Linen is one of the only luxurious excuses we are allowed in which to look dishevelled – but looking relaxed and feeling relaxed are two different stories.
We have to remember that linen, an all-natural fibre, was good enough for mummies. There was a reason it was the perfect fabric, from the Egyptians to the Greeks and Romans. Pure linen can withstand the warmest and most humid climates, and is perfect for India. Beyond that, linen is also antibacterial, antifungal and protects us from the sun and radiation. But are we actually enjoying all of its benefits? These days, to cater to every price point, linen has been cheapened to a level where poor quality is actually giving the fabric a bad name. So, when you are buying a linen shirt or getting a linen suit tailored, here are the five things to be mindful about.
Is it really 100 per cent linen?
Know the purity of your linen. If it is pure, learn that there are different grades and softness. It’s a must to touch and feel the fabric. Ask where the linen is from and understand that while costs might differ according to the region of the fabric, it may not be ideal for you. This is important, as creasing is always a major issue with linen, and knowing to what level that will be a problem will help you to determine the style.
Understand the quality differences in linen blends
Try to stick to natural blends, whether it is cotton/linen or silk/linen. They are more comfortable and much less likely to cling or increase perspiration. Most lower grade blends are linen/rayon and even linen/polyester. Don’t let the linen on the label fool you. Make sure you know what kind of blend it is, and the cost will normally align with the quality.
Linen fits differently. Make sure it fits you well.
We often think linen needs to be loose and comfortable, but a well-structured linen suit can go a long way. Since it is a breathable fabric, make sure it fits you properly. Oversized doesn’t work, because it will look sloppy, and remember – you don’t want to drown your shape in fabric.
It’s a dishevelled look with a purpose.
A creased linen shirt works with jeans. Loose linen trousers work with a fitted T-shirt, but when you are dressed head to toe in linen, be mindful of where you are. It may work on a safari or at the beach, but if you are headed to a boardroom or an indoor wedding, it simply doesn’t work. Make dishevelled a statement, rather than an easy way out.
Look beyond basic linens
These days, every colour is available in linen. Choose a few bold colours, a few pastels and of course the basics (black, white, khaki, olive, navy). Remember the brighter the colour, the less you need to be a walking advertisement for the brand, so try to find shirts without their logo in inappropriate places. There are also some amazing patterns and designs now available in linen. Etro is my favorite brand when it comes to having perfected the statement linen piece. Paisley, stripes, whatever you fancy, it can look regal in linen.
Keep in mind that linen is generally worn in warmer climates, so you are naturally more likely to be sweating. Wearing an undershirt has been long debated with linen. My simple rule is that if you perspire more than the average guy, then absolutely add the layer (choose the same colour, or a neutral colour like heather grey), but if you don’t, leave it at home. The joy of linen comes from feeling relaxed, not constricted – personal comfort is the key.