SUMMERTIME IS LINEN TIME
One of Civilization’s Earliest Fabrics, Linen Is The Most Civilized of Summer Suits.
Early hunters wore animal skins, and ancient herders wool, but for the first urbanites it was all about linen. Woven from the fibers of the flax plant, we have evidence of linen cloth being made in Mesopotamia as far back as 8000 BC. Ancient Egypt was famous for it, with white linen worn exclusively by priests and royalty, while the common people wore indigo-dyed linen garments. Even the mummies we see in Museums were wrapped in linen bandages.
Fast-forward to the late 19th century: men’s suits are evolving into what would by the 1920s become recognizably modern. Because linen’s open weave was breathable and cool, and retained color beautifully, it quickly became a staple for men’s summer suits. Between the World Wars, light colored linens became a status symbol of wealth and class, simply because they required more maintenance than was practical for working-class men. F. Scott Fitzgerald's created character Gatsby is the perfect example of white linen-suit glamor. By the 1930s it had become a must-have for every gentleman’s wardrobe, and was especially associated with the Palm Beach set. After WWII men's fashions generally became more practical and casual, and the popularity of the linen suit waned until the late 1960s, when it started coming back. It has since attained classic status again, and remains unbeatable for cool summer sophistication.
Linen wrinkles easily, which gives it a distinctive character. Worn wrinkled, linen affects more of laidback beach look, while crisply ironed linen looks smart and sharp. For a relaxed look you can simply go with a linen shirt and pants, paired with a cotton shirt for contrast. A linen suit in white or cream remains timelessly elegant. For a more modern take, choose a navy blue or sky blue, paired with chocolate brown. Or try contrasting with bright colors such as orange or even madras. Add a straw hat for debonair vintage look. Linen can take your look many places, but if you’re wearing it to the office, make sure it’s pressed.
And every day of his life he put on a clean shirt and a full suit from head to toe made out of linen so white it hurt your eyes to look at it."
— Mark Twain describing Colonel Grangerford in Huckleberry Finn in 1880