With a solaro suit you can create a relaxed, casual, chic and even slightly arrogant look. It is an unconventional but not too flamboyant choice. A light colored solaro suit makes a great option for casual and business casual occasions and is in fact quite easy to dress up or down.
I personally just have one solaro suit in my rotation. It is a ready-to-wear piece made by Italian Lubiam under their L.B.M 1911 label. In this post I have two different kind of looks to showcase “how to wear the solaro”. With and without a tie.
The solaro fabric in a nutshell
Briefly, the solaro fabric is usually made of wool or cotton. Though nowadays you can also find solaro suits and jackets made for example of wool, cotton and silk blend. The fabric is made with an open weave, and usually with a herringbone pattern. This is basically done to allow the air and breeze to pass through the cloth and cool the wearer. The cloth’s warp is beige in color, with a red weft to reflect sun rays away. This is why solaro is considered as an excellent fabric for spring and especially summer season.
You could also say that Solaro is a kind of chameleon. It can changes its color depending on the strength and direction of light source. Usually you can see shades of beige, green and red. Or a combination of all of these. And this is what makes solaro quite a unique fabric.
History of solaro
Then just a couple of words about the origins of the fabric. In the first place the solaro was born at the dawn of the 20th century by the Brits. It was invented based on the assumption that the red color would repel the radiation caused from direct sunlight. So the birth of solaro goes all the way back to the era of colonialism of the Tropics. As the climate conditions in tropical areas were harsh, the Brits needed ways to protect the colonizers from dreadful tropical diseases. And they believed that new fabrics and garments could protect them.
The man who invented the fabric was Louis Westenra Sambon. After his studies on the skin of the colonized populations, he came up with the conclusion that the darker pigment was better able to block off the UV rays coming from the sunlight. But as the colonizers did not have the darker pigment on their skin, they needed another way. And naturally clothes were the obvious choice.
And as most of you know, light fabrics retain less heat than dark fabrics. But if you are a soldier you can’t really wear white garments. Unless you have winters like we have here in Finland. But not in the tropic. So they needed a light but not white color. And they came up with khaki green. A choice that was light but also appropriate for soldiers to wear. Finally Mr. Sambon added a red layer to cloth which he thought would help the fabric to repel the UV rays even better. That’s how the solaro was born. If you want to read more about the history of solaro, check out the article by Arianna Reggio at Styleforum or the article “European cloth and Tropical skin” by Ryan Johson.
The patented solaro fabric
The most common fabrics used to create solaro are pure wool twill and yarn-dyed gabardine. But the original and patented solaro fabric was and is still made of wool. And even today it is made in England, produced by Smith Woollens which now is part of Harrisons.
The weight of the original wool solaro fabric is 310 grams. It is in a tan/olive colored and features a herringbone pattern. The fabric also features an underside woven with brick red yarn. This characteristic detail produces an iridescent sheen that is most evident when the light hits the fabric at a specific angle. This is why the fabric can look reddish in certain lightning.
The solaro suit – casual option most appropriate for summer season
Solaro suits and sport coats are in principle quite casual. If you work in an office with stricter dress code, solaro is usually off the limits. So I wouldn’t wear it for those board meetings but otherwise I consider it as a good option. Even for office environment. Especially solaro is a good choice for those who think that even the classic navy suit is too much. I have said that cotton suit is probably one of the most casual expressions of a suit possible. In my opinion solaro comes close to that. And naturally if your solaro is made of cotton, it is covered by both definitions. And therefore definitely quite casual. And for sure it is a great choice to create simple yet chic summer looks.
As most cotton suits, solaro as well is a choice for summer season. And even though you would go for wool solaro, it is still at its best during warmer months. The light color and construction of the fabric just make it to be that way. This naturally varies depending on the country and climate you live in. My brother just moved to Muscat and I believe he could wear solaro around the year. But if you happen to live in a country where you have proper fall and winter, put your solaro into to the storage for those seasons.
Solaro and denim makes a good pair
One of my favorite combinations for casual days and occasions is my camel colored cotton suit with a denim shirt. So my first thought was try the same with this suit. And well, the result is good. Really good in fact. In general you should pair the solaro suit with shirts with soft collars and muted colors. Denim blue, white and light blue are naturally good options. Or you can go for the striped shirts. So my recommendation is to play with the usual suspects. And if you want to try something else, go with dark blue or olive green.
In terms of footwear, suede is a good choice. Suede loafers especially. And for those most casual combination, a classic pair of canvas or leather sneakers will do the trick.
What accessories to wear with a solaro suit?
Then another look, this one with a tie. This is a look I wore for work for a day when I had a couple meetings but nothing really formal. To keep the attire in balance, I chose a striped shirt and a dark brown shantung tie. Finally a brown wool-silk pocket square and the same brown suede tassel loafers. And this is one example of what accessories you can wear with a solaro suit.
I personally think that the light colored solaro suits and jackets are at their best when you combine them with warm colors and dark shades. This applies especially to accessories. This means colors like burgundy, dark shades of brown, burnt orange and bottle green. If you decide to wear a tie, don’t go for bright colors. The solaro fabric itself is quite unconventional so I would suggest to keep the rest of the look rather restrained.
Wearing dark and warm colored accessories also brings contrast to the outfit. If you don’t wear a tie and you go for the denim shirt, the contrast is already there. But if you decide to wear a tie, you usually choose a white or some striped shirt. Or at least I do. And I suggest that to you as well. Therefore choosing a pocket square or a tie with darker shades simply brings this little and needed contrast.
For a couple of years solaro has now been trending among menswear enthusiasts. And I believe that during the next couple of years we will see even more of it. And why wouldn’t we. As mentioned, with solaro you can create a relaxed, casual, and even slightly arrogant look. As a sum-up just a a few points why a solaro suit is a good addition to your summer wardrobe:
- It’s unconventional but not too flamboyant. You can wear it for work or for a party without immediately becoming the focus of attention.
- A solaro suit looks good on everyone, despite your skin tone.
- You can easily dress your solaro suit up or down. And you can wear it as separates. At least the jacket.
- It makes a great option for casual and business casual occasions. Even though your workplace would be too casual for that classic two-piece navy suit, you can wear a solaro suit
Updated 7 / 2019.