2019 Tailoring

At Ease, Gentlemen! The Case for the Cotton Suit

By David Coggins

Jul 13, 2022

At Ease, Gentlemen! The Case for the Cotton Suit

 We've expressed our love of cotton suits before, but it bears repeating. This season we present a pleasingly tactile twill number in a pair of colours. David Coggins dreams of occasions for which he would wear such an item.

Wearing a suit doesn’t have to be hard, and in summer it should be even easier. The cotton suit is a clear-thinking solution, your daily ally for whatever warm weather brings. Think of it as what it is: a pair of chinos with a matching jacket, that’s at home in any sunny outdoor setting.

A suit brings clarity to your wardrobe, and that’s helpful whether you’re attending the French Open or travelling across Greece. Yes, there’s always been romance in the good summer suit and there still is. A cotton suit will quickly become the most versatile part of your warm weather arsenal. You can wear it with a polo shirt and a pair of loafers. This communicates ease with a hint of formality, like drinking white wine at an outdoor café. You are relaxed, refreshed and open to the possibilities of a June afternoon.

A khaki suit is a good background for pattern and color. It plays strongly with graphics, like a striped shirt in a vivid hue. Gingham in any color is a fine choice. You can add a tie and be at home at a formal affair, or unbutton the shirt halfway down your chest if you are spending time in Naples.

I have always liked how a khaki suit works with a simple blue shirt. Depending on your location it goes well with a blue chambray or western shirt. But don’t forget blue linen, or an old dress shirt with a fraying collar. Any oxford shirt you own will look good with your cotton suit. Add a pair of canvas shoes, if you just got off your Vespa or want to look like you did. Or a pair of desert boots if you prefer to look like an archeologist.

A cotton suit, especially one in cavalry twill, is a natural partner for more texture. If you’re familiar with my devotion to knit ties it won’t surprise you that I think they are natural bedfellows. Navy blue if you’re feeling restrained, but something more vibrant if you’re invited to a wedding in Barcelona and want to communicate your commitment to a late night. But any woven tie will look at home with a cotton suit, something that has a tooth to it. You can use a bandana as a pocket square. Or a linen coaster from a hotel on Lake Como.

The most important thing about a cotton suit is to wear it. It’s a useful uniform, which means it can become a default starting point in your wardrobe, a pleasure to put on, not a burden. It improves with wear, it’s not temperamental like linen, or demanding like a fine summer-weight wool. If the trousers lose their crease, so be it. If you’re out in the rain, you’ll survive. If you live dangerously you can even throw it in the washing machine.

Summer is a time for basic pleasures. Food from the grill, cold rosé, gelato that won’t affect your waistline because you’re on vacation. The cotton suit is perfect for summer because it’s an ongoing invitation to keep things simple.

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