When I hear this common misconception, I always ask, “Best for what?” For breathability or eco-friendliness, natural fabrics may have a bit of an edge. However, for functionality such as waterproofing or durability or stretch, a synthetic or blended natural/synthetic definitely wins.
Many people have a strong bias against synthetics and feel that it’s always better to choose a natural fabric. In fact, synthetic science has come a long way and fabrics now are so well manufactured that it can be difficult to tell the difference between a synthetic and a natural fabric. Though polyesters are made from plastic, some man-made fabrics (such as rayon) are made with natural materials (wood pulp or other cellulose fiber). These days it’s not your grandma’s synthetics!
If you’re searching for summer clothing, choosing a fabric with wicking properties, such as knit silk can be an advantage in the heat, but natural fabrics such as cotton retain all the moisture you produce. In other fabrics, it’s more in the way they’re woven that creates a wicking action, taking moisture away from the body and out to the surface of the garment where it can more easily evaporate. In this case, choosing a blended or fully synthetic fabric will keep you cooler and drier longer.
If you’re looking for durability and a good fit, a poly blend in a lighter fabric will keep its shape better over time and if it’s kept light, can also feel cool for summer. The stretch given to fabric by adding a little poly blend can create a better fit and flow than stiffer natural fabrics. If you are sensitive to surface treatments given to clothing (such as sizing), be sure to wash before wearing.
As always, I keep coming back to making the choice that’s right for you – if you favour natural fabrics, give a little synthetic or a blend a try and see how it feels. If you’re always into synthetics, try a natural blend. Keeping cool and dry in the summer doesn’t always have to be with natural fabrics – a little blend can go a long way.