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I have been looking to have a white dinner jacket made for the tropics, and I came across this passage from An Affair with Africa, in which the author, a young colonial officer about to go on his first posting to Tanganyika goes to a tropical outfitters in London, Baker's of Golden Square:

"In the clothing department, a clerkly attendant drew attention to an assortment of spine pads - obsolete and ludicrous even in 1952 - and solar topees or 'Bombay bowlers'. These two were faintly risible relics of an earlier age; yet they were, I believe, uniquely comfortable, extremely light of weight and well-ventilated. And even then they were part of the wardrobe of expatriate officialdom in those territories - Kenya and Bechuanaland for example - where uniforms were regularly worn ... I was gently pressed to buy a white dress uniform, sun helmet and sword, bush jackets and baggy shorts, and a 'sharkskin' dinner jacket, but ended up with a white drill dinner jacket, a cummerbund, a budget-priced Palm Beach suit which was to last me the next ten years, and the snake-bite outfit."

I imagine the drill dinner jacket would probably be like a white naval mess jacket, completely unlined and unstructured, and the 'sharkskin' would be a structured, lined jacket. But exactly what is 'sharkskin' made of, and why was it used for tropical dress suiting? I am aware of the look of contrasting coloured threads in dark sharkskin fabrics, but why would one use it in white?
 
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