The linen shirt – a surprisingly rare item in a man’s wardrobe. In part, this is due to its higher cost compared to cotton, but also because linen polarises opinion due to its propensity to crease. Here we look at what this magnificent material really is.
Linen is a natural fibre made from the blue-flowered flax plant Linum. Flax is locally-grown and sustainable. It only needs rainfall to grow and all parts of the plant can be used, meaning there is zero waste. Linen is its name once it has been spun into yarn; woven or knitted into fabric; or made into a product.It is thought that linen manufacturing was first used in Egypt over 4,000 years ago. When the tomb of the Pharaoh Ramses II who died in 1213 BC, was discovered in the late 19th century, the linen wrappings were in a state of perfect preservation after more than 3000 years.
Plutarch also wrote that linen was much prized amongst the ancient Roman priestly class. And eventually bed linen was coveted by the upper classes for its cool and soft feeling against the skin, becoming a mark of wealth and social standing. These days clothing constitutes only a very small percentage of linen manufacture – which makes a well sourced linen shirt all the more special an addition to your wardrobe.
Good quality linen is a very durable and comfortable fabric. The fibres do not stretch and the colours do not fade away. The low elasticity of the fibres is what gives linen garments that slight wrinkled look.
In comparison to cotton, linen has many superior qualities.
It is highly breathable and soft; much more so than cotton due to its lower thread count.
While linen is 35% stronger than cotton, its chief advantage is its longevity. Although a brand new cotton shirt will feel smoother and silkier to the touch, linen will be at its best two or years after purchase. It tends to become softer and shinier with each wash too, whereas cotton does the opposite.
Linen has a high moisture absorbency rate, making it the ideal fabric for hot and humid climates. It’s also hypoallergenic, which means sweat is less likely to break down its fibres. Combined with its lack of elasticity, this ability to quickly absorb moisture from the body accounts for the ease with which linen can crease. With this in mind linen shirts should not just be considered an item to wear on the beach. In city atmospheres where humid temperatures can make for an oppressive climate, linen offers the perfect solution. Anyone who has strolled around Singapore or a European capital on a hot summer’s day will know how much more intolerable the heat is in a city, compared to places near the sea. Linen’s cool texture and humidity absorbing quality provide the best solution in these scenarios.
At Dundas London we source linen only from the oldest Turkish mills to take advantage of the expertise passed on from one generation to the next. All our shirts are crafted in Lithuania with attention to rare sartorial details, like double whipped branded buttons, fused collar and the unique Dundas London flamingo embroidery.