Linen is a highly absorbent fabric with antibacterial qualities which makes it ideal for the hot summer weather. In this article we discuss how the flax plant is turned to fabric, how to care for your linen clothing, and provide you with some styling recommendations.
Linen Background and Harvesting
Summers around the world are getting hotter. June 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded, and this progression is likely to continue. The hotter the summers get, the cooler our clothes must become, and there’s nothing cooler than a linen shirt. Linen is a durable fabric that absorbs moisture and gives a cool feeling, it’s an essential for spring/summer, and humid climates. In Africa, Latin America, India and the southern part of Europe Linen clothing is very popular due to these precise properties.
The reason linen is not as ubiquitous as cotton is because it goes through a much more laborious and time consuming production process. Linen comes from the flax plant; flax is usually hand-harvested by pulling up the entire plant to acquire the longest possible fibers. Then the seeds are removed from the dried plants through a mechanized process called rippling.
The fibers are then loosened from the stalk through retting, which uses bacteria to decompose the binding among the fibers. Scutching is next, and this happens only between August and December when the weather is cool, the stalks are sent through two metal rollers that crush them, so that different parts can be separated. The short fibers are then sorted out through a combing process which leaves only the long, soft flax fibers.
Finally, the fibers are spun into yarn, reeled onto a bobbin, and then dried, ready to be woven or knitted into textiles.
Linen quickly absorbs moisture. Because of its structure, it can absorb 1/5 of its weigh before feeling damp or wet. Linen also conducts heat well. It quickly allows heat to escape, and therefore improves cooling, and the linen weave reflects heat better than other materials protecting the wearer from excessive amounts of sunlight.
Caring for Linen
Linen clothing has to be well cared for, it can lose its charm if washed with hard water, or certain chemicals and detergents. A downside of linen is that it creases easily, so it is best not to fold your linen clothing, they should be hanged.
Fashion is more accepting of the wrinkled look of linen, and it has carved out its own unique “lived in” look. Because linen will inevitably wrinkle, it’s best to wear outfits that don’t accentuate the wrinkles, and wear linen to occasions where the relaxed look is appropriate.
However, some of us are just not comfortable without razor sharp looking clothes, and linen can be ironed. You’ll look neatly pressed for a few minutes, after that you can enjoy the changing nature of your linen piece.
The best way to iron linen is with your iron on high temperatures and the steam on, you can place a damp cotton towel or T-shirt over your linen garment and iron on top of it. The moisture will ensure you have a smooth and even linen garment.
Many people, us included, think that linen’s wrinkles have their own kind of beauty. There’s something about a perfectly worn-in linen shirt that denotes a relaxed, carefree attitude, which is especially appropriate for summer.
Recognizing Quality Linen
Being able to identify good quality linen while shopping will do you a world of good. Quality linen has a soft, worn-in silhouette, and natural creases, you might also feel tiny blobs of imperfections, these are called ‘Slubs’ and they’re a naturally occurring mark of true linen.
If you spill some water on the quality linen and observe it, the water will be gone quickly. Any yellowing in the fabric could be a sign of synthetic linen. Quality linen is evenly colored across the fabric; an unevenness could be as a result of a dodgy dye job to pass something off as linen.
At U.Mi-1 we use German linen, renowned for its softness and quality. It ensures that each linen shirt we create will be not only unique, but also give you all the advantages of the best available cloth. All of our shirts are also yarn-dyed to make sure that there is no discrepancies in the colour and the entire garment always looks its best.
Linen is more expensive than cotton for some simple reasons; the production process of linen long and arduous, the flax plant will only grow in some certain areas, and linen is a naturally antibacterial substance which means it doesn’t provide germs with an ideal breeding environment. These compound to its value, in contrast to the more easily produced cotton.
A linen button up shirt will work hard and look effortlessly stylish in your wardrobe, it gives a balance between relaxed and polished. The fit of a linen button up shirt is very important, it should be free but never baggy.
You can pair a short sleeve linen shirt with fitted shorts that are cut above the knee for a sharp look. You can also pair a slim fit pair of jeans with a long sleeve linen button up, then throw in a pair of white sneakers and you’re ready to roll. Light colored chinos delves more into smart casual territory, so think cream, sand, or pastel variants.
If you choose a shirt and suit pairing, tuck in the shirt and keep either the shirt or the suit understated–not both. For example, a navy suit with a white linen shirt or a navy linen shirt with a grey suit. With trousers, treat the linen shirt as any dress shirt in formal situations, they must be tucked into the trousers.
A key to exploring linen is to try different colors, a neat white button-down might be slick, but trying a color like pastel pink will give you an unorthodox mystique. Linen shirts do not have to be worn as a single layer, you can also wear a fitted tee underneath for cooler nights.
Linen is a carefully produced fabric that yields a carefree elegance on its wearer, it is a must have for warm weather, and as soon as you embrace the inevitable creases, you will feel one with your clothes. It is best worn with a breezy but not baggy fit, and slightly contrasting colors. We believe linen in a fabric that should be in every man’s wardrobe.