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Embracing Linen

Posted by Nikola Jovanovic on
Embracing Linen

 Unstructured Linen Jackets can dress up even the most casual clothing

 

For many, the ultimate image of casual summer elegance and comfort is a gentleman lounging wearing linen. It epitomizes style, yet it’s also the ultimate in comfort. Linen is instantly recognizable and projects cool savoir faire. Perhaps because of that image, it may be intimidating to some. Don’t let your preconceived notions of linen stop you from experiencing all that this fabric has to offer.

Linen and cotton (plain, seersucker, and madras) are the fabrics that typically come to mind when you think of summer textiles. (See Peter Manning’s Summer Fabrics Guide for a discussion of summer fabrics.) Linen offers some advantages over other fabrics – whether summer or any other season. We’ll also make note of home uses for linen products based on its unique qualities.

Also, when blended with cotton, such as our Peter Manning Short Sleever, you get the advantages of both fabrics. The cotton helps temper some of the wrinkles that you might associate with linen.

Comfortable wearing

Linen’s comfort is due to a combination of its breathability, wicking and thermoregulating abilities. The combination of these 3 qualities makes linen a perfect year-round fabric – not just a summer fabric.

Breathability – Linen fibers are thicker than cotton fibers. They require a looser weave so in addition to making linen a drapey fabric, there is more opportunity for air flow. This also allows any moisture to dry faster since it’s not trapped next to your skin like polyester would.

Wicking – Have you ever tried to clean up a spill and the liquid just sits there without being absorbed by the toweling. This action is called wicking. Synthetics like polyester don’t wick as easily as other fabrics. Linen is great at wicking moisture. It lifts perspiration away from your skin so you won’t feel clammy, and brings it to the surface so it can evaporate quickly. And it absorbs a lot - up to 20% of its weight in moisture.

The ability to wick moisture is only half the battle because if the water remains in the fabric, you’ll be clammy and actually feel hotter. You need fabric that dries quickly – which linen does – much faster than cotton. The evaporation of the moisture helps cool you off. This is the reason you’ll douse yourself with water when you’re really hot. Even when you blend cotton with linen, you’ll still have the linen advantage of great wicking ability.

Thermoregulating – A third factor in wearing comfort is linen’s thermoregulating abilities. This is what keeps you cool in hot weather and warm in cool weather. The way the porous fibers themselves expand and contract based on the ambient temperature allows air to either be trapped in the weave to keep your body heat in, or contracts to allow the heat to escape. This is why linen was historically used for “fever blankets” and why you might like it if you’re trying to get over a hangover. The fabric will adjust to your fluctuating body temperature to keep you comfortable at all times. This is also how linen bedding contributes to an amazing night’s sleep. 

Long lasting

Comfort is imperative, but if linen didn’t wear well, you probably wouldn’t bother. Luckily, linen fibers actually become stronger when they’re wet. In fact, linen is 30% stronger than cotton so blending linen with cotton fibers will strengthen the fabric. Washing your garments make them softer, smoother, and more lustrous; plus they won’t sustain the same sort of damage that washing may inflict on garments without linen fibers.

If you’re concerned with the wrinkles that have given linen a bad reputation, the cotton linen blend of our Short Sleevers eliminates many of those wrinkles. Also, the longer you have any linen garments, and the more they’re washed, the more wrinkle resistant they’ll become. Besides, you can think of linen wrinkles as a badge of the quality of your clothing. If you are still concerned with wrinkles, you can dry your Short Sleever at a low temperature, remove it when it’s damp, and then hang dry it. The result will be fewer wrinkles and a softer feel. If you like the crisp look, you can always apply some starch and iron your clothing.

You may notice some fuzz when you first wash linen garments, but that will quickly decrease. Linen’s long fibers will stand up to repeated washings and eventually there will be little or no pilling (as you often see with wool and polyester), and little to no fuzz. This is one of the reasons linen is considered hypoallergenic and a good fiber to wear (or sleep on) if you are asthmatic. 

Antibacterial, antifungal, antistatic

Linen is one of a handful of fabrics that has antibacterial properties. It actually inhibits bacterial growth. In laboratories, it’s been shown to reduce staphylococcus bacteria by 30-55%. You might wonder how this benefits you on a daily basis. What it means is that you and your shirt will stay fresher smelling for a longer time. Body odor is caused by bacteria that flourishes when you sweat. The silica (silicon dioxide – also the primary component in quartz) that is one of the components of the flax fibers (the source of linen fiber) inhibits the growth of bacteria.

It's the antibacterial qualities of linen that historically made it the choice material for bandages. It’s also possible to sterilize linen by boiling it. The antibacterial feature makes linen a great choice for bath and dish towels. They won’t get funky smelling and moldy if they are damp for a while.

Linen is also naturally anti-static and won’t attract dust. This wouldn’t be much of a problem with your 100% linen Peter Manning Unstructured Jackets or Short Sleevers, but it’s one of the reasons why some people like it for dish towels and sheets - you won’t wake up with a morning bed-head or leave fuzz on your glassware.

Sustainability

If you are interested in shopping sustainably, you can’t go wrong with linen items. Linen, and the flax plants it comes from, is one of the least environmentally damaging textiles. Flax is fast growing, renewable, requires no irrigation, pesticides or fertilizers, and is non-GMO. It grows in poor soil, and because it actually enriches the soil and absorbs carbon, it’s used as a rotation crop to support the growth of other crops and prevent soil erosion. Linen is biodegradable and recyclable. The entire plant is used in the manufacturing process. (By-products include flax seeds, flaxseed oil, linseed oil, insulation material, cattle feed, and paper. US currency contains 25% linen.)

Styling linen

Regardless of whether you like the original or the remake, Gatsby is all about the linen suit
 

Linen has a unique look and feel. Yes, there are wrinkles, but they aren’t the same unkempt wrinkles that will just make you look slovenly or lazy.  Instead, it will be the hallmark of wearing an expensive (yes, linen is more expensive than other fabrics like cotton and polyester) and elegant piece of clothing. The looser weave of linen actually gives it a drape and unique feel. And you can wear your linen garments year-round, even though it’s most closely associated with summer.

Linen is the epitome of casual elegance - Source Pinterest

 

Wear your Short Sleever with shorts or comfortable pants on the hottest days of the year. Even though you may choose to tuck it in for a more businesslike appearance, Peter Manning has proportionally designed the shirt to be worn untucked. You don’t want to have too much fabric hanging down past your hip and the sleeves will hit perfectly midway between your shoulder and elbow. 

Of course, you may love your linen shirt so much that you choose to make it your bottom layer under a sweater. This not only makes a nice appearance, but will give you the flexibility to go from cool to hot weather in comfort.

Our Unstructured Jackets make the perfect addition to any outfit. It will elevate even jeans to the business casual level or just give you a finished appearance. If you wore the same shirt and pants but swapped out the unstructured jacket for a hoodie you would get a very different look. And the best part of wearing an unstructured jacket is that you won’t be trading comfort for style. You can have them both.

If you happen to be attending any casual or beach weddings this year, your linen shirt or jacket is the perfect note to hit. Your Peter Manning Short Sleever paired with light colored chinos and an Unstructured Jacket will create a comfortable, yet stylish outfit that will fit right in – even on the hottest days.

Final thoughts…

It’s time to embrace linen and give it the attention it deserves – a place in your wardrobe and your home. The fabric itself will keep you comfortable and fresh smelling whether that means warm in winter or cool in summer. In the past, it was harder to find, and may have been given a bad reputation, because it doesn’t present the same crisp image that a pressed cotton shirt will, but this fabric is durable, easy to care for, and uniquely itself. While inherently elegant, it can also be casual. Regardless of how you choose to style linen, you’ll learn to appreciate its versatility. 

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