JOURNAL
Fresco: Life’s a breeze
Words & photography: Lee Osborne @sartorialee
Fresco is regarded as the quintessential cloth for travel, and for good reason
You’ll no doubt be familiar with the term fresco when describing elaborate Italian ceilings, such as those painted by Giotto in The Basilica di Santa Croce close to our base during Pitti Uomo. But in menswear terms, we are of course referring to a particular type of cloth of the same name. Fresco from the Italian word ‘fresh’ was first developed and patented by one of our famous brands, Martin Sons & Company back in 1907.
In promotional literature released at the time, Fresco was described as “untearable, of fast colour, and of lasting wear. It will not shrink or crease, and it can be cleaned without detriment to the freshness or shapeliness of its appearance, and is equally suitable for gentlemen’s or ladies’ wear”. Connoisseurs will argue that it is not completely crease-free, more crease-resistant, because of the use of high twist yarns and certainly doesn’t crumple in the same way that linen tends to do. As well as being springier than your average two-ply worsted yarn, Fresco yarns have a slightly rougher, more crisp hand feel.
In its application for the patent, the manufacturer explained that, in a worsted cloth woven with the ordinary double or single threads, the threads were liable to flatten under pressure, closing up the small interstitial openings left in weaving, “but, according to this invention, we twist together a double and a single yarn, producing thereby a thread for both warp and weft which, when woven into cloth, retains its roundness while the cloth is in wear, and we thus prevent the closing of the said openings and attain the said object”, in true 1900s speak. It is a porous, breathable and extremely comfortable fabric - in terms of its breathability, you only have to hold the material up to the light to see the tiny gaps, which cleverly, don’t allow the garments worn beneath to show through. Light though it may be, it’s important to note that Fresco is just as durable as worsted or tweed.
"As well as being springier than your average two-ply worsted yarn, Fresco yarns have a slightly rougher, more crisp hand feel."
Don’t be too constrained by the seasonality of cloths though. Just because Fresco has gained a reputation as a summer cloth, doesn’t mean it’s redundant for the rest of the year. Even in winter, the majority of Europe’s transportation systems are centrally heated, meaning you are never too cold on the daily commute - often a degree or two too hot. Some sartorially inclined gents swear by Fresco all year round - because it can easily be layered with a cashmere gilet for instance, or topped by an all-wool topcoat.

The Fresco III Collection

The Fresco Lite Fancies, Fresco 2 & 3 Ply Collection