replete with the proper shirt and always, always, always a tie. (Yes. A tie. It’s mandatory – but more on that shortly.)

But - and this is key - the cloth from which that suit is fashioned is the driver of the whole exercise. Think linen, seersucker, cotton. Full stop. Because, let’s face it; wilted wool is nobody’s idea of a good time.

And, yes, I know, I know, Fresco. Love it. But. My near-evangelical zeal for the holy trinity of summertime fabrics is not borne simply of comfort.

Linen, cotton and seersucker’s superpower rests in the way they democratize the whole business of summer dressing. Their innate informality infuses suit with an attitude of – are you ready – casually calculated refinement; which is something that simply cannot be achieved in any other quarter of the calendar.

The more insistently the season demands a casual response, the more perfectly these cloths fit the bill. (And as a general note, though it shouldn’t be necessary to mention it, in the name of whatever you hold holy, don't fully line the jacket.)

Because: Linen is most perfect when it is wrinkled.

And: The knife-edge crease in a seersucker trouser can be relied on to yield softly as the humidity rises.

Just contemplating the simple blue-and-white of classic seersucker (yeah, I know there are a host of options, but I like what I like and this is my soap box) always makes me feel cooler.

New this season, and my current favourite, is a three-button single-breasted with three open patch pockets in a 100% cotton from Huddersfield Fine Worsteds (above). This may be the lowest-cost cloth regularly – yet enthusiastically – selected for use by tailors, precisely because it is the best seersucker to be had.

For me, it’s the only cloth I elect to wear when no one in his right mind considers putting on a jacket (which is the essence of this entire screed).

I’ll almost always elect to pair seersucker with a white shirt, in either cotton or linen, with an unbuttoned button-down collar. I find that particular throwaway gesture, lifted from the Italians, always helps establish a casual insolence. Or, conversely, I will wear the subtlest of pale pastels with a proper spread collar.

Whatever shirt colour, collar, or fabric I may choose, the most significant aspect is that it is always best realised with a necktie.

I believe the necktie to be the ultimate accessory when wearing a suit – in any season. To quote a certain sage philosopher of my acquaintance: “...the tie is a beautiful thing, and its demise is a loss to culture.”

Too true.

Consider that an open shirt collar – specifically the all-too-common open dress shirt collar – surrenders its principal objective: to frame one’s face in the most appealing and flattering manner possible.

If we can assume that view to be universally accepted, then it’s not much of a reach to grant that the addition of a four-in-hand (like Brother Fleming’s most famous literary creation, I too mistrust a man who wears a Windsor knot) creates the most sophisticated visual punctuation; the foundation upon which to present one’s mug to society.

Also, one of the truest of truisms is that a necktie provides an opportunity to express your individuality. Old saw or not, it’s hard for me to find a more viable argument; from a solid grenadine to the most outrageous of rainbow-shaming foulards, a tie does make a statement about your taste – or lack thereof.

I drank the Kool-Aid early on, when as a kid it became apparent to me that The Guy Who Wore the Tie always got the girl. Case in point: Cary Grant, Ray Milland, Gary Cooper, Fred Astaire and James Bond invariably, absolutely, inarguably, wound up with Katherine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn or Pussy Galore.

The truth is that yes, Virginia, ties do separate the men from the boys; and that donning a necktie should always be perceived as a privilege, not a pain (and if you find it “uncomfortable”, consider that perhaps your collar is just a mite too tight).

A seersucker suit with an open-necked shirt may telegraph that you can maintain your cool (with some degree of cool) on even the warmest day; but, by adding a tie, you’re set apart from the hoi polloi by choosing to beat the heat through the sheer élan of the gesture.

As regards tie colour, I tend to embrace something bolder in the summer – partly in a nod to the season, partly because the simplicity of the seersucker and plain shirt affords one a licence to do so. As summer moves forward, the brighter the red the pink or the yellow lightweight (and frequently unlined) silk the better. And madras? Be still my heart.

I have to admit, too, that I fondly remember a lurid tie from the mid-80s, printed with a fetching Varga-type cutie, that elevated my rather basic Brooks Brothers seersucker to new heights.

Linen and cotton suits allow for a greater variety of colour than seersucker; light creams, tans, and pale olives certainly, but I’ll even opt to go darker: navy of course, and this season I’m especially fond of a rich tobacco double-breasted number in a fairly beefy 14oz cloth designed by Drapers and woven in Ireland a few years ago exclusively for Paolo Martorano Bespoke [above].

Although I’ve had several flyweight Italian linens over the years, of late I’ve come to appreciate the substantial Irish variety. And who can resist the legend that tells of those once-upon-a-time Sons of Erin who submerged the newly woven cloth in the local brook long enough for the water and stones to soften it up? Stonewashed, indeed.

I’ll invariably elect a linen shirt for wear with a linen suit, in white or a pale neutral, either solid or with the faintest stripe (I’ve never been much of a fan of dark or boldly patterned shirts, whatever the season).

I’m also fond of linen ties with linen suits and shirts (and even linen socks, although their fragility never fails to cause a measure of disappointment), and am drawn equally to subtle pattern or cheeky print depending on my mood. (I’ve been unable to part with a vintage Versace parrot print for more than 30 years.)

The point of all this is that by suiting up rather than dressing down, by shrugging off the allure of even the most sophisticated of sportswear and taking up arms against the endlessly contumacious climate, swelter is roundly vanquished, and confident nonchalance carries the day.

So, elegantly suited and properly knotted, I’ll be spending these next few, short weeks savouring each and every opportunity to wear my summer suits before inexorable autumn ends the whole drill.

As a final note, I’ll leave you with this; as we soldier bravely through these dwindling days of summer, rather than worry you might be too smartly garbed at, say, a backyard barbeque, might I suggest that you address the situ by – briefly – doffing the jacket, discreetly checking the dimple beneath your knot, adroitly rolling your sleeves, and having a poised, imperturbable go at the watermelon.

Hot fun in the summertime. More, please.

---

Thomas Mastronardi was for many years the head of marketing at Paul Stuart in New York. He currently works with Paolo Martorano, as well as other clients.

The ties pictured are largely from Robert Talbott, saving the vintage Versace. The suits are from Paolo Martorano or Jon Green Bespoke. The shirts are also largely Paolo Martorano

The image of us together was taken at the New York launch of my book The Finest Menswear in the World. More here

Photography: Tom Mastronardi, save the last image, Jamie Ferguson.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
64 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jack Williams

A wonderful, exuberant article. I wonder if you could ask Mr. Mastronardi what kind and color of shoes (and socks) he wears with each of the summer fabrics.
Thanks

John

Hi Simon,
A very interesting PS fellow who has reached the level of having worked out his own style. As we all know, the rationalizations behind the relatively cohesive output are always worth considering, while one contemplates his own main tasks down the road.
As Jack Williams, I also would be interested in knowing what kinds of shoes he wears with these Summer outfits.
John

Thomas Mastronardi

Hello Jack, in fact, one of the most appealing aspects of summer dress is the correspondent appeal of stepping out wearing equally insouciant summer-specific footwear (and really, it’s simply an extension of my whole take on looking at summer suits as a casual construct).  Although charmed by them, I’m personally not much for pairing white bucks with seersucker (probably because a simple proletarian guy like me can’t properly pull it off). Otherwise, pretty much anything else goes. And while I’d never opt for a loafer — other than the occasional tassel mom — with a suit any other time of year (excepting — again — with corduroy, which is really just a variation on the whole casual suiting ethos), I never fear sporting the most casual of loafers while suited with summer specific cloths. I love, for instance red or navy suede with seersucker and my go to with linen is a particular favorite; a pair of well-worn (actually, beaten to the very edge of disreputable haplessness) decade and a half old, Prada deerskin loafers.  Excepting sneakers, the right choice is whatever provides the most comfort as the pavement turns griddle hot and eggs fry underfoot.

Thomas Mastronardi

Sorry, gents; tassel ‘mocs’ not ‘mom’ (the poor old girl had enough grief from her wayward son without adding more…).

Robin

Whoah!
That fourth picture is superb !
It’s got Hollywood , English villain about it .

If that’s his summer wardrobe I’d certainly like to see his autumn / winter collection.

We need more from this guy .

Darryl

Brilliant and refreshing, a real antidote to the dressed down focus in recent months. A very stylish chap and an inspiration.

Stefan

What a wonderful, wonderful piece! It makes me miss a tie around my neck, on what could be one of the last days of summer this year here in Germany.
And some nice inspirations for potential suits and ties for the next season. Thank you so much for this article, Tom (and Simon, of course)!

Alexander

This is interesting from a style point of view. Maybe for evening events I could see myself giving it a try. But in daily practice I could not stand weather with over 30 degrees celsius without my high-twist-trousers. Cottons and linens do not work as hot weather fabrics for me and I cannot see how they will any time soon.

Alexander

Yes indeed, I still would. It is not about smartness. Just nothing can beat the openness of a 2-ply-wool for me. Or hopsack in a jacket. Linens always appear much more densely woven to me in comparison. But since I am well aware that you have much more experience with quality linens than I have, I will definitely have to keep an eye on that subject. So thank you for your input!
(little disclaimer: f.e. the “high twist linen” jacket, that I own from Berg & Berg is indeed very cool in the high heat. So maybe I just have to keep looking for the right ones.)

John A Bradley

Excellent read

Max Alexander

Well yes but…summer days here in Italy regularly top 40 degrees (and briefly hit a European record of 48 in Sicily last month). Were I to wear my tobacco linen suit, with tie, outdoors in that weather, it would be dripping wet in five minutes. And sweat stains linen, meaning off to the cleaners.

If I cocooned inside an air-conditioned office all day it might be possible. But as my work requires traversing the streets of Rome every day, in summer I must make sartorial compromises.

limekiln

…but with aircon everywhere, so unlike in London and in most of the world you seldom need to actually experience the extreme temperature/humidity.
This is a great article from a man with with a well-tuned wry sense of humour.

Hal9k

Most of the places I actually experience the extreme temperature/humidity are the very places where these suits come into play. Summer here in the lower Midwest can be absurdly oppressive. My seersucker suits are an automatic choice for outdoor (no a/c) events like weddings and graduations, along with a linen or end-on-end shirt… and a tie. Worked for southern gentlemen, works for me. Sometimes I even get frisky and break out something from my bowtie collection.

Mr Mastronardi has it right. I tip my Panama fedora to him. I feel inspired to add yet another seersucker suit to the wardrobe now. Or maybe go linen this time…

Max Alexander

Indeed I worked in New York for many years, in a suit and tie. The subway stations were miserable in summer…

I wish I could dress like Tom every day in the summer in Rome, but I do try at least to stay pressed and put together. Rota trousers, or bespoke linen trousers with double reverse pleats, often with a linen guayabera which is useful with all the pockets when you’re not wearing a jacket. And my Montecristo Panama. I might wear a fresco, cotton or even silk jacket on nights when it mercifully drops below 30. Ties come back in late September.

Dan McCarthy

I believe I discovered Mr. Mastronardi in a keikari profile and have been an admirer of his style for several years. The article is brilliant and is a wonderful call to arms of those who still like to dress in suit and tie in the face of an overly casual society.

Tamaki

Dan, if I may, are you university professor in the United States?

Dan McCarthy

No I am not

CDBP

Great article.

Michele

Association with those waistcoats is pushing ties toward the “costume” end of the spectrum for me.

Teo

This was a good read and, indeed, very useful in highlighting different points of view in classic menswear. However, it has made me appreciate the noticeably different style of writing and overall philosophy of Permanent Style even more. Namely, being down-to-earth, avoiding flamboyance, whilst still being elegant and well put-together.

RTK

It is very nice to see a grown man wearing timeless clothes that fit well. I do find tropical weight wool suits as cool as cotton or linen and much easier to maintain. They do not wrinkle as much and a little fresh air and light steaming for the jacket and the use of a Corby press on the pants is usually all that they need. My cotton and linen suits, odd jackets and pants require much more maintenance. They do work well for outdoor events like summer weddings or garden parties.

Joshua

Hey Simon:

quick off topic question: any recommendations for longer/slimmer coat wallets for credit cards? I’m currently looking at Asprey and Ettinger, both of which you have mentioned. Any thoughts or recommendations?

Thanks!
Joshua

JJ Katz

Brilliant. I was really ready for an article on summer garb that celebrates full-on elegance.

richard

I am fortunate to own several suits, none seersucker, made by Giovanni Gagliano, when he was making the suits for John Green. I have never been able to rationalize the spend to make seersucker. Your photos make a compelling argument.

Thomas Mastronardi

Bravo, Richard. Some of my favorite suits are by the estimable Jon Green (including the tan SB shown above).

John F. Kennedy

Great article and attitude. A man who dresses well as a man and not as a child.

Ben

The author writes as he dresses, and I have similar responses to both: an appreciation for particular elements (e.g. that parrot tie, “wilted wool”) with a distaste of the purpleness of the whole.

MCS

Those conversant with bespoke tailors in the US will know the reference is to “Jon” not “John” Green.

Ryotaro

Wholeheartedly agree with Tom on wearing casual summer suits in defiance of the heat, if only on special occasions here in Tokyo where the humidity is brutal. I have a blue linen suit that’s great for summer weddings and lunch at fancy restaurants with my wife.

Out of curiosity, on what points do you disagree with Tom? Personally, I would never wear a seersucker suit because it would stand out too much here and I find darker fabrics more flattering (I’m aware navy seersucker exists but seems like more of an oddity). I’m also less adventurous in my choice of ties, although my collection is no doubt much smaller than Tom’s and so leans more toward the basics.

Ryotaro

Ah yes, I was certain I’d read that quote somewhere but couldn’t quite recall. The answer was right under my nose!

Hal9k

You may want to check out Haspel, even though you’re not in the States. They have a navy/black seersucker and black seersucker. While the lighter colors would be better to stay cool in the direct sun, I can see some merit in the darker varieties.

Robert

Great read. Kudos to Tom for holding the line. I think seersucker is under appreciated. My go-to tie is black grenadine. Less daring than the parrot. I wear the jacket and pants together, rarely separate. I imagine Simon bristling across the pond. Colonial associations indeed!
Colors other than blue are difficult to find in a rtw offering. For those on a budget yearning for the rainbow colors seen in IG posts from Pitti, check out Haspel of New Orleans which has been revived by one of the granddaughters. Seersucker is their jam. FYI the limited Italian fabric runs seem to sell out quickly. Must be a lot of young guys attending garden parties. Really enjoy this series Simon. Keep’em coming.

Hal9k

I have a RTW white/tan seersucker that I really like. I wouldn’t go as harsh as black for a light seersucker suit. I usually go sage green or tan, either in grenadine or shantung. I’ve seen a few white/gray RTW suits, and also all the ones Haspel has to offer (I really need to hit them up one of these days). I have a MTM solid royal blue one that is pretty sharp, too. May wear black grenadine with that one at some point, perhaps. Yes, seersucker is very underappreciated.

As with Simon, my taste for accessories also tends to be a bit more toned down. One stands out enough just by wearing a full seersucker suit, and keeping the rest fairly reserved does a good job of evening everything out. It would have to be a pretty special event indeed to make me wear a waistcoat with it at all, let alone a contrasting one. I do completely agree with the sentiment of busting out the seersucker and linen with reckless abandon, with or without tie.

Robert

@HAL9K.
Good suggestions on the sage green or tan. I will try those. Thanks. Yes, the black can be a bit harsh but like you I fear a more colorful tie is too much. As you said, the suit itself is enough of a visual feast and best to “pull back” a bit. I have seen the midnight blue/black versions both as bespoke and rtw on Haspel site but haven’t pulled the trigger. I was reluctant to mention Haspel (I have no financial interest) but I am a huge ss fan who looked in vain for options other than blue and I wanted to share with others who don’t need a $2K bespoke cotton kick around suit. I stopped hemming the pants and just roll them up with flip flops when grocery shopping in the summer. With apologies to Simon, it’s definitely not “the finest menswear” but I have lots of other more serious bespoke stuff. Seersucker for me is fun. On my to do list is a bumper sticker “Bury Me in Seersucker”. Cheers.

Thomas Mastronardi

Un-hemmed and flip-flopped? I like it. Bravo.

Hal9k

Be sure to make enough “Bury Me in Seersucker” bumper stickers for the rest of us!

The other tie color I almost forgot about was slate blue (grenadine bowtie). Goes quite well with the tan ss. Gray might even work. Of course, I often wear ss without a tie as well. It’s surprisingly flexible.

I agree with you that it’s a travesty that the only place to get something other than blue/white in RTW seems to be Haspel (though my tan one was a Palm Beach through Blue Lion). Otherwise, you’re stuck with MTM or bespoke. Perhaps, with the world not being on “pause” anymore and people wanting to get out and do stuff, more companies might consider expanding their ss color palette. Even double-breasted options might be on the table.

Dan James

A marvellous article and fun to read. I even learnt a new word, ‘contumacious’.
I do think that the argument only really works when you live, work and move around in air conditioning.
The humidity in Japan has finally started to abate and so for the next two days full of meetings, I’ll be wearing a seersucker jacket and linen/cotton trousers with linen shirt and knitted tie on one day and then linen jacket and shirt, wool and linen trousers and grenadine tie the next. If I melt into a sticky, gooey mess, I’ll let you know.

Dan James

Just for the record. Even though it was warmer on the second day, 31 Celsius compared to 28, I was much cooler and more comfortable in the linen/wool trousers, linen jacket and light, cotton shirt.
Granted the rain on the first day may have made it more humid but I am fast becoming most impressed by wool/linen as a material for the summer.
A suit in it would be nice but it is hard to see wearing a suit in the very near future.

Jan

Ha! Largely nonsense from my perspective – except for the point about summer suit fabrics – but very funny and clearly a stylish man with lots of personality. Bravo

Hal9k

Any time I wear a seersucker suit and someone asks “Aren’t you hot in that?”, I point to my female companion and say, “She certainly seems to think so”.

Dan

I live in the Southeast United States. The dog days of summer begin in July and last until sometime early October. During that time, the hot summer is undefeated and I’ve lost every time. No suits for me and even linen sports coat are hot.
On a sidenote, the last few days I was without power, wifi and air conditioning due to hurricane Ida and its aftereffects. I thought I was gonna die as it was miserable. That experience has made me want to wear even less clothing during this hot summer. That experience has made me want to wear even less clothing during the hot summer.
However, to each his own.

And

Fun article, but I cannot help being curious whether he would try “beating the heat” with suit and tie with 40C outside. I definitely wouldn’t, I can barely tolerate it with polo and shorts for a few minutes.

Russ

Any thoughts, Simon, on a half lined merino wool suit as a heat wicking summer garment? Only linen, cotton and seersucker seem to be favoured in the article.

Kenneth

Excellent article and I can relate….had on a seersucker suit with tie this past Tuesday..i have been a fan of permanent style since it began in 2010..enjoy your weekend..peace

Jefferson

I thought I was the only man alive to still wear seersucker and linen suits with a shirt and tie. I live in the summer sweltering U.S. southern plains and rarely see a man wearing a suit, let alone one with a tie. I have found summer weight suit fabrics to be a life saver in the extreme summer heat and humidity where I live. I most certainly appreciate Mr. Mastronardi’s taste and style. This article has given me new food for thought on how I can wear these summer staple suits with a bit more panache. Thank you.

Kenneth

GOOD EVENING JEFFERSON..GREETINGS FROM NY..NO YOU ARE NOT ALONE…. i enjoy wearing seersucker..linen..cotton..had on a double breasted linen suit mustard in color…bow tie…when i have to take care important business..i like to dress up..we are old school..peace

Noel

Excellent article Thomas, it’s nice to hear other perspectives Simon. I’m a big linen fan but less so of seersucker. This article makes a compelling case for it.

Why shouldn’t a jacket be fully lined ? I know it’s technically cooler but I find the difference barely perceptible (I have an unlined cotton jacket, the rest are fully lined). Perhaps that’s because I don’t wear one when it’s above 30C.

Thomas Mastronardi

Yup. Thanks, Simon.

Jan

It probably makes less of difference with cotton than it does with (open weave) wool and other fabrics that breath a bit better