What Are Khaki Suits?
Archetypically, this suit ranges in color from an off-white to a rusty tan. With that said, cotton suits are available in any color under the sun if you buy made-to-measure or bespoke, so you can try other colors like navy or grey if you wish.
We’ll primarily be talking about a classic suit that has a place in most men’s closets: the cotton khaki suit. However, khaki suits are available in other fabrics. Linen is the most popular alternative and often associated with Panama hats.
However, linen is infamous for its wrinkling, which we’ll touch on later. Another option is indeed wool. However, this material is much more suited for colder months or even all-year wear.
Still, for a spring or summer suit that kills, the light-to-medium “khaki” color is a can’t miss option. If you’re looking to explore the khaki suit and its uses, keep reading.
A Brief History Of Khaki
Like so much of the tailored clothing modern men wear, khaki has British military origins.
In late 1846, Sir Henry Lawrence (British Agent to the Governor-general of the Northwest Frontier) along with others raised the Corps Of Guides, a regiment of the British Indian Army that was part infantry, part cavalry and operated around what was the Northwest Frontier.
This is nowadays the Peshawar Valley, and the Corps exists today under a different name: the 2nd Battalion of the Frontier Force Regiment of the Pakistani Army.
The word “khaki” to describe the light tan color it’s associated with has been in use since about the same time.
Though the Corps’ first year saw them without any kind of uniform, it was quickly decided that “drab” (that is, khaki) uniforms would be used. About twenty years later, the British Army adopted widespread use of khaki for colonial campaign dress.
Nowadays, khakis are casual wear for civilians, and the suits made therefrom are more casual variations of their wool counterparts.
When & Why Should I Buy A Khaki Suit?
The cotton suit is typically the fourth or fifth suit a man should buy. Once you’ve covered all your bases in your capsule wardrobe, it’s time to start thinking outside the box (or capsule, as it were). One of the first places we turn is to “seasonal” suits as opposed to “all-season” suits. This is, of course, a matter of geography.
If you live in a warmer climate, or even just a temperate climate where it gets warm a few months a year, a cotton khaki suit is a great option. In fact, if you live in a place like the southeastern U.S. or the Mediterranean, cotton suits are likely a regular part of your rotation.
Why Buy A Cotton Suit?
As we mentioned above, seasonal suits should be next on any man’s list after he’s covered his all-season bases. This is true for men who work in business professional environments especially, and to a somewhat lesser extent for simple suit enthusiasts (like, for example, the entire staff at Bespoke Unit). Even with that said, why not just get a lightweight wool suit in a khaki color?
If we can be permitted a finance metaphor: you want to diversify your portfolio for maximum success. The cotton suit diversifies your suit wardrobe because it’s a bit of a non-standard standard.
Everyone is accustomed to wearing cotton in shirts and trousers, but it has a somewhat different feel when worn as a full suit. It takes time to break in and has a different drape than wool, mohair, or other common suiting fabrics. It’s inherently a bit more casual and has a certain panache that you just don’t get with wool.
You should buy a khaki suit -a cotton one specifically- in the interest of diversification.
A Note On Performance
In the interest of managing expectations properly, we can’t stress this enough: cotton suits will wrinkle. There is no way around this. Like linen, it’s part of the fabric’s character and contributes to its casual presentation.
How To Style A Khaki Suit
Back in July 2017, we had the opportunity to review Henry A. Davidsen, a Philadelphia clothier that makes made-to-measure and custom garments. Mike, who had had a hankering for a proper cotton khaki suit for years, ended up getting one and loving it.
In most cases, a khaki suit is a fun event suit rather than a business suit. Though it’s possible to see them in professional contexts, they’re particularly ideal for wedding receptions, parties, and that sort of thing.
This suit is a perfect example of a traditional cotton khaki suit with some fun details that make it more party as opposed to business: ticket pocket, dark stitching on the buttonholes, and surgeon’s cuffs.
Feel free to branch out from the white and blue shirt box and try some different colors. Pink, a fantastic spring and summer shirt color, pairs beautifully with khaki.
In addition to this, the coat can be worn “odd” and paired with jeans or other dark, contrasting trousers for an even more casual look.
Where To Buy Khaki Suits
Although khaki suits are relatively easy to find, we do have a few recommendations of retailers and manufacturers that offer the best value for money.
Our top 5 khaki suits brands are the following:
- Indochino: Made-to-measure suits with a rich selection of colours and fabrics.
- Black Lapel: More premium made-to-measure suits with a curated selection of high-end fabrics.
- Hawes & Curtis: British Jermyn Street shirtmaker with a regular collection of seasonal suits.
- Brooks Brothers: Classic American suits that focuses on khaki during summer.
- Charles Tyrwhitt: Another Jermyn Street brand with a reliable selection of khaki suits.
If you’re already set as far as your navy and grey suits go, we encourage you to check out your local clothier and pick up a cotton khaki suit. A word to the wise: be sure to select a color that works well with your skin tone!
Wondering where to go next? Check out our other various suit style guides to expand your knowledge even further! Alternatively, check out the following related resources: