Everybody loves summer, but when it comes to tailoring, the hot weather can pose a problem. It doesn’t matter how sharp the suit is, if you’re flushed, panting and dripping in sweat, it’s not going to look good. A classic navy suit in wool will seldom let a man down, but a scorching midsummer’s day just happens to be one of those rare occasions.
So, what’s the alternative? Turn up to your next formal summer event in a vest, shorts and sandals and hope for the best? Not exactly. There is another solution. One which enables a man to tackle summer head on, without sacrificing style or comfort, and which we believe every well-dressed gent should own. We’re talking, of course, about the linen suit.
A linen suit is your ticket to stylish summers, unblighted by the untimely onslaught of underarm sweat patches. It will allow you to remain cool at all times, in more ways than one, and is a real must-have as temperatures begin to rise.
Here we take a closer look at this summer menswear essential, including how to wear it , what colour to buy and which brands are making the best options.
What Is Linen?
Linen is the oldest woven fabric in the world. There is evidence of it being used as far back as 30,000 years ago and fine linen cloth has often been found in Ancient Egyptian tombs. It’s even mentioned in the bible, and despite its old age, is still widely used today.
The fabric itself is made from the fibres of the flax plant and has always been highly popular in hot countries due to the fact that it is lightweight, breathable, absorbent and quick drying. It’s also far more durable than cotton and better at wicking moisture away from the skin.
Why Buy A Linen Suit?
Anyone who has ever sweated their way through a summer wedding in a heavy wool suit will already know the answer to this question. Linen is the solution to all of your summer suit woes, keeping you cool and comfortable when temperatures are high. It’ll keep air circulating, wick moisture away from the skin and if any unwanted sweat patches do crop up, they’ll be dry before anyone has had a chance to notice.
But it’s not all about the practical stuff – linen looks great too. The textured weave of the fabric holds colour beautifully and adds character to summer outfits with ease. Sure, it creases, but that’s just part of linen’s charm and, in our humble opinion, only adds to a linen suit’s laid-back appeal.
If you’re likely to be donning tailoring during the warmer portion of the year, a linen suit is something you really should be considering.
The Best Linen Suit Colours
Another major point in favour of a linen suit is that it opens up new doors where colour is concerned. While traditional tailoring is often restricted to dark colours, linen is bound by no such limitations. Colours that might otherwise look outlandish feel right at home painted across breezy linen tailoring. But there are still some that work better than others.
Pastel shades of blue and pink can look great on a linen suit, but should only be called upon where appropriate. That means a big yes to events like summer weddings where the dress code states ‘cocktail attire’ or ‘summer smart’, but a resounding no to funerals, black tie events and business settings. If in any doubt, stick to more conservative colours.
Light neutrals like beige, ivory, stone and various shades of white will reflect the heat, bolstering linen’s cooling properties. They’re the default setting when it comes to linen tailoring and can work in a wide range of settings. If you’re looking for that ultra laid-back Riviera aesthetic for which linen tailoring is known, these types of tones are the only way to go.
If you’re looking for versatility above all else, a linen suit in a classic dark neutral like navy blue might be your best option. This way, you get all the benefits of linen fabric, but without and of the dress-code drawbacks attached to lighter and brighter colours.
How To Wear A Linen Suit
Linen may not be as dressy as its smoother, higher-thread count contemporaries, but it can still fly in all but the most formal of settings. A linen suit, when worn with a shirt, waistcoat and dress shoes, is an excellent option for smart summer events like weddings and formal parties.
One thing to consider is the material of the shirt. Linen and linen can be worn together, but in smart settings a smooth cotton-poplin shirt is preferable as it will give a sharper, more polished appearance while adding some textural contrast at the same time. A white shirt with a beige suit is always a safe bet and works nicely with either black or brown footwear. Think Derby shoes for classic or a loafer for something slightly offbeat.
A linen suit really comes into its own when worn as part of a smart-casual look. These tailored garments are relaxed by nature and so work well when dressed down with casual pieces. Little changes like swapping a poplin dress shirt for a polo shirt, and leather Derby shoes for suede loafers or deck shoes can transform a smart linen look into something much more laid back.
Wearing a linen suit as separates is also a great smart-casual option and can open up a lot of potential outfits. A bit of contrast goes a long way here, so think carefully about the colours of your top and bottom halves. A navy jacket and white or cream chinos is a surefire winner, as is a light-coloured jacket with dark legwear.
‘Suit’ and ‘casual’ don’t often go together, but they can happily mingle where linen is concerned. The trademark breeziness of the fabric makes it easy to dress down and styling it with a T-shirt and sneakers is all it takes to create a casual look perfect for summer evenings.
If you want to take it a step further, ditch the suit jacket and reach for some light, casual outerwear instead. An overshirt can work well here. Just makes sure to select one in a contrasting shade to the legwear.
The Best Linen Suit Brands
With its luxurious Italian-made tailoring, Canali has been exporting that effortlessly sharp and stylish look for which its homeland is known for over 80 years. The label’s linen suits are known as some of the best in the business, boasting meticulous attention to detail. Each jacket, for example, must go through a rigorous 300+ step process before completion and the resulting quality is plain to see.
UK brand Drake’s takes a more continental approach to its linen suits, offering a relaxed, unlined, half-canvas jacket with patch pockets that allows it to be dressed up or down to suit the occasion. Crafted from 100% Italian linen and available in four classic colourways – navy, olive, sand and brown – it offers superb value for money and oozes that sense of preppy refinement that the label is renowned for.
Linen tailoring and Italian style go hand in hand, and Boglioli is one of the key brands responsible for that. Founded over a century ago, the label has helped to shape Italian menswear, creating exquisite tailored garments with the absolute finest natural fabrics.
Known for providing preppy staples at affordable prices, J.Crew is a good place to look if you’re after a quality linen suit without breaking the bank. The American brand has a range of cotton-linen separates available, which balance the best parts of both fabrics and look great too.
Check out the Ludlow tailoring range in particular, which J.Crew introduced in 2008 with the aim of offering top-shelf materials and quality at affordable prices.
Ralph Lauren has always been a safe bet when it comes to sourcing stylish soft tailoring and linen suits are no exception. The NYC-based label carries a wide range of linen and linen-blend options that’s sure to include something to suit all tastes.
Take a look at the Polo collection for simple, classic styles, and the Purple Label collection for something a bit special.
Todd Snyder’s stylish take on menswear’s classics has made fashion more accessible to the everyday man. The brand’s upscale essentials, stylish casualwear and slick tailoring have made it one of the most reliable names in menswear and a solid choice for everything from suiting to sweatshirts and beyond. The brand has a number of Italian linen suit options, including some with tailored shorts rather than trousers, if that’s your thing.
Reiss’ tailoring may not be the cheapest off-the-hanger, high-street option, but it is one of the best in terms of value for money. The quality you get for your cash is well worth paying for and the retailer has a huge selection of summer tailoring to pick from. For a great linen suit in a modern cut, and at a fair price, there’s no better option around.
After a great-looking linen suit on a budget? John Lewis should be your first port of call. The British brand’s summer suiting is highly affordable, but without sacrificing style. There is a range of colours and cuts to choose from, catering for everything from summer formal events to smart-casual classics.