The Under-Appreciated Cotton Suit

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The cotton suit might be one of the most underappreciated garments in a summer wardrobe. Clients of bespoke tailors are often reluctant to commission them because the expensiveness of the labor can feel wasted on such a cheap material. Ready-to-wear manufacturers also don’t seem to stock many. This season, I’ve seen some nice selections by Brooks Brothers and Attolini, but not many more.

I used to dislike cotton suits because of their lack of “give.” If this isn’t clear, think of the difference between sticking your hands into the hip pockets of a cotton jacket vs. a wool one. The wool jacket will have a certain “give” that makes it more comfortable and, I imagine, adds to how well it drapes and moves. However, I’m starting to appreciate cotton’s advantages. For one, a cotton suit might be the most casual expression of a suit possible, which is useful in today’s age, where most men are seen wearing cargo shorts and untucked pineapple print shirts. They can also be more easily broken up into separates. A cotton jacket can be worn on its own without anyone ever having to think you’ve just come from the office, and the trousers can be used as chinos. And of course, cotton typically wears cooler than wool – all things being equal – which makes it quite useful on a warm day.

I’ve been thinking of commissioning one myself, though obviously it won’t be ready in time for this summer. The question is what color to make it. Navy is an obvious choice, though I think wearing navy all the time is a bit stifling. Better to go one shade lighter towards something like this French blue piece by Richard James. It’s a much more stylish color in the summer, if only because it better reflects the cheery mood of the season and adds some variation to one’s wardrobe.

The other options include khaki or olive. Khaki has the advantage of being as summery as French blue, though one ought to take care it doesn’t venture too close to cream. Once it becomes too light in color, I think the material would look better in linen. The third option, olive, is what I’m probably going with, simply because olive suits are harder to pull off in other materials. I’m thinking of getting mine made in a rougher cotton, such as Brisbane Moss’ panama weave, or something with a bit of cashmere blended into it, so that it’s a bit softer out of the box. We’ll see what the tailor advises. 

Note, not all suits pictured here are cotton, but they should give you enough inspiration for one.

(Photos from: Patrick Johnson, The Sartorialist, Drake’s Diary, Tommy Ton, and Journal of Style)  


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