Cloth, Weight & Consideration: How To Nail The Linen Suit Look
While there’s plenty of room for error when it comes to donning a linen suit, they are an absolute winner when made – and worn – in the right way.
We adore working with linen at Marc Oliver. Scratch that – we adore working with good linen at Marc Oliver. Its potential for creating truly beautiful and comfortable garments is unbridled – perfect for British Spring and Summer as well as holidays, parties, business trips and weddings in warmer climes.
Simply put, linen is one of the coolest and most sought after summer fabrics for suits and shirts. It’s lightweight and breathable, meaning it allows airflow to keep you cool. As well as this, it also helps draw moisture away from your body (when of a high quality), so you can avoid worrying about sweating through it.
As well as that, linen is an important fabric. It’s one of the oldest fibres known to humankind, and gets plenty of mentions in the Bible, both in the old testament and new, as well as in the Quran and the Torah. In fact, it’s been traced back as far as 36,000 years!
Pulling it back to its modern day use though, linen offers so many opportunities to dress amazingly. However, the style pitfalls with linen are also immense. Bad fit and poor cloth choice all too often results in a shabby, creased effect rather than the classic, cool, suave look we all aspire to.
To help you get your linen suit just right, here are some insider tips.
Get the cloth right
When it comes to pure linen, stick with The King of The Linens – Irish Linen.
While the commercial Golden Age of the Irish linen industry has passed, until the early 20th century the Emerald Isle was the world’s epicentre of linen production. The industry has spread around the world since then, though often at a lower cost and quality, and with more environmentally damaging production methods.
Back in Ireland however, there’s been no compromise in quality.
Irish Linen has a much finer and denser weave, and a softer feel. And even though it’s soft, it’s also extremely durable. In fact, linen is known as the world’s strongest natural fibre. However, given that it’s normally woven on a single width loom, twice as much cloth is required when making a suit or jacket from Irish Linen. This means that a pure Irish linen suit is going to set you back a pretty penny, but if you’ve got the means, then why settle for less?
Know that you don’t have to go for pure linen however. The right linen blend can actually elevate and bolster the fabric, and make it more manageable. The best linen blends incorporate wool or silk, or sometimes both, to make the fabric more resistant to creasing, and sometimes even more luxurious.
When selecting linen, we’d always advise against buying something too light weight. Linen is quite light by its very nature, but as mentioned before, if it’s far too light, it’ll be far more prone to creasing and crumpling, and will be less likely to fit your figure.
If in doubt, go for a solid medium weight linen in a good quality. Of course, your tailor should be able to point you in the right direction here.
Pay attention to the handle
A very quick point, but an important one which will help you tell quality from a lack thereof:
The handle of a fabric is its touch and feel – things like stiffness, bulk, friction. Some linens are quite stiff, almost card-like. While these may feel more hard wearing, they will actually collect deeper creases and be less durable due their stiffness.
Ideally, your linen will feel soft and supple in your hands – and just weighty enough to fall (or drape) nicely, which helps ensure a more complimentary fit.
Your shoulders are the key
Making sure your linen suit fits your shoulders well is crucial. Since linen suits are a good deal more relaxed than, say, tailored business suits, they don’t have to hug your figure. In fact, too figure hugging and they’ll look all wrong.
Remember that most linen suits do tend to lose their shape a little bit over time, but so long as it fits well on your shoulders, it’ll still look great.
If you’re having your suit tailored, they’ll make sure the shoulder fit is just right. If you’ve bought, or are planning to buy, a linen suit on the highstreet, feel free to bring it to your tailor to have it adjusted.
Choose a great colour
Wearing linen opens up the possibility for brighter, more summery colours. Beige, off-white, pale grey, sage green, and soft pastels like light blue and dusky are all great calls for solid colours. Pin stripes and playful checked patters also have the potential to look amazing. For the more confident wearer, white could also be a great option.
However, do bear in mind that you want to wear your suit more than just once. While a bright and striking colour will win you plenty of compliments at the first party you attend, it might get old fast!
Consider your shirt
You really ought to avoid wearing a linen shirt with your linen suit. When we wear a linen suit, we expect it to crumple a little. Indeed, that’s a part of the appeal if it’s made right. But we don’t want the entire outfit to go this way, so it’s a great idea to pair your linen suit with a nice crisp, tailored shirt with a great fit. The contrast helps set the entire look off.
When it comes to the colour of your shirt, white is hard to beat. However, with a beige or off-white suit, light blue will also look fantastic.
For more on choosing the perfect tailored shirt, check out our Bespoke Shirts Style Guide.
It’s also worth considering the versatility of your shirt options here. Linen suits can be worn beautifully as smart-casual or even casual outfits. Unbuttoned dress shirts, polo necks, light sweaters, or even a t-shirt in plain white, grey or black can look super cool at less formal venues.
…And consider your shoes
Finally, the formality of the occasion will dictate which style of shoes to wear with your linen suit. Linen suits can actually look fabulous with a nice pair of white trainers, especially in leather or canvas, so for casual affairs, feel free to dress down a little.
For a more dressed up look,there are plenty of options here. For the perfect style of shoe to complete your linen suit, penny loafers and tasselled loafers are both super cool, and so too are brogues or boat shoes.
Finally, a word on colour: We’d often avoid black leather shoes as they can be a little jarring, unless paired with a suit in a shade of green or pink. Shades of brown, and indeed tan, almost always look fantastic with a linen suit.
Quality bespoke tailored clothing is more than just a treat, it’s a sound investment. When you’re ready to upgrade your wardrobe for summer, book a personal appointment with Marc Oliver Bespoke Tailoring. Welcome to Savile Row.