Florals are in full bloom on the racks of menswear departments but, for many gents, the black jacket remains the year-round wardrobe cornerstone. There’s no reason to sweat it, though: some of the world’s most directional designers – celebrated for substantial, dark and often complex tailoring – are taking their serious aesthetic into summer by using lighter and more technologically advanced fabrics.
Rick Owens, for example, is a designer renowned for hardcore, heavily-layered monochrome sportswear that looks like it has been styled for interplanetary space explorers. A new, unlined, sheer silk version of his single-button Island jacket (£1,200), however, is smart, swanky and comes in at bantamweight.
Mark Quinn, of fashion-forward London boutique Hostem, says: “The big brands like Zegna, Attolini, Tombolini, Boglioli and Slowear are creating new and incredibly light fabrics, while the artisanal brands we stock are producing investment pieces that are without seasonal flourishes. Layering is as important as ever but the fabrics are lighter, and the construction more playful, as temperatures nudge upwards.” A perfect example is the long, black Rigatino jacket by Ann Demeulemeester (£780), with its semi-sheer sleeves, subtly-ribbed body and peaked lapels.
It could be worn with jeans, boots and a T-shirt, or dressed up with a white shirt.
A marginally more conservative approach to black summer dressing, and an example of the developments in the Italian market that Quinn acknowledges, can be found in RVR Lardini’s reversible cotton piqué jacket (£460). “They are the masters of the barely-there jacket,” says Mei Chung, menswear buyer for Browns. “And it offers two looks in one: a smart blazer in soft cotton and a super-light poplin nylon field jacket.”
Sam Ledger of avant-garde London boutique Layers, which stocks silk-blend menswear by Damir Doma along with DRKSHDW by Rick Owens pieces in mesh and leather, says for summer texture is as important as weight: “If it’s soft to the touch, it emphasises the garment’s lightness; it becomes almost unnoticeable when worn.” Menswear stylist Julian Ganio is a fan of Craig Green’s new-season unstructured tailoring – sold through Dover Street Market – which uses Alcantara, a synthetic alternative to suede more commonly found in interiors. “It’s a high-tech performance fabric,” says Ganio. “I have one of the jackets and I love it. It has a light weight and a great drape to it. It’s durable, anti-static and you can even machine-wash it.”
Japanese labels are another good bet for spiderweb-weight jackets. This season’s Eco-Pet jacket from Issey Miyake Men designer Yusuke Takahashi (£890) is a masterstroke of concept as well as cut. The cloth is a blend of ramie and recycled polyester, and the textured black pattern looks like supersized seersucker. Its weave is loose enough to let both light and breeze filter through.
Lanvin is seen by many as the go-to luxury brand for tailoring that lets men look smart without adding any heft to an outfit. Its lightweight black blazers can, according to Darren Skey, head of menswear at Harvey Nichols, be worn casually, or “dressed up with a shirt and tie for the office”. Lanvin’s menswear designer Lucas Ossendrijver has, in the past, created double-breasted jackets in the kind of windbreaker nylon usually reserved for the sports track: one-part tuxedo, one-part noir shell suit.
This season, there is a silk cotton jersey jacket with peaked lapels and mother-of-pearl cuff buttons that couldn’t be dressier, or lighter, as well as a range of jackets in state of the art materials. Ossendrijver says: “For the new season we used a lot of bonded fabrics, where two fabrics are fused together so that you don’t need to use a lining. The garments are very light yet their volume is easily sculpted, bringing a hint of newness along with their sophistication.”
If the search for the perfect summer jacket is the quest for something close to imperceptible, then why should men bother?
One answer lies in this season’s range of relaxed, unstructured, monochrome blazers; they give the wearer the confidence of feeling fully dressed, while remaining cool. A black parachute poplin single-breasted jacket by James Perse has a subtly weathered, workwear-influenced texture, which Perse says creates something purposely “less formal and more lived-in”. It is pared-back and basic, fashioned from one of the label’s familiar core fabrics.
For the man who lives in the designer’s luxurious, meticulously-made black T-shirts, it’s an easy sell. As is the charcoal Phillips Blazer by Rag & Bone (£345), with its delicately dishevelled seersucker element. “The combination of linen and cotton makes it the perfect weight to retain its sharp look on hot summer days,” says Marcus Wainwright, the label’s co-founder.
All considerations of formality and occasion aside, there is, of course, one other simple reason why you need a jacket in high summer. That word is: “pockets”.
More of this week’s Style stockists