Remaining stylish and composed when the mercury rises requires a light touch. Just ask Alex Freeling.
Lightness can be a difficult thing to judge. Anyone who has tried to make peace, or a decent chocolate mousse, knows the risks. Put too little energy into it and nothing happens, too much and the whole thing collapses. But get it right and it’s beautiful to behold. Lightness is how a golfer sinks a putt, or a pianist closes a phrase. Great performers seem lighter than air, but their ease comes from years of practice. In front of an audience, lightness is grace under pressure. The rest of the time, it’s a kind of undemanding charm.
I remember visiting Rome at the height of summer a couple of years back. The sun bleached the colour from the streets, driving everything living and sensible into the shade. Two hot weather accessories stick in my mind: the gelato and the linen. Old guys in cafés, businessmen clocking off work, and the wisest of the travellers on the concourse in Termini station all had them. To endure a jacket (or to eat what is essentially just cream) in the Roman summer, lightness is all. This makes tailoring more challenging. In a lightweight garment you don’t have multiple layers of thick canvas to provide structure, so shape has to come from the cutting and sewing. Linens don’t conceal flaws in fit the way heavy flannel can. But the payoff is a jacket that wears cooler than wearing none at all. You feel the breeze but not the sun through it.
For this season, Drake’s has designed a pair of odd jackets in pure linen, one in a shade of wheat, the other a pale brown glen check. In classic Drake’s style, these are three-button jackets rolled into a two-button stance, with a generous, shapely lapel. They have casual patch pockets, and with an eye to the holiday travelling you’ll want to do in them, a patch ticket pocket nestled in the right-hand side. A quality summer jacket like this isn’t stripped of all canvassing, but made with a thin layer, just enough to give form to the chest and shoulders.
It’s not just the unlined body and the minimal structure which grant these jackets lightness, but the whole design sensibility: the subtle colours, the slight asymmetry, and the character of linen itself, with its heathered texture and inevitable wrinkles. Wear them with similarly elegant but relaxed partners: cotton chinos or light denim, a button-down or polo shirt. These are jackets for journeys, for chance meetings, and lunches that run into the afternoon.