Well, normally when August rolls around, we’re talking about autumnal fashion and wrapping up warm in style, but as this glorious heatwave shows little sign of ending anytime soon, we thought we’d cover an age all argument
Linen vs Cotton
More specifically, which is the better fabric for surviving this sweltering summer heat?
What is linen anyway?
Linen is an all-natural fibre which is made from the stalks of the flax plant. It’s believed that linen was being used to make clothing as far back as Ancient Egypt, 4000 years ago. But it was Belfast that became the linen capital of the world when it produced the most linen during the Victorian age.
So how is that different to cotton?
Well, cotton is another all-natural fibre that grows as fluff around the seeds of the cotton plant. It’s then spun into thread to be used to weave fabric for making clothes. It was during the industrial era of cotton mills that it really came into its own as a popular fabric.
Why is linen better than cotton?
Linen is a highly breathable fabric, and it’s absorbable too. What that means is you stay cooler for longer, and any moisture that is produced is quickly wicked away. That makes linen ideal for summer and working in offices without any air conditioning (we feel your pain).
Linen also happens to be 30% stronger than cotton and happens to last a lot longer, we’re talking years longer here. Cotton shirts tend to feel smooth and silky when new but can lose that soft touch over time whereas linen shirts tend to improve with age.
So why do some people think that cotton is the better shirt fabric?
Sometimes linen is a little too good at keeping you cool which isn’t great when you walk from the sweltering heat outside into the ice-cold air-conditioned office, yes, you’ll probably freeze. Linen isn’t able to insulate as well as cotton because it’s so breathable, and some people complain of the starchy scratchy feel of a new linen shirt.
The other argument from team cotton is that linen is difficult to keep looking good. There will be wrinkles and lots of them. This might be fine for a smart casual affair but probably best kept out of formal meetings and occasions.
Right, so linen is the better choice for shirts then?
We think that’s entirely down to personal preference and where you’ll be wearing the shirt, but linen is a fantastic choice for relaxed environments and smart casual events. Linen is an excellent all-rounder and versatile enough to be worn with chinos, jeans and even sports trousers for that laid-back look.
As linen improves with age and lasts so long, it’s definitely worth investing in a high-quality shirt that will stay the course. The good news is that linen is easy to care for, doesn’t need expensive dry cleaning and a quick iron when damp is more than enough to keep those wrinkles to a minimum.
You don’t mean that moisture is quickly ’wicked’away; you mean ‘whisked’. Second line of ‘why is linen better than cotton?’
Much as I love the look of linen shirts, I actually find linen incredibly uncomfortable in medium to hot weather. It seems to trap heat against the body in a way that cotton doesn’t. It does wick moisture away better than cotton though, so maybe better when sweating heavily.