If there is one fabric that dominates every person’s wardrobe, it is undoubtedly cotton. As a fabric it has been around for millennia – even before the very idea of a wardrobe was but a twinkle in the mind of some savvy carpenter. Taking its name in English from the Arabic word quton, it was first imported to Britain in the sixteenth century by merchants from the Middle East, and has since become the single most popular fabric on earth.
From Japanese fundoshi underwear to robes worn by Egyptian priests to the jersey hoodies we slouch in on our sofas today, cotton is the thread that ties the world’s sartorial history together. Would Western culture in the 20th century be the same without James Dean’s white cotton tee, or indeed without the oxford cotton shirt?
The reason cotton reigns more supremely over our clothes is, when you dig into it, plain to understand. It is more comfortable on the skin than wool; less expensive than silk (and less easily ruined); and unlike linen can be dyed a spectrum of colours. Cotton is washable, breathable, long-wearing, absorbent, comfortable, low-maintenance… the list goes on. In this sense, cotton is perhaps the most modular fabric; the one we can build an outfit with most reliably.
Crucially, cotton also lasts – these are clothes that will age gracefully with you; things you can keep for years and enjoy how their handles soften and yield to you over time until they almost become part of your personality. Consider the simple cotton T-shirt – a marvel of contemporary clothing design, first evolved from underwear to now become the central star around which many of our other clothes orbit.
All cotton is not created equal, of course. When choosing what will be the best investment for your clothing, you want something that look brilliant for a long time. As those familiar with the brand will already know, Studio Nicholson is a dab hand at working with a broad range of cottons, and is somewhat of a master of choosing the cream of the cottony crop.
"Cotton is perhaps the most modular fabric; the one we can build an outfit with most reliably."
Powder cotton is an especially tactile fabric created that’s woven in Italy and is ideal for summer. You’ll find it in the Helix shorts, which sport a deliciously deep hem and look as soft and comfortable as they feel. Powder cotton also makes up the double pleated Yale pant – a nod to Ivy League prep, they could be straight out of the riviera-appropriate costumes in The Talented Mr Ripley. If that piques your interest, also see peached cotton – powdered cotton’s slightly heftier cousin – which you’ll find in the Bill pant, and which is ideal for everyday wear because of its tactility and robustness. Menswear right now has fuzzy boundaries – it’s soft around the edges in every sense – and so this really does feel like the right fabric at the right time.
To add some pomp and polish – perhaps if you’ve a summer wedding or two to plan a suitable outfit for – double cotton has the look and feel of cotton at its very best. You’ll find it on the Conde jacket and Voli pant, which combine to make an excellent tailored look, but can quite as easily be worn more casually as separates.
For something that’s weightier still, get your hands on some raised cotton twill. Studio Nicholson’s Bridges and Tome pants are both crafted from this – the former a volume pant with a single pleat, and the latter a flat-fronted chino-style pant. As well as its durability, the way that cotton twill falls is the draw – it folds softly and pleasantly, giving a silhouette that looks comfortable yet satisfyingly clean. Trousers for life? You’ve found them.