James writes: I’m thinking about getting my first linen suit this summer, but I’m unsure what I should look for. Are linen blends better than pure linens? Are certain colors better than others? I’m considering a cream linen suit, but don’t know if that might be too bold. Any suggestions?
The nice thing about linen suits – or almost any kind of casual suit – is that everything can be up to taste. Unlike the sort of suits you might wear to work, there are few rules to follow here. That said, there are some things worth considering:
1. Material: A linen blend isn’t necessarily better or worse than pure linen; it just wrinkles less. If the linen has been mixed with silk, sometimes you get a bit more texture; if it’s been mixed with cotton, sometimes it can be a bit smoother. Personally, I like my jackets to be a little textured, especially if they’re solid colored.
2. Breathability: If you plan to wear your suit during the dog days of summer, you’ll want it to be as breathable as possible. At the most basic level, that means getting a jacket that’s partially lined, so heat can dissipate through the back, and is softly constructed, so there’s less stuffing between you and the outside world. You’ll also want something made from a loosely woven material. To see if the fabric is breathable, hold it up and see how much light shines through.
3. Weight: Lightweight linens can be cooler wearing, but I find that they wrinkle too much. Instead, consider something made from a mid-weight linen – something with a touch more heft to it. A mid-weight linen rumples more than crinkles, which will leave you better looking at the end of the day.
4. Color: Tobacco and cigar browns, like you see above, make for an excellent first color. Dark blues also work well, although I think something in a shade lighter than navy looks more summery. Creams can be good, but they’re a bit bold and show dirt easily. When choosing a color, consider what works best with your other trousers. That way, your suit jacket can do double-duty as a sport coat.
5. Adjustments: Be careful with alterations. You want the sleeves and legs to be a little longer than normal since linen can ride up when it wrinkles. As always, consult a trusted tailor.
(photo via The Sartorialist)