Cotton suit – the most versatile suit

Posted by Atte Rytkönen on 6.9.2015 in General

The cotton suit might be one of the most underappreciated garments in men’s summer wardrobe. Despite that I had for a long time been thinking about getting one commissioned for myself. Today I am taking a look at the result. A suit might sometimes sound like the last thing you want to put on during hot and sunny summer days. There are still many ways to cool down the look and make it appropriate for the weather. First of all by choosing lightweight fabrics and unlined models one can fight the hear. Secondly, different kind of combinations featuring loafers without socks or even t-shirts with a jacket for example can make a difference.

Wearing my cotton suit at the first day of Pitti Uomo 88
On the first day of Pitti Uomo, wearing a cotton suit with denim shirt and midnight blue single-monk shoes. Shot by Robert Spangle for GQ Britain.

The cotton suit

In the beginning of this summer I finally decided to find a perfect cotton suit for myself. I wanted to be able to wear one at Pitti Uomo in June. As there really ain’t many brands offering such suits, especially in that camel color I was looking for, I decided to order my suit as made-to-measure piece from Vaatturiliike Sauma.

Cotton suit is probably one of the most casual expressions of a suit possible. That makes it appropriate for many kind of occasions from summer weddings to casual Fridays at the office. You can also easily break up the cotton suit into separates. For example you can wear a cotton suit jacket with jeans. And probably no-one will even think that the jacket might be a part of a suit. On the other hand cotton suit trousers can be used as normal chinos. And as cotton cloth typically wears cooler than wool that makes it quite useful even on a warm and sunny day.

 

Cotton suit – with and without tie

I wanted my cotton suit to be as versatile as possible. I wanted it to be appropriate to wear with and without a tie and the parts to be suitable to wear as separates in case needed. So I chose a tan (or camel) colored cotton cloth by E.Thomas. In terms of color that makes the suit very easy to combine with different shirts, shoes and accessories. I also had in mind either olive green or light blue but the versatility got me to choose the tan. I wanted a jacket with minimal lining and as unstructured as possible. Other features of the jacket are 3-roll-2 button stance, soft shoulders and three patch pockets. Trousers came with double-pleats and 5,5cm cuffs.

Cotton suit with patch pockets and soft shoulders - perfect for versatility
A cotton suit with a tie for a semi-casual day at the office. If you are going for a meeting, I would change the tie to something a bit more restrained such as dark blue piece made of linen or light weight wool.

Tan is versatile color for a suit. As well as it is for odd jacket and trousers. You can combine it with multiple colors such different shades of blue, brown and green. As usual, the darker the colors of accessories you combine it with, the formal is the ensemble you will come up with.

Monsieur fox pocket square with a cotton suit
Restrained tan colored cotton cloth with a striking contrast by sky blue grenadine tie and printed wool pocket square.

Dress down – wear the suit without a tie

In most cases I don’t wear suit without a tie. Many times if you want to dress down your suit it is better to opt for example a knitted tie than go without a tie. However a cotton suit with such details as I chose for my own suit definitely works without a tie as well. So when you are making those decisions, pay attention the details and to the whole look. In the end the mirror will tell you whether it is alright to go tieless.

Cotton suit without a tie
Wearing suit without a tie can be risky. In case going for that look make sure the suit is casual and unstructured enough and the collar of the shirt is also soft featuring a nice roll.

Cotton suit jacket as a blazer

In case you want to make your suit as versatile as possible,there are a few things that are good to keep in mind. First of all the model, structure, fabric and details of the jacket. There are a few patterns such as pin and chalk stripes I would leave only for business use. Secondly, I would also leave very thin and fine wool fabrics only to be used as a full suit. And if your suit jacket features details such as heavy shoulder structure, flap pockets or even a ticket pocket I would consider very carefully whether the jacket is appropriate to be used as a sport coat.

As mentioned above one of the good features of a cotton suit is that usually the jacket can be worn on its own with odd trousers without anyone even thinking that the jacket might be a part of a suit. This of course with the proviso that there ain’t any of the above mentioned details featured on the jacket.

Denim with cotton jacket

I chose the details for jacket so that it can without a doubt be worn as a sport coat with other cotton slacks than my suit trousers. Actually it can be used even with denim slacks and jeans. And no matter are you wearing a tie or not, the ensemble will be casual but still dressed-up and elegant.

Casual cotton suit jacket as separate
Camel colored cotton jacket combined with dark blue denim slacks and light blue striped shirt. As the color scheme here repeats shades of brown together with cognac colored shoes, I have choses brown knitted silk tie and white cotton pocket square with brown contrast borders.
Camel color suitjacket with denim slacks
It is important to keep the balance between textures and weight of fabrics when combing your jacket and trousers. And then add those little contrast pieces by using the right accessories.
Camel colored cotton suit jacket and a knitted tie
Jacket made of cotton fabric will inevitably get some wrinkles. That is also good to keep in mind in case you decide to shorten the sleeves of the jacket.

 

Soft shoulders and drape of the suit jacket
Suit jacket with patch pockets and soft shoulder structure is much more easier to use as a separate piece in more casual combinations. On the other hand these choices might make the suit (and jacket) inappropriate for most formal and business-related occasions.

 

Cotton suit jacket - details and textures
Cotton cloth might not be the best option to combine with flannel or very fine wool but for example other colored cotton, linen or like in this case with denim it works perfectly.

Cotton suit trousers with a blazer

When it comes to combining suit trousers and sport coats the same above mentioned rules in terms of materials and details apply. Many times suit trousers can actually be much more difficult to combine with sport coats than suit jackets with odd trousers. Especially if there is any kind of a pattern on the suit fabric. Personally I tend to prefer patterned jackets with plain trousers. Combinations of patterned trousers and plain jacket I hardly ever wear. This might at least partly be result of the fact that usually you want people to pay attention rather to your upper body than to your lower body. Therefore trousers in most cases form the soothing part of the package.

For my suit I chose trousers with a bit higher rise, side adjusters instead of belt loops, reverse double pleats and 5,5cm cuffs. And I came up with trousers that actually derogate from most normal ready-to-wear cotton slacks but are still appropriate to be used as odd trousers. Either with a sport coat or even just with a t-shirt for example.

Denim blazer and camel colored cotton

Blue blazer with light colored trousers is one the most classic combinations there is. However you don’t always need to go for that classic blue blazer. For this post here I chose to wear the double-breasted made of indigo dyed Loro Piana linen. And I combined them with the camel colored cotton suit trousers.

Cotton suit trousers and a blazer
Double-breasted denim blazer with camel colored cotton suit trousers.

As you can see here, when you use plain trousers, the attention is focused on the upper half of the outfit. And as the blazer in itself is quite bold featuring wide lapels and three patch pockets it is safe to keep also the shirt, tie and pocket square as plain as possible.

Cotton suit trousers and double breasted blazer

Double-breasted blazer with cotton trousers and knitted tie
Indigo blue, light blue and bottle green – restrained but still effective.

 

Loro Piana indigo linen blazer textures
Vintage pocket square brings that little contrast touch to the outfit.

 

Indigo linen and tobacco botton
This kind of an outfit is pretty much perfect for a semi-casual weekend occasion such as lunch, dinner or a even date for example. Dressed-up but still casual.

Cotton suit and a t-shirt

There are many who consider wearing a t-shirt with a suit inappropriate. However cotton suit which, by definition, is one of the most casual interpretations of a suit makes an exception here. For a casual, hot summer day t-shirt with a cotton suit can be totally appropriate choice. And whereas one should never take his jacket off in case wearing a suit with a tie, with a t-shirt there ain’t such a problem. By taking of the jacket you get a combination of cotton chinos and a t-shirt, i.e a perfect casual summer ensemble.

Cotton suit trousers worn separately
A bit higher rise and double-pleats gives kind of a fresh and personal take to otherwise quite basic combination of t-shirt and cotton trousers.
amel colored cotton suit trousers with sneakers
If you are wearing cotton slacks and a t-shirt you should have no other options as footwear than classic canvas sneakers.
Cotton suit with a t-shirt
Caught by Karl-Edwin Guerre at the party hosted by Swedish Plaza Uomo during Pitti Uomo 88. Dresscode “summer chic”.

Sum up – go for versatility

So in case you want to play safe and want as versatile (summer) suit as possible, my advise would be to choose a plain cotton or linen fabric. Then go for a single-breasted jacket featuring patch pockets (or normal pockets without flaps), minimal structure and soft shoulders. This way you will end up with a suit you can also use as separates. You can use the jacket even with jeans and trousers as regular cotton chino slacks.

And keep in mind that even though cotton suit is more suitable for summer, you can also use it during the colder months of the year. This of course depends on the fact how heavy is the cotton fabric you choose. And what color do you go for. But for example a dark blue, tan or olive green cotton suit is totally suitable to wear during fall. And even winter if you just combine it right. For example I will sure keep using this tan colored cotton suit with roll neck sweaters when the time comes.

And finally, if you are looking for a new cotton suit but don’t want to go for made-to-measure or bespoke, here a few options to check out from different price ranges.

  1. The GIGI
  2. Boglioli
  3. Sartoria Formosa
  4. Suitsupply