Between Liverpool Street and Oxford Circus deep underground is Dante's tenth circle of hell: the Central Line.
While many fashion journalists write about this Summer's must-haves and top-tips for men in suits: floral patterns, white cloths, jackets with shorts... few have considered the physical damage done to your sweat glands when on the Central Line. How is the sartorial gentleman supposed to survive the sweltering furnace of this underground layer while wearing a suit fit for work?
I'm a suit tailor for Mullen & Mullen, with many of the suits I make for working professionals - floral patterns, shorts, white cloths, although fun, are out of the picture. In this article, I look at how to choose a suit which will allow you to walk out the Central Line as if it were a mid-spring morning.
1. Wear a light-weight cloth
Suit tailoring is an old business and we talk in yards and ounces. The weight of a cloth - it's thickness, heaviness - is measured as ounces per square yard (a yard is three by three feet). Or, for the metric readers, it can be measured as grams per square metre.
A light cloth will keep you cooler and the difference between a heavy-weight suit and a light-weight suit can be astounding when you wear it. A light-weight cloth is usually 8 ounces (per square yard), and while there's some debate among suit tailors, a heavy-weight cloth is from 12 ounces onwards. Numerically upon reading it doesn't seem that different, but imagine picking a piece of cloth between your thumb and index finger, giving it a good rub and pinch, and feeling how one feels as thin as silk, and the other like a curtain.
When buying off-the-peg suits, many don't consider the weight of the suit. To keep your cool on the Central Line it's imperative. Do you want to wear a jumper or a t-shirt? That's the difference.
2. Forget the skinny suit
Fashionistas will tell you skinny suits look the bomb in the Summer. Fortunately for them, they're not the ones wearing one. Extremely slim-fitting suits stick to the body and cause you to sweat. To keep your body temperature down you need a healthy flow of air between you and the outside and very skinny suits don't allow this. A suit with more room - you can still have it slim fitting - will allow you to move without feeling as if you're wrapped in clingfilm, and leaving your jacket button undone you can prevent heat building up, maintaining your calm.
3. Linen vs cotton shirts: Go for a blend
Linen, the oldest fabric from the linseed plant, is hygroscopic - it absorbs moisture. It can carry up to 20% of its own weight before it starts to feel damp, thanks to its fantastic naturally cooling properties. In the tropics, you'll see linen is the cloth of choice for shirts and jackets, and its permeability allows greater air-flow than cotton.
However, linen creases. It's a stiff cloth that while on one hand is a good thing as it doesn't stick to the body, it's also hard to the touch and doesn't hang as well as cotton. And so the best option is to go for a light-weight, cotton-linen blend. Enjoy the benefits of both fabric types, choose a thin material and alongside your light-weight suit you may be mistaken to believe the Central Line has installed air-conditioning. Ah, we can dream.
4. Suede shoes instead of leather
Leather brogues were originally created for Scotsmen to walk through marshland. Those little holes drilled semi-through the front of the shoe? They used to go all the way to allow water to drain out as the Scot walked. Leather is an extremely resilient material. After treatment, it's brilliant at keeping water out, but that means it's also brilliant at keeping your perspiration in. If you can get away with it in your office, try wearing suede shoes. Suede is lighter, less thick, and more permeable than leather. It'll keep your feet cooler and if a quick spray of Scotchguard will waterproof them against a Summer shower. Alternatively, if suede is a no-no, then try wearing loafers. More roomy than brogues with greater exposure to air, they'll be better at keeping your blood vessels from popping when a thousand tourists get on at Oxford Circus.
5. Perfect positioning on the tube
You've got your light-weight suit, it's loosely hanging but still shaped, you're wearing a thin cotton-linen shirt and suede shoes. That's probably a good few pounds less cloth. You're feeling good but standing at Bond Street platform being edged over the yellow line by the endless pour of Londoners into the station, you look in dismay as the tube you've waited five minutes for is rammed, cheeks squeezed against the glass and hands pressed as if it were that scene from Titanic. It's so full, people have even moved into the centre of the carriage for the first time, ever. What should you do?
Always push your way (with polite grace) to the front end of each carriage, and stand next to the open window. It's at this point which receives the most air flow when the train is going and while everyone else is counting the seconds to their stop, you'll be enjoying (OK, maybe not enjoying, but at least smiling at your ingenuity) the breeze.Suggest a correction