TOP FIVE – Fabrics for Summer

TOP FIVE – Fabrics for Summer
Uncle Otis

Linen

One of the most commonly used fabrics for summer wear and a fan favourite of many, the history of linen has been recorded as far as 36,000 years ago. The word linen derives from the Latin word “Linum” and has traditionally been used to describe something that is made of flax. 

It was widely in Ancient Egypt regardless of social status, it was integral not just for clothing but also for bartering and ceremonial purposes, including mummification, where it symbolised purity and wealth. From Ancient Egypt, the fabric’s journey has continued through history, with the Phoenicians spreading it across Europe around 3000 BC. 

Linen production flourished in medieval Europe, with advancements like the Irish spinning wheel in Belfast, which became a linen hub known as “Linenopolis” during the Victorian era. This textile used historically for garments of religious and royal significance, remains esteemed in the fashion industry, with its noble qualities likened to marble by designers such as Christian Dior.

Linen is renowned for its exceptional strength, high water absorbency, and quick drying properties, surpassing cotton in these respects. It can hold 20% moisture without feeling damp and is stronger than cotton, but it has low elasticity, making it prone to wrinkling. This tendency to wrinkle, along with the softness and patina it develops through wear and washes, is often seen as part of its natural appeal. 

Linen is also naturally antibacterial and effective at eliminating odours, and it is more biodegradable than cotton, decomposing quickly in soil. There are several types of linen fabric, including damask, plain-woven, loosely woven, and sheeting linen, each leveraging the plant’s unique qualities.

Cotton Poplin

Of all the cotton weaves in classic shirts, Poplin is the lightest making it popular for summer months. It is frequently featured in Universal Works’ Spring-Summer shirts. Why?

It is a cotton-based fabric with a tight plain weave making it both durable and hardwearing. The very fine horizontal “ribs” results in a strong, crisp fabric with a silky, lustrous surface. However, this does not compromise its breathability as it is incredibly lightweight and comfortable – perfect for when the air begins to get a bit stuffy.

Poplin fabric, derived from the French word “papelaine,” is a favoured choice for summer garments, renowned for its crispness, durability, and breathability. Its plain weave structure, achieved by crossing fine threads, results in a lightweight fabric suitable for various fibres like cotton, silk, or polyester. 

Originally used for heavier dresses, poplin gained popularity during WW2 for military uniforms due to its durability and thermo-regulating properties. Poplin shirts, with their tailored cuts and diverse collar styles, effortlessly transition from formal to casual wear, making them versatile additions to any wardrobe. Icons like James Bond and Tom Hardy have immortalised the poplin shirt, emphasising its timeless appeal.

Seersucker

From the early 20th century – the art of ‘puckering’ emerged. Far from a mere aesthetic flourish, this technique has become a cornerstone of summer style, allowing fabrics to breathe and dance with every movement, ensuring a cool and effortless elegance.

By delicately lifting the fabric away from the skin, ‘puckering’ creates pockets of air that allow for natural ventilation, ensuring that you stay cool and refreshed even during a heatwave. But beyond its functional benefits, ‘puckering’ adds a touch of whimsy and texture to summer garments, elevating them from mere clothing to statements of style and sophistication. This allows room for air to circulate freely between you and the garment – each move you make wafting a cool fresh breeze like a cotton fan.

Rayon/Lyocell

Rayon is a fabric made of purified cellulose fabrics obtained from wood pulp typically. However, rayon requires chemicals as well to be produced hence being titled a semi-synthetic fabric. 

The most common type of rayon is viscose rayon. Viscose rayon shares similar characteristics to cotton. It is not only breathable but also moisture-absorbent making it popular for outerwear. Lyocell is also another popular form of rayon and it can be seen in denim. Rayon also has wrinkle-free properties and maintains its shape well making it great for packing your dress shirts for business trips and holidays.

Cupro

First invented in the 1900s in Germany, cupro is now solely manufactured by Asahi Kasei in Japan under the trademark Bemberg.

Similar to rayon, cupro is a silky man-made cellulosic fibre often conceived as a more sustainable alternative. With similar qualities to silk, cupro is smooth and drapes just like the luxurious material but is light and breathable like your typical cotton.

Cupro is a “regenerated cellulose” fibre made from cotton waste. It’s made using the teeny tiny silky cotton fibres, known as linter, that stick out of the cottonseed and are too small to spin. The linter is dissolved into a cuprammonium solution, which is a mixture of copper and ammonium, dropped into caustic soda, and then spun into fibre.

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