Everything You Need To Know About Linen

And what makes it so cool and stylish

When discussing summer menswear attire and seasonal fabrics, it is damn near impossible to leave out linen. Linen is, quite possibly, the quintessential warm-weather cloth. (Though don’t count out wool!). And as a fabric that is everywhere, there’s a lot you probably already know about it. So, rather than rehashing those characteristics themselves, let’s talk about the ‘whys’ behind them.

mens patterned shirts with blazer

First, why is linen so perfect for summer weather? And what makes it so darn cool? There are actually a few reasons. Right off the bat, linen fabrics have an inherently loose weave that allows more air to flow through the fabric. Along those lines, linen tends to have a bit more structure than wool or cotton, which means it doesn’t drape as much and is less likely to cling to the skin.

mens patterned shirts with blazer

Also, linen is both absorbent and conductive. As such, it will quickly wick sweat off of your skin, and just as quickly conduct that moisture back into the air, keeping you cool and dry. Even better, where cotton quickly feels damp when it meets moisture, linen has the ability to absorb a heck of alot more before you’ll even notice it.

Finally, and this is a piece that is new to me, that conductivity also makes linen just plain naturally cool to the touch. It’s similar to how most metal feels ‘cold,’ which is the effect of the heat from your body being easily transferred into the material you’re touching.

messenger bag history

Now, why does linen wrinkle the way it does? This is entirely due to the type of fibers used to make linen. Linen is made from flax, a very fibrous plant. Those fibers are far more rigid and inelastic than wool or even cotton. As such, when bent, the fibers will often crease instead of springing back to shape. Sometimes the fibers will actually break, creating relatively permanent wrinkling. Of course, it’s important to note that the lived-in ‘rumpledness’ of linen attire is something that many men embrace and welcome, rather than something to be avoided.

Another interesting fact is that linen is actually pretty hard to make, in comparison to other fabrics. Because of this, you’ll often see linen products either priced higher than their wool or cotton counterparts, or merely less abundant. This is also a reason that you will often see linen-cotton blends in the place of pure linen clothing.

blue gingham shirt

That said, even beyond its cooling properties, pure linen can be worth the price. It’s also a strong, and durable fabric, even moreso when wet, unlike most other fabrics. In fact, it’s considered the strongest natural fiber. A fun fact is that linen is often added to paper money to make it more durable and long-lasting. Plus, that easy going charm that linen brings is unmistakeable and unbeatable.

Thanks for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Adam Lehman
He Spoke Style

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Chime In

  • Mark Johnson

    I’ve been a linen skeptic but finally caved this year because J Crew was running a steep discount so I figured what the heck. Wearing a long sleeve 100% linen shirt today, in 91 degree heat, in direct sunlight, walking the dog and I’m reasonably comfortable. It really works. I’m fine looking a bit rumpled if it makes the DC heat more survivable.

  • Luis Martinez

    Linen has been the solution for my office wear during these horribly humid DC summers. It just works and looks great. I did not know it was made from flax though, makes sense. Great article Adam!