Chris writes: I mostly wear jeans and chinos, but I’m slowly working my way towards a more work-appropriate wardrobe. As such, I want to pick up another pair of wool trousers, but I already have grey flannels (though they don’t fit very well). Would you recommend I buy another pair of flannels, a tropical wool, or a four-season wool? Due to a limited budget, I probably will be only getting one pair for the foreseeable future.
If this is your second pair of dress trousers, and you don’t see yourself buying another pair any time soon, then you probably want something that will work year round. This will partly be determined by their weave, material, and weight. Fabrics with very open and porous weaves, such as tropical wool for example, will leave you freezing for half the year, and materials such as cashmere will be too warm during the summer. Choose something that’s neither too densely or openly woven, and made from pure wool.
There’s also the weight to consider, though this is less important than the weave or material. A standard medium-weight cloth is between ten to eleven ounces. Those above are considered heavy; those below light. Depending on the weave and material, most people consider mid-weight wools to be year-round fabrics, and generally wearable in all but the most sweltering of environments.
As soon as you can, however, I encourage you to switch to seasonal fabrics. You’ll get a more varied and stylish wardrobe, as nothing is better than when your clothes reflect the season’s mood. Tweed for the fall, linen for the summer. You’ll also find that once you can play around with the weave and material, you can wear slightly heavier fabrics. Heavier cloths feel better, drape more beautifully, and lay smoother. They’re much more elegant and should be favored any time they can be worn.
Plus, since few places in the world have true temperate climates all year, “year round” wool fabrics are often just too hot in the summer and too cool in the winter. For now, you can throw wool long johns underneath to get by in the winter, but get some seasonal trousers when you can.
In addition to their weight and warmth, you’ll also want to consider durability. Since you’re not planning to buy another pair of dress trousers soon, you’ll need these to last as long as possible. As lovely as woolen flannels are, they’re not very durable, so they shouldn’t be worn every day. If you really want flannel, get worsted flannel instead woolens. These will have a visible diagonal weave at their base and wear a bit harder. There are other worsteds to consider as well – gabardine, nailhead, sharkskin, etc. Which you choose is a stylistic choice. Whatever you choose, however, avoid wools with a “Supers” number above 120, as these will wear out a bit too quickly for you.
Finally, there’s color. For your second pair, there’s really only one choice: a solid mid-grey wool. These will go with almost anything.
If I were choosing for myself, I would go with these Tasmanian wool or pick-and-pick trousers from Howard Yount. For something a bit more silky and lightweight, he also sells these 9 oz four-season wools.