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Style May 17th, 2024

The Ultimate Guide To The Khaki Cotton Suit

Style May 17th, 2024

Everything you need to know about the khaki cotton suit.

There’s a lot to love about a khaki cotton suit. It’s classic. It’s versatile. It’s light and breathable. And there are myriad ways to style it. In fact, I’d go so far as to call it a must-have spring and summer suit for any man.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at everything related to the khaki cotton suit. There’s a lot to cover so let’s just get right to it!


A Very Brief History Of Khaki

Like a lot of menswear, khaki’s origins are military in nature and based on practicality. To find it’s roots, we travel with the British Army to India during the mid-19th century. At the time, soldiers wore bright white uniforms, which they found not only uncomfortable in the quite hot Indian climate, but also easily noticeable, making them easy targets.

In order to solve for both of these problems, the soldiers began dyeing their uniforms with a heady mixture of tea, curry, and mud. The result was a dusty, earthy color that proved much better as camouflage in the Indian landscape. The new uniform color was dubbed “khaki,” which is a Persian word that means “dust” or “earth.”

A Boer War-era period post card showing the popular new khaki colored uniforms.

The British Army officially adopted this new khaki uniform by the time of the Second Anglo-Afghan War in 1878 and the world took notice of the uniform’s practicality and effectiveness. By the early 20th century khaki became the standard color for military uniforms in a variety of Western countries and widely used by soldiers on all sides during World War II.

Following the end of World War II, as often happens, these uniforms — or at least versions of them — found their way into civilian attire. Since then, khaki has become an extremely popular color for a plethora of garments, from suits to sport coats to the iconic casual khaki cotton trousers.


Are Khaki Suits In Style?

A khaki cotton suit is a classic piece of menswear. And you know what they say about classics, right? Right, they never go out of style. So to answer the question “are khaki suits in style?” — yes, khaki suits are most certainly in style. Full stop.

Should You Own A Khaki Cotton Suit?

The fact that I’ve devoted an entire post to the khaki cotton suit should be your fairly obvious answer to the question above, but just in case it’s not clear — yes, I recommend owning a khaki cotton suit. However, there is a little bit of a caveat to that. I’ll clarify.

A khaki cotton suit should not be the first suit you buy. There are other suits better suited — sorry, not sorry — to being the initial trophies you add to your closet. If you approach building a classic menswear wardrobe methodically, you’ll want to start with a navy suit and a gray suit in a perennial, or “four season,” wool. These are the suits that will have you covered for pretty much anything at any time during any season.

Once you’ve covered the basics, then it’s time to start thinking seasonally.


What “thinking seasonally” means in a menswear context is fabric. Different fabrics are better suited — sorry, I can’t help myself — for different seasons. Fall and winter are for flannel, tweed, and cashmere. Spring and summer were made for hopsack, fresco, linen, and yes, cotton.

Flap pockets are a more conservative approach to jacket styling.

Simple styling playing off the brown earth tones.

A notch lapel is the best choice for a khaki cotton suit jacket or sport coat.

When considering which seasonal suits to add first, it’s best to think about when you like to (or find yourself needing to) dress up most often. For me, although I love spring and summer suiting, I have a real soft spot for colder weather tailoring, which means my next purchases were a tweed suit and a flannel suit. However, knowing I needed to have something for the spring and summer, a khaki cotton suit was next on my hit list. You can see some of my earliest posts featuring a khaki cotton suit to the right (if you’re on desktop) or below (if you’re on mobile.

But whether you’re a warm weather or cold weather tailoring guy, it’s my position that, again, if you’re building a classic menswear wardrobe methodically, that a khaki cotton suit should be the third, fourth, or fifth suit you add to your closet.

And here are four specific benefits to doing just that.

Benefits Of A Khaki Cotton Suit?

Now that we’ve established that a khaki cotton suit should find it’s way into your wardrobe at a relatively early stage, let’s answer the logical follow up question of why you need one by exploring four of the suit’s benefits.


Casual and suit aren’t two words you usually put together. It can seem a little oxymoronic to do so. However, there is quite a range of formality even within the realm of suits. Color makes a difference — darker appears more formal, lighter more casual — but fabric plays an important role as well. With a khaki cotton suit, you’ve got the lighter color and the more casual fabric, which gives it a more relaxed look and feel overall. Perfect for those who like the idea of wearing a suit, but not the idea of being overly formal.


Cotton is a breathable fabric. And if you’re suiting up in warmer weather, breathable fabrics are the ones you want. Breathable doesn’t just mean that it’s allowing your body to breathe, it also means that air can flow freely through the fabric, which helps to keep you cool and dry. Combine that with a half-lined or unlined jacket and you’re golden. Be aware that cotton suiting does come in different weights. Choose a lighter weight to keep cooler.



Khaki is a neutral color and, as such, it’s very easy to pair with a variety of different colors. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a color that doesn’t work with khaki. Additionally, because of cotton’s more casual, relaxed, and maybe even a bit rugged appearance, a khaki cotton suit is extremely easy to dress down. I personally love wearing denim shirts and gingham shirts with it to play into that casualness a bit more. (Though, as you can see, I’ve chose to dress it up for this post.)

Strong Separates

Also related to a khaki cotton suit’s versatility is the fact that it is one of the easiest suits to break into separates. So not only are you getting a great standalone suit, but you’ve also got an amazing spring and summer sport coat as well as one of the best pair of year-round trousers you can find.

Two things to note if you’re considering a khaki cotton suit and do want to break it into separates. As the jacket alone is more casual, I would consider styling it with patch pockets. Although I’m wearing the full suit with flap pockets here, I do have a sport coat with patch pockets. But there’s nothing saying you can’t wear it separately with flap pockets — I’ve done it.

And while I typically get my suit trousers with side adjusters, again, because it’s more casual and I like to wear the pants separately, I would go with belt loops — I also think a cotton suit with side adjusters looks just a bit odd.



Although there are many benefits to a khaki cotton suit, there is one thing to be aware of. I wouldn’t call it a drawback, but cotton is a fabric that wrinkles easily. For me, it adds to the suit’s charm and signifies that you’re actually wearing your clothing. But I know that’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Is there anything you can do? Yes, embrace the suck.

What Goes Well With A Khaki Suit?

Since a khaki cotton suit sits in that holy trinity of classic menswear colors — blue, gray, and brown — it’s an incredibly versatile suit that is easy to pair with a wide variety of shirts, ties, and shoes. Here’s a quick list and some picks to help inspire you.


To be honest, the sky is pretty much the limit when it comes to the question of what shirt goes with a khaki suit. One of the best things about a khaki suit is that it’s versatility ensures that whether you want to dress it up or dress it down, well, you can do that and since khaki is a neutral color, almost any color will work with it.

When choosing a shirt to pair with a khaki suit, the primary consideration is how you intend to style and wear it. If you’re dressing it up, a poplin shirt is a great choice. White and light blue are no-brainer shirt choices but I also like pink paired with khaki as well — a wonderful nod to the lighter and brighter colors typical of the spring and summer.


Now, because as I mentioned above that a khaki cotton suit is a more “casual” suit option, that means you also have an opportunity to wear more casual shirts with it. Some of my favorites are denim and chambray as well as gingham.


Once again, because of the khaki cotton suit’s versatility in terms of color, there aren’t really any “bad” options for the common question of what tie goes with a khaki suit. You can play it safe with solids, be a little more preppy with stripes, or go wild with a bold pattern. It’s completely up to you!

The one thing that you should definitely pay attention to, however, is the fabric of the tie. Because cotton is a more casual fabric, your tie fabric should play well with it so you don’t create a clash. Shiny silks are most certainly out. Instead, opt for grenadine, a silk knit with a squared-off cotton, cotton, linen, or shantung.


What shoes go with a khaki suit? Great question. To be honest, any style of shoe will do — Oxfords, derbies, penny loafers, suede loafers, tassel loafers, double monks, single monks, and even sneakers — it just depends on the overall vibe of your styling.

In terms of color, I prefer to stick to brown for my dress shoes and white or off-white for sneakers. Just don’t ever wear black shoes with a khaki cotton suit. The menswear police will find you wherever you are . . .

The He Spoke Style Khaki Cotton Suit

The most important part of any suit is the fabric and we’ve chosen one that is buttery soft with just a slight bit of give, which makes it great for traveling and will help (somewhat) with the inevitable wrinkling.

I’ve styled the jacket quite classically — two-button, notch lapel, flap pockets, double vent, and half-lined for added breathability. As mentioned above, if you plan to make use of the jacket as a separate — or simply plan to wear the suit more casually — I would highly recommend choosing patch pockets. Thankfully, each one of these details is customizable when ordering.

The trousers are done with belt loops rather than my usual side adjusters for two reasons. First, it’s more casual and second, it makes the trousers more versatile as a separate. I did stick with a two-inch cuff though, again, if more casual is what you’re after, you may consider a plain bottom instead for more of a classic effect.

My Styling

For this particular post, I decided to style the suit in a more dressed up manner. It was a somewhat unintentional throwback to one of the very first posts on the HSS website featuring a khaki cotton suit, published nearly 11 years to the day!

I’ve kept it very classic with a white poplin shirt, brown striped tie, and white pocket square. Rather than lace-ups, however, I decided on a pair of double monk straps. Some days you’re just feeling them, you know?

This would be a great look for any kind of spring or summer event, and would be particularly well-suited — here we go again… — for a spring or summer wedding whether you happen to be a groom or a guest.

The Bottom Line

A khaki cotton suit is a classic and versatile addition to any modern gentleman’s wardrobe. It shouldn’t be your first or second suit, but should definitely figure as a third, fourth, or fifth. Because of it’s more casual style due to the cotton fabric, it’s versatile and can be worn at a variety of occasions, from business to business casual to date nights and weddings. And don’t forget that not only do you have a great suit, but you’ve also got a perfect spring and summer sport coat and a workhorse pair of trousers.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Brian Sacawa

Brian Sacawa is the Founder of He Spoke Style and one of the original men’s style influencers. Since 2013, his goal has remained the same: to provide men the advice and inspiration they need to dress well, develop their personal style, and gain more confidence. Brian’s interest and passion for men’s style and luxury watches has led to his writing for The Robb Report, The Rake, and Sotheby’s and he has been quoted on menswear in publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal,, Brides Magazine, and the Huffington Post. He lives in the woods north of Baltimore with his wife, Robin, kitties Nick and Nora, and German Shepherd/Collie mix Charlie.

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Photography by Rob McIver


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