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What is “Solaro” Fabric?

We just talked about cotton weaves for custom shirts last week, and we’re still on a bit of a fabric kick. Always fans of the esoteric minutiae that surrounds menswear, we thought this unseasonably warm weather warranted a chat about Solaro. What is Solaro fabric? What makes it so special? Perhaps most importantly, should you consider making a suit out of Solaro?

Solaro Fabric Overview

close up of solaro fabric
Close-up of a solaro fabric.

“Solaro” is the name of a particular type of worsted wool fabric. It’s recognizable for its distinct color and iridescence. At first glance, it might read as a traditional khaki-colored suit. Upon further inspection, you’ll notice various colors – tan, brick red, and olive green are all in the palette, and the iridescent nature of the cloth is such that the colors go into and out of focus depending on how the light hits it. When looking at a swatch, the underside is a conspicuously different color than the top side. It’s truly a gorgeous cloth, better suited to someone wearing a suit because he wants to, not because he necessarily needs to.

front and back of solaro cloth swatch
The top side of the cloth is tan, the underside is red.

Its origin, like much of modern menswear, is in late-19th to early-20th century British military use. Invented in 1907 by Louis Westenra Sambonn of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, it’s an exercise in what hindsight tells us is misguided logic. Its first application was as a technical fabric to protect soldiers from the sun’s UV rays, which were thought to cause mental illness and physiological disorders. British troops used the red side to cover their helmets and the beige side for clothing.

As it’s simply wool, it obviously does nothing to protect against UV rays. Regardless, Solaro made its way into civilian closets. Smith Woolens has been the exclusive manufacturer of Solaro since 1931, though there are other cloth mills that produce a nearly identical product of comparable quality. Solaro is, therefore, both a sort of brand name and a type of fabric. In this sense, you could say that champagne is to Solaro what sparkling white wine is to solaro. Note: we use “solaro” in this post as a fabric type, not a brand name.

How Solaro Cloth Is Made

gianni agnelli in solaro suit
Former Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli in a solaro suit.

Solaro achieves its look as a result weaving brick red and light olive green yarns together, often in a herringbone weave. The overall color effect is rich and complex, and its iridescence is charmingly subtle. You’ll see hues of red, green, tan, and or even orange depending on the light. Sometimes there’s a hint of a purplish hue present – a solaro suit is at once serious and whimsical, a difficult balance to strike.

How To Wear Solaro Fabric Clothing

man in white shirt and solaro suitIts intent was to reflect the sun, so it makes sense that solaro is a fabric best worn when it’s warm outside. It’s essentially a complex, artsier take on a simple khaki suit, so you can use that as a jumping off point. Solaro suits are fantastic with white, blue, pink, lavender, and even light green shirts. Brown shoes work easily with solaro, but even blue or green shoes would be an aesthetically sound, if bold, statement. Avoid black shoes with solaro.


Our 2021 holiday packages can be redeemed up until March of 2022 – the perfect time to order a spring suit. Why not make it out of solaro cloth? Feel free to give us a call at 215-310-0219 or email info@henrydavidsen.com to get in touch.

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