Cotton Suits: The Pros & Cons
June 19th, 2015
It’s almost officially summer, which means it’s time for some fabric changes in the ‘ol wardrobe. Put away the wools, flannels, and cashmeres until Fall, and break-out the linens, silks, and cottons. As you might already know, I love a cotton suit. The casual nature of pure cotton fabric makes for a versatile garment that can easily be dressed-up or dressed-down and is perfect for the laid-back vibe of summer.
Cotton Suit Pros
- It’s lightweight. Keep in mind that cotton, like wool, comes in a variety of weights – from super light shirting cotton, to stiff and sturdy outerwear cottons. Even denim, corduroy and moleskins are technically cottons. For a summer suit you want to look for a smooth chino in the 7-8 oz range.
- It breathes well (although not as well as linen or tropical wools and frescos). You definitely want to go without a lining.
- Similar to linen, it’s casual in nature and has a slight “rumple” effect that has a certain nonchalance that is sexy in the summertime.
- Cotton is cheaper and more accessible than wool, which is why cotton suits always seem so affordable, compared to wool.
- Cotton comes from a plant, rather than an animal, for all you hardcore vegans and vegetarians out there.
- Investing in a well-tailored cotton suit is also investing in a well-tailored Spring/Summer blazer, and a perfect pair of go-to chinos. No suit works as well as separates than a pure cotton.
- Cotton looks more natural in lighter colors. If you wear navy and grey wool suits all year, cotton gives you a chance to lighten things up a bit, with something like a dusty khaki, faded olive, or warmer tone of blue.
Cotton Suit Cons
- Cotton has very little flexibility and no natural stretch. For this reason, cotton suits can feel a little tighter and more restrictive than wool suits cut to the same measurements. A good tailor (or perhaps, a great tailor) will know to add 1/4″-3/8″ allowance in specific areas to allow for added range of motion and comfort.
- Depending on the color, cotton can easily show water marks or moisture. If you’re a heavy sweater, I would avoid a light color that gets noticeably darker when wet.
- If the cotton fabric wasn’t properly pre-shrunk, you could experience some shrinkage after having it cleaned and pressed. A decent manufacturer should take into account the tendency for cotton to shrink, and pre-treat the fabric accordingly.
- In overly conservative business environments a cotton suit can seem a little too leisurely.
- Over time, cotton will show wear and tear more than wool. This can be a good thing if you’re into breaking-in your items and showing some character (like cotton jeans). But it can be a bad thing if you’re expecting the suit to bounce back to full-life after a quick steam, like a wool suit would.
From the Archives
Now, here are some examples of 100% pure cotton suits in action, from the AoS archives. I hope this provides some inspiration, or at least some context to the pros and cons listed above.
Remember, you can always browse the AoS library of outfits by Season, Occasion, or ClothingItem using our interactive Style Guide.
The Navy Cotton Suit
The Washed Khaki Cotton Suit
The Olive Cotton Suit
The French Blue Cotton Suit
Shop: Cotton Suit
Yours in style,
Photography by Alex Crawford.