The association of humidity with relaxation for me is an old one, stretching back to my younger days of travelling to South-East Asia for exciting holidays away from the everyday grind of university and work. The moment I stepped out of the plane onto the airbridge and felt the wave of humidity wash over me…it was officially time to relax! That feeling stays with me to this day, and I’d never felt a similar sensation until I first put on a quality linen shirt.
When buying or making a shirt, it’s natural for most men to choose cotton. While there’s no definitive measurement, I would venture to say that 95% of the men the world over would prefer it over other cloths.
Cotton is functional, readily available, and easy to take care of (as most men would claim to be). It is the default material for a man’s torso, and you can spend as little or as much as you want on it. Smooth and cool to the touch, when worn as a t-shirt under a shirt in the tropics it’s an effective way for those who sweat profusely to avoid horrible sweat patches for all to see.
Crumpled, well-worn linen isn’t for everyone (picture: Permanent Style)
But linen, linen is something else. A cloth that has been used to make garments since ancient times, it is woven from the humble flax plant. Since it crumples with a little use, it is always hard to maintain a sharp, smooth edge that cotton and worsted wool can, but therein lies the romance.
While a little coarse, linen is exceptionally functional, able to absorb more moisture than cotton without feeling unpleasantly damp against the skin. Definitely not a cloth for traditional business outfits, garments made of linen are never perfect but always proper, with a relaxed ease to them. For off-duty elegance, linen is hard to beat whether it be a shirt, a suit, sports jacket or even shorts.
However, I was initially quite hesitant to have a bespoke shirt made from linen. To have a garment made that one (especially in London), has only an outside chance of wearing for a few weeks in a year? Surely this was a moment of whimsy, an extravagance that would be sharply rebuked by the realities of London weather, cold and overcast at nearly every occasion.
Linen in all it’s open weave glory – my first linen bespoke shirt by Luca Avitabile
But when I took delivery of my bespoke linen shirt from Luca Avitabile of Naples, I was transported (if only momentarily) to another place. Pulling the shirt on and feeling the texture of the linen on my skin, visions of sandy beaches, sun-drenched cobblestone lanes and long shadows over al fresco tables at sunset immediately sprang to mind.
I was in a linen state of mind… and I thoroughly encourage everyone to find yours.