Not long ago, I upgraded to linen sheets instead of the standard X times 1,000th count of cotton sheets. The reason: I was done with the silky smooth texture. I wanted sheets that regulated my body temperature as I slept. It took me a year to find out (for certain) that linen is that much better at thermo-regulation than cotton. Hereon, I am a convert.
The whole exercise got me thinking about linen. If it was so much better at regulating heat, why didn’t we wear more of it in our kind of weather? A one-word answer would be this: price. Linen is far more expensive to make, and consequently, to acquire. And then there is the maintenance cost and effort. Linen needs way more ironing than even cotton. Linen clearly gets a lot of, pun intended, flax for this.
Despite these downsides, linen certainly has never lost anything by way of prestige. Even today, we refer to a lot of bedding sheets as simply linen, even if they are not made from it. So, I reached out to Aditya Jain of Indian Tailoring Company, who recently returned to India to take up the pole position at his three-generations’ old family business of suiting up people in Delhi’s quiet but respected Shankar Market (No.90 to be precise).
Unlike his predecessors, Jain had spent time learning the art and craft at the Savile Row Academy, London, and then followed the famed tailor Andrew Ramroop, who owns the legendary bespoke specialist Maurice Sedwell, to his home country of Trinidad & Tobago for an advanced course on tailoring. Jain ended up as Ramroop’s primary assistant, personally cutting each suit by hand, and putting it together before being despatched to prime ministers and Hollywood stars.
When I met Jain and saw his work, two things stood out: how he tapered the jacket edge below the point it is buttoned (to create an hourglass when viewed in continuity with the lapels), something he calls his Indian Cut. The second was how high armholes are finished with a roped crown so that they seem to veer away as they rise towards the shoulders, which results in the use of minimal padding.
James Bond’s jackets have roped shoulders, for one. Jain keeps the armholes on his jacket high as it’s good for maximising range of movement, and shows off the torso better by pulling the arms away from it. I asked him to incorporate both these signature styles in a linen jacket I ordered. Linen’s big advantage is that it is a fabric that breathes, which makes it ideal both for the dry heat of the North, and the humidity of the southern coasts. I also like the wrinkles in linen. When deployed with the right amount of fabric, it adds to the fabric’s iconic look rather than detract from it.
Jain went with a fairly neutral shade, which looked bland as a swatch, but versatile when draped as a jacket. Most people think linen jackets need to be unstructured and loose, to fit like an oversized shirt. Jain, instead, worked a full canvas (by hand) into the front panels, and kept the rest of it unlined for maximum ventilation. The fit was body defining, but not hugging like a second skin. The jacket cut a sharp silhouette, and yet allowed for ample room for free movement. Its versatility allowed for the jacket to be worn with Cuban shirts, khakis, and unlined loafers, and even a graphic tee, jeans, and sneakers.
Jain’s advice is to keep the fit of a linen jacket on the tighter side as the fabric tends to become softer and looser with every wash. If the primary use is as a casual jacket, it helps to keep the length a shade shorter. Standard pockets and fittings keep the look clean and uncluttered. A busy jacket is not a summery one. Light pastel hues are. I can only hope I can put enough flyer miles on this jacket in the coming year. Meanwhile, if you’re in the mood for a classy summer look, try linen. And if bespoke minus the stiff upper lip is your style, then have a chat with Aditya Jain.