How To Wear Linen Without Looking Like Your Dad

Why it's worth making friends with this trickiest of fabrics

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When we think of linen, we often to think of white, billowy fabrics, iffy Balearic resorts and slightly leathery old men that wander around with too much chest on show. We think of Berlusconi on holiday. But we shouldn't. Yes, it's light, cool and should be saved for summer, but when cut right and worn correctly; it's one of the sharpest fabrics around.

Linen is delicate and pretty hard to make, which is why it's held in such high esteem. It has a much lower thread count than cotton, so it's very breathable, but it's therefore much more susceptible to creasing, as you'll no doubt have noticed if you've ever worn it and been so arrogant as to sit down, cross your arms or, as it would seem, simply exist. What we're saying is, it can be a pain, but there are ways to tame the beast…

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1 | Take the Test

It may be worth getting a friend to distract the staff, but when you're leafing through the linen pieces at a store, give them a scrunch to see what happens. You don't want the cloth to pop instantly back to its original form, that belies artificiality. And if you're being fitted for a suit, be sure to do more than look in the mirror. Sit down, cross your legs, take a walk around the block – whatever; just make sure you know how it's going to perform when you wear it in earnest.

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2 | Mix it Up

As is clear, linen is a tricky customer, so try to invest in pieces that are mixed with another fabric, preferably cotton or silk. Yes, it will lessen the breathable quality of the fabric a wee bit, but it'll hang much better, keep its shape for longer and be less likely to crease. What's more, pure linen isn't the best at obscuring the skin beneath it. As we hope you'll agree, one's nipples should never be the surprise guest at a summer wedding.

3 | White is NOT the Only Colour

Seriously, unless you want to look like you're in a cult (or work at Apple), it's best to avoid the all-white linen look. Granted, a white linen shirt is a summer essential, but it should only serve as a jumping off point. Pastels are fine, but they must be subtle - linen doesn't suit loud colours (Mark Ronson's Burberry suit is a great yardstick, by the way) – and a linen blazer in navy (what else?) will serve you well for many seasons to come.

4 | Get It Cut Properly

Billowy fabrics are all well and good when you're 18 and loafing around Goa before starting university, but you're a gown up now whether you like it or not, so get your linens tailored. If it's suiting you're having altered, one thing to remember is that a single vented linen jacket (one 'slit' at the base of the back) will hang better than a jacket with two. 

5 | I A Cloth For All Seasons

A linen mix makes for much more adaptable fabric, so don't confine it to the summer months alone. A linen sweater is great for the pesky chill of these inter-season months, while a linen suit is just the thing for those suddenly balmy autumn days. The texture – in addition to the drape and the coolness – is a big part of linen's appeal too, so invest in a few accessories, if for nothing but their tactile nature.