Cotton suits for men: The new wave of suit

There’s a new wave of suits in town, and they’re ready to take over the business suit. Despite their tailored heritage, men’s cotton suits prove that smart needn’t mean uncomfortable, and casual needn’t mean unprofessional. If you’re curious about this stylish menswear must-have, this blog will tell you what you need to know about tailored cotton suits and how to wear them.

Are cotton suits casual, smart, or somewhere in the middle?

We have placed them in the casual suit category, but the cotton suit is a fashion chameleon. On one hand they are ideal for summer parties or dinner with friends but, depending on how you style them, they’re a perfectly acceptable option for work. They exist in that rare, sweet spot between cool sophistication, smart tailoring and casual practicality.

Case in point: our handsome new, khaki cotton suits have a subtle stretch that means you’ll always look sharp yet feel comfortable. In keeping with our design philosophy, we’ve kept things simple with clean lines and high-quality fabric so you can dress them up or down depending on your style.

Why should I invest in a cotton suit?

Even if you don’t wear wool suits often, you’ll get a great deal of wear from just one well-made cotton version. Here’s why:

  • Cotton suits hit the perfect smart-casual note for work. As the world opens up, you’ll need a bridge between your work-from-home uniform of t-shirts and jeans, and your business suit. There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has changed the way we think about fashion and is likely to have a flow-on effect in our workplaces, making them more casual. While some people are itching to get back into a business suit, others have adjusted to a more casual style that they’d like to keep. A cotton suit, bridges the gap nicely and allows you to comfortably transition from a meeting at work to a quick meal at the pub without feeling over or underdressed.
  • Cotton suits are versatile. Unlike their business and formal suit colleagues, a cotton suit can be worn as separates – mix the jacket with jeans, or team the trousers with a knit. Creating outfits becomes effortless, making a cotton suit a very hard-working wardrobe item.
  • Cotton suits are easy to care for and look great. Cotton is cool and breathable but doesn’t crush quite as much as linen, particularly when it has a little stretch. It’s also very comfortable but lighter than wool or cashmere. A cotton suit will still need dry cleaning, but we promise it won’t feel like a chore as you’ll be dying to wear it again.
  • Cotton suits are the ideal outfit for special, but not formal, occasions. If you’ve ever been invited to a special birthday, polo match, casual summer wedding or day-time party, you’ll appreciate how tricky it can be to choose an outfit that strikes a balance between casual, smart/formal and celebratory. Short of calling everyone else who is invited to see what they’re wearing; a cotton suit solves this issue in one sweep. Just throw it on with patterned shirt, or a plain shirt with a quirky tie or pocket square, grab your favourite sunglasses and you’re good to go.
  • Cotton suits can be made in a wide range of rich colours. Cotton works well with natural and saturated colours so you can be braver with your colour choices than with wool. The colour will fade with cleaning, but that only adds to the casual charm. We love green and khaki – it’s underrated and in the right tone you’ll really get the summer vibes going.

What do I wear with a cotton suit?

The simplicity of cotton suits makes them versatile enough to create multiple outfits with the one suit.

Here are just a few of our favourite ways to style a cotton suit:

  • Wear the jacket with a fitted, plain t-shirt (no logos, please) and smart trousers.
  • Wear the jacket with a shirt or fitted plain t-shirt and our San Francisco Dark Jeans.
  • Wear the trousers with a fitted, plain t-shirt (no logos, again) and contrasting jacket like a bomber.
  • Pair the suit with a floral shirt in complementary tones. Our Deep Ocean Navy Cotton Suit looks great with the Goodwood Revival Shirt and a pair of suede loafers or Derbys.
  • Pop on a smarter shirt and tie with a pair of loafers for a quirky informal look. This is ideal for those in a creative field (check out our Instagram account for inspiration)
  • Leave the jacket at home and wear trousers with simple t-shirt or merino knit sweater, leather loafers or clean leather fashion trainers.

You’ll often see the cotton suit, t-shirt and clean white leather trainers combination on social media and fashion magazines. If all items fit well and are high quality it can work, but this is definitely a look for the young or young at heart with a creative soul.

When putting together an outfit, pay attention to the proportion of your shirt or t-shirt in relation to your suit: you want the top half to be as equally fitted as the trousers. Furthermore, if you wear your jacket with another pair of trousers or jeans, ensure the cut gives you a streamlined look.

For outfit inspiration, we recommend looking at how your favourite actors or designers on Instagram style their cotton suits or visit sites with great menswear sections like GQ and Gentleman’s Gazette.

What do I need to consider when buying a cotton suit?

There are a few things to think about when purchasing a cotton suit to ensure it gives you the versatility, style and comfort you’re after.

  • What other items you have in your wardrobe you could wear it with? Aim to have at least three other items you can mix and match your suit with, such as a plain t-shirt, patterned shirt, merino sweater, and of course the right shoes.
  • What colours you wear most often? If you wear mostly neutrals such as grey, navy, black and beige, it’s a safe bet that a navy or beige cotton suit will work well for you. But don’t be afraid to look at complementary colours like khaki.
  • How well does it fit? When you try it on make sure you can sit and move comfortably. Crisp cotton doesn’t drape softly like wool, flannel or cashmere, so suits have to be cut with enough room to move. Never fear though – our clever tailoring techniques ensure you’ll look sleek, not slouchy.
  • When will you wear your cotton suit? Is your cotton suit for work or pleasure? If the former, do you intend wearing it for a special (albeit informal) occasion or for strolling about town and lunching in pubs? Will you wear it during the day or night? This will determine the colour you need: light colours like beige and sand work well during the day, while dark colours such as navy look great at night or at work.

Once you’ve got these points covered, you’ll have a  tailored cotton suit that makes dressing a breeze for dozens of occasions (sounds nice, doesn’t it?).

Alexandra Wood has a collection of elegant, tailored cotton ready to wear suits available online in rich hues such as Navy, Khaki and Sand Dune.

''Tailor of the 21st Century.''

GQ Magazine