Many men have plenty of questions as they consider buying their first linen suit. A hand-crafted linen suit radiates casual confidence, style, and charm. And yet, this lightweight, wrinkle-prone fabric prompts many style questions. Can I wear this to work? Is it formal enough for a business meeting? How do I style it for outdoor parties and events? Let’s explore and answer some of these pressing issues to round out your wardrobe with confidence and verve.
The Fit Is Everything
We can’t overstate just how much fit matters when it comes to a linen suit. You’re thinking: isn’t fit a pretty key aspect of every suit? Absolutely. Particularly with linen, however, as it’s a fabric that loves to wrinkle. That’s part of its charm, yes, and you should expect that any linen suit you wear is going to wrinkle a bit—you can embrace that and dress up the suit in other ways (we’ll talk about that below). What you shouldn’t embrace is a lightweight suit that doesn’t fit well, which will cause the suit to wrinkle far more than necessary.
A fitted suit presents a strong, confident look no matter the fabric. It’s particularly important in this case because the better your suit fits, the less the linen will wrinkle and lose the shape of the cut. Bespoke suits that are measured, patterned, and cut for you and your body will be better for the look and better for maintaining the quality and appearance of the fabric over many years.
When to Wear a Linen Suit
Because of its lightness, breathability, and cool texture, linen makes for an ideal outdoor fabric. A good linen suit should be a staple of your wardrobe during the spring and summer months, and it can feel great to slip back into it just a few more times when those really warm late autumn days and nights sneak into September and October. But when and where, specifically, should you wear one?
Major Outdoor Occasions
Sometimes it can feel like every weekend from May through September is booked with a wedding, graduation, a reunion, or some kind of family or office get-together. That’s a big reason why you should invest in a linen suit. You’ll look stylish and fashion-forward at outdoor receptions and parties and stay cool while everyone around you swelts in their polyester blend.
Summer Concerts and Performances
Is a linen suit the way to go if you are tracking through the grass and dirt for three days at Lollapalooza or the sand and crowds of Pitchfork? Only if you’re willing to see your suit get covered in some serious dirt and mud. But a slightly more formal outdoor experience—like a nighttime concert, film, or theatrical performance in the park—can be made all the more enjoyable and stylish in a comfortable linen suit.
Work Days and Business Lunches
Linen suits have become a common sight in offices, agencies, and practices once summer rolls around. It’s a good idea to keep a wool suit on hand for very formal work events like major presentations. But it’s very easy to dress up a linen suit and make it appropriate for a day in the office, lunch with your colleagues, or less formal meetings.
How to Wear a Linen Suit
Linen suits give you more flexibility than many people realize. It comes down to how you wear the suit and what you decide to wear with it. But first, the suit itself: most people probably think of linen suits as being white, cream, or beige, but the truth is that the light feel and appearance of linen means you can be a little looser and more experimental with your colors. Linen makes a great canvas for pastel colors, like light blue, denim, cream, mauve, pink, and tan suits. Even standard colors like navy, dark brown, and black will feel less heavy or formal when in linen, especially if you offset them with a light-hued shirt.
Caring for Your Suit
For such a casual-looking fabric, linen is remarkably tough and durable. With regular care, a quality linen suit should last you a long time. But as we already know, linen is also a fabric that wrinkles and stains easily. So how do you keep your suit looking its best?
Like most suits, you will want to hang your linen suit up in a cool and dry location. Make sure that your suit isn’t folded, crumpled, or balled up when you store it, or deep wrinkles will set into the fabric that is difficult to iron away. Irons, actually, are generally less effective at removing wrinkles from linen than a steam press.
There’s no need to dry clean your linen, where the chemicals can stain the material. Instead, you can wash it by hand, or simply spot clean it. You should never put your linen suit into the dryer. Though a strong material, linen is loosely woven together (which is part of what gives it its light feel) and can shrink dramatically in a dryer. Instead, hang up your suit to air dry before storing it in a cool and dry spot.