This summer, when the mere thought of a wool suit makes you sweat, consider a tried-and-true “beat the heat” alternative: custom cotton suits.
THE TOUCH… THE FEEL…
Dubbed “the fabric of our lives”, cotton earned this label for good reason: Humans have worn cotton garments for 5,000+ years. The cotton suit, particularly in khaki, became a men’s fashion mainstay after the British Armed Forces finally ditched their redcoats in the 1800s in an effort to look more natural in their surroundings. The fabric became even more popular when, after World War II in America, recently returned GIs recognized the value of a material they could dress up or down as the occasion saw fit. Cotton’s versatility took it from military issue to civilian staple — and our suit closets reaped the benefits.
WEAR IT LIKE PROS
A number of Hollywood’s biggest names have embraced cotton and made it their own. From Neil Patrick Harris — “Ted, cotton Suit Up!” — to Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Donald Glover, Ryan Gosling and others, celebrities demonstrate how to make it look good.
SUMMERTIME AND THE LIVIN IS EASY
Summer’s the perfect time to don a cotton suit, as Ella Fitzgerald sang to us. The lightness of the material makes it an ideal choice when the temperature rises. Like linen, cotton delivers summer comfort without sacrificing style. Consider it the Arnold Palmer of suits.
CASUAL. CLASSY. COTTON.
As a general rule, cotton suits will fly anywhere — from the office to the dance floor — that isn’t super formal. Summer weddings, social gatherings and business meetings all fall under cotton’s domain. (Bonus: If you throw a cotton suit-themed party, you get to call it “The Cotton Ball.”)
KEEP YOUR “KOOL” IN KHAKI
When choosing a cotton suit, don’t get too fancy or bold with your color choices. Khaki claims the fabric’s signature, timeless look, but navy, French blue and olive offer impressive alternatives as well. Keep in mind also that cotton naturally resists dye more than other fabrics, so your suit will age with charm.
Cotton tends to wrinkle a little as you wear it, but that’s nothing to get your pants all in a bunch about. A little creasing here and there adds to the casual vibe. The fabric also wrinkles less than its other warm-weather counterpart, linen, and with regular pressing it’ll look good all summer.
MAKE THE LOOK YOUR OWN
When it comes to styling a cotton suit, here are some things to remember:
- You can wear your suit as an ensemble, or as separates. A cotton jacket paired with slacks never fails, and your trousers can easily double as chinos without raising an eyebrow.
- Cotton doesn’t have as much “give,” or stretch, as wool, so you may want a little extra room in the waist and thigh.
- For a more casual look, go single-breasted with notch lapels and patch pockets. You can get by sans tie … and sometimes without a belt, too.
- For a dressier style, go single- or double-breasted with peak lapels. Also, a three-piece cotton suit can produce quite the effect.
- Solid, light-colored dress shirts are always a safe bet.
- Brown Oxfords and loafers pair well with most cotton suits. Generally, you will want to avoid black dress shoes, which can look too formal.
Last but not least, pick a suit that fits your personality. Nothing looks better.