The Fabric Series, Pt. V: Silk
We’ve been through quite a few different types of cloths in our Fabric Series. No such series would be complete, however, with the exclusion of silk. Of the many fabrics that we offer, silk is one of the most luxurious. Its delicacy and shine make it one of the more lustrous fabrics in the suiting world, and its versatility allows it to be used in many different iterations.
WHERE DOES SILK COME FROM?
Silk is a natural protein fiber that comes from, you guessed it, silkworms. It’s shiny because the fibers have a triangular prism-like structure, which allows it to refract incoming light at different angles and change color slightly while it’s doing it. Many imitation silks such as viscose and acetate, while less expensive and arguably less luxurious, are stronger than natural silk and are thus used for invisible parts of clothing.
Like mohair, silk is rarely used by itself when made for suitings or jacketings. Often it’s combined in a 50:50 ratio with wool, linen, or mohair to add strength to what is a relatively delicate fabric. The luxe delicacy of silk blends lend themselves well to formalwear and warm weather clothes.
Men’s accessories are very popular in their silk versions. Silk pocket squares are great for their ability to “puff” elegantly out of your breast pocket, and we’d be hard-pressed to find a man reading this article who hasn’t ever owned a silk tie in his life. Linings in both jackets and pants are often made of silk or silk substitutes, and a pair of braces made in silk is a joy to wear.
SHOULD I BUY SILK CLOTHES?
Not to sound too much like a lawyer, but it depends (no offense to our clients and readers in the legal profession). If you’re talking about silk pocket squares and handkerchiefs, yes, by all means by some right now. If you’re talking about shirts, the answer is no, don’t buy any ever.
Jackets and suits, on the other hand, fall somewhere in the middle. If you’re just starting to build a wardrobe that’s functional and versatile (like a capsule wardrobe), we recommend that you avoid silk and stick with basic all-season wools. If, on the other hand, you have a wide election of basics and are getting into more intermediate and advanced wardrobe building, by all means invest in a summer jacket or two made with some silk. Every man needs it to start off, but no man can live on wool alone.