I hope that everyone had a fantastic Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day marks the official beginning of summer dressing across the country. Because of New Orleans’ warm climate and early summer, I’ve been bending the rules this year and wearing my summer fabrics, like seersucker, a little bit earlier. After Memorial Day, however, everyone can start wearing their summer wardrobe without fear.
One of the best fabrics for summer clothing is linen. It’s light, cool and has a wonderful rustic look to it. For some reason, I don’t see many gentlemen wearing this fantastic fabric, and this should change. Linen is a material typically created by loosely weaving strands of flax together, creating a fabric. This looseness gives the fabric its ability to “breathe” during hot summer months and also creates its rough character.
The essential linen article that every man should own is a white linen shirt. This loose, airy garment goes well with everything. Mine is from the Baird McNutt Irish linen mills by J.Crew. I got it last year and J.Crew is selling the shirt again this year for $70. That’s a little more than I’d like to spend on a shirt, and I’m sure it will be down to $40 by the end of the summer, but you just get so much mileage from a linen shirt that I think it’s worth the cost.
Shirts aren’t the only linen articles worth owning. Many gentlemen swear by linen trousers during the summer. I have yet to purchase a pair, but they are at the top of my list and seem like a great alternative to hot and sweaty jeans. The trouble that I’m having right now is finding a pair at the right price. Brooks Brothers sells pure Irish linen trousers for $128, but that’s far outside my price range for a single pair of trousers. Their annual spring sale is coming up in June (more on that in the future), so I’ll keep my eyes open for a price drop.
A full linen suit is also something on this Gentleman’s long-term “must have” list. J.Crew sells one for $386, which isn’t a bad price for a suit. For the moment, it will remain on my long-term sartorial radar as a summer wardrobe option in lieu of heavy wool suits.
Taking care of linen can be difficult because it is a temperamental fabric that wrinkles quite easily. If you simply wash a linen shirt and run it through the dryer as you would a cotton shirt, it will come out extremely wrinkled. It’s desirable for linen to have some wrinkles – that’s part of the charm – but too many wrinkles can look sloppy. I’ve found that the key to caring for my linen shirt is hang drying. While it’s slightly damp, either steam it with a steamer (best option) or hang it in the bathroom while you are showering. This way, the wrinkles will be relaxed, adding just enough character to strike a balance between charming and sharp.
If you’re starting to feel a bit constrained in the shirts and trousers you’ve been wearing during the winter and spring, free yourself up by wearing linen.
Next week, the Gentleman dresses for court…