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Why Linen is a Summer Essential

From the arid lands of Ancient Egypt to modern shirts and bed linen, we explore the origins and enduring popularity of one of the world’s oldest fabrics.

Back when Thomas Pink was established in the mid-1980s, linen was not exactly on our sartorial radar. Like sushi to the average British palate pre1997 (AKA when YO! Sushi first arrived on our shores), linen was a slightly scary and alien concept. It was tricky to pull off; too wrinkled, too pastel, too “continental”. These days we now know that linen is the essential summer fabric. Not only is it lightweight, durable and versatile but it’s also stylish and inherently cool (in both senses of the word). Yes, linen creases easily, but linen lovers know to lean into the crease and embrace it. Linen clothing is not designed in the same vein as an immaculate three-piece suit; it’s for wearing with tailored shorts and sandals while strolling through winding Italian cities or at a friend’s BBQ on the one hot day of the British summer. Linen makes casual dressing that little bit more chic, and can be an unexpected hit at a summer wedding when worn with vintage panache, à la Jay Gatsby.

Linen is also one of the world’s oldest natural fabrics, dating back around 10,000 years. It was the fabric of choice for the Ancient Egyptians, who dubbed it “woven moonlight” and even used it as a form of currency. Today, it is still prevalent in subtropical and desert regions due to its breathable yet durable properties (it is up to three times stronger than cotton). It is versatile, so used in numerous different products (aprons, bags, bedding, tablecloths etc), and is more environmentally friendly than other fabrics. This is due to the fact that the plant from which it is derived needs less water to grow than cotton and doesn’t require pesticides or insecticides. In spite of inevitable modern farming upgrades, the production of linen is essentially the same as it was thousands of years ago. It is made from the cellulose fibres of the flax plant, which grows all over the world. The extraction of the fibres from the woody outer stem is done through a process called “retting” – essentially rotting – before being dried out and ready for processing.

Linen comes in a variety of different styles, but Thomas Pink’s crisp white Casual Plain Linen Slub Shirt is the only linen shirt you need this summer. It’s smart yet comfy, and available in our Tailored, Slim and Classic Fits. The linen fibres – which are woven in Italy – are wrapped tighter than cotton fibres, making the resulting shirt extremely durable yet effortless to wear when temperatures soar. Or you could always opt for a classic cotton-linen blend, such as our Pale Blue Tailored Fit Formal Linen Cotton Blend Shirt, or explore a new style with our hot-off-the-press Grandad Collar Shirts. A winning choice all round, whether you’re lounging by the pool or attending a swanky summer soirée.