A summer-tailoring must-have, a linen suit is your own personal climate control system. Light and breathable, linen absorbs a large volume of moisture before showing signs of damp, making it the perfect fabric for blistering heat or suffocating humidity.
No matter where in the States you live, work, or travel – a linen suit is ideal for summer weddings, smart casual events, cruises and graduations. Excellent value for money, your linen suit can also be worn as separates, adding a snappy summer versatility to your wardrobe. Here’s how to get the most from your linen suit.
What is linen?
Linen is woven from fibers of the flax plant. Separating flax fibers, spinning them into thread, and weaving the final product is a time and labor intensive process, which is why pure linen suits sometimes cost a little more than your standard men’s suit. Some suits are made from a ‘linen-weave’ fabric – linen blended with other yarns like silk or cotton, but true linen has special qualities which make an all-linen suit a very attractive prospect.
Because linen fibers and threads are bulkier than their cotton counterparts, linen fabric has a considerably lower thread count than cotton – a looser weave that allows the air to circulate through it. That’s what gives linen its cool-to-the-touch feel.
Linen absorbs about 20% of its weight in moisture before starting to look damp, and its open weave allows it to dry much faster than other fabrics too. That’s why linen is so comfortable to wear. It’s also hypoallergenic and naturally antimicrobial, keeping you smelling fresher for longer.
Why choose a linen suit?
As practical as linen is, it’s the style value that sells it. There’s something about a linen suit that speaks of effortless sophistication and laid back charm.
Linen doesn’t carry crisp creases for long – but its propensity to wrinkle is part of its approachable appeal. Twin your linen suit with a Panama hat, sunglasses, and a pair of handmade leather shoes and you’ll be the epitome of summer style.
Traditionally, most of the world’s linen came from Europe and it’s a classically continental look. Think cool cafe culture – think linen.
Nothing says summer like a pale linen suit – think beige, tan, dusky pink or pale gray. In fact the only shade you should avoid is white, which can be tricky to pull off and is probably best left to A-list celebs.
If you’re looking for a smart linen suit for work, you could opt for something with a bit more gravitas, perhaps gray or navy, but avoid bright colors because they don’t really suit the fabric.
Like the fabric but don’t like the wrinkles? For a smoother finish try a linen blend. With the addition of cotton, silk, or wool, your suit will trade a little of its climate controlling coolness for better shape retention and fewer creases.
How to care for a linen suit
Linen is a resilient fabric – in fact it’s a lot stronger than cotton and softens with age, making it even more comfortable to wear. Like any suit, when you’re pressing it, you should avoid direct contact between iron and fabric – a piece of damp cotton works great.
Linen shirts and pants are best washed by hand or gentle machine cycle, but a linen suit needs professional cleaning because water damages the interfacing – the inner construction that helps give your jacket its shape. Brush and hang your linen suit after each wear and drop it off for a single clean during the course of the summer if necessary. Get it professionally cleaned one final time, just before you pack it away at the end of the season, to keep your suit looking its best.
The best accessories
You’ll need a seasonal shoe to go with your linen suit. Loafers are a good choice: a classic penny loafer or a dapper-looking tassel will cap things off nicely. A plain white cotton shirt is also a great choice, although a stripe does add a dash of panache. Pale or navy blue shirts also work well with linen suits.