The world is brimming with mysteries: What really happens in the Bermuda Triangle? Is the Lost City of Atlantis actually lost? What’s the best season and occasion to wear a linen suit?
That last one doesn’t need to be a mystery, however, even though it is a common question. In fact, 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, a 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 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.
A Warm Night Out
An expertly cut linen suit will turn heads when you stroll to dinner at the hotel, order cocktails on the patio at your favorite bar, or take your partner out dancing. It’s a way to show that you know how to dress for the town without looking too rigid or buttoned-up. More than anything, it communicates a sense of fun.
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.
Accessorizing Your Suit
You can take advantage of the flexibility of the linen suit by either dressing it up or down to meet the situation, depending on your choice of accessory.
Dress It Down:
There are a lot of ways to match your linen suit to the mood of the event. To really exude casual confidence, dress things down a bit. Many men like to skip socks and trade lace-ups for loafers and slip-ons when going to an outdoor event in linen. It keeps your feet cool and draws the eye to your shoes and the cut of the pants.
Hot summer days are also the perfect chance to skip the tie and instead go with an open-button collar. When your suit fits particularly well you can even forego your belt for a casual open-jacket vibe.
Dress It Up:
A linen suit may feel more casual and relaxed when you put it on, but you can still achieve a more formal, business-ready look while wearing one. In professional occasions, the way you accessorize and finish your suit will go a long way toward determining the mood it communicates. The quickest way to professionalize your linen suit is to add in a vest. Having a linen vest made to go along with your suit is always an option, but you can also pair a linen jacket and pants with a more formal material like wool, cotton, or cashmere.
In a formal setting, pick a nice pair of socks and your sharpest lace-ups. A really nice shoe will help elevate the overall outfit. And a pocket square will give charm and flair to the suit for important lunches or a night out.
Let’s not forget your tie. Like the pocket square, shoes, and vest, you can make your suit more or less casual with your choice of tie. Any tie will be more professional than an open collar, but a closely-pressed wool or silk tie will help offset any wrinkles in the fabric of the suit. If you’re wearing a lightly-colored suit—like mauve, cream, or a light blue for example—a burgundy or navy silk tie will draw the eye and formalize the entire look.
You Should Also Consider a Linen Blazer
Like a full suit, a linen blazer is a dream piece for comfortable, versatile style. A blazer is slightly less formal than the suit jacket, but it pairs well with a wider range of looks.
Can’t I just use my suit jacket? A suit jacket is made to match and fit with the accompanying pants, so you shouldn’t try to mix and match your suit jackets with different bottoms. In fact, some men make the mistake of wearing—and washing—their suit jackets more than the pants, and over time the two pieces become more and more discolored.
A blazer has the versatility to match with many looks and fabrics. For casual style, you can compliment a linen blazer with a pressed Oxford shirt or a clean V-neck sweater. A blazer is a more relaxed look and fit than the suit jacket, and often pairs very well with dark jeans for a night out or a lunch with colleagues.
You can even make a linen blazer more formal. Match it with freshly pressed cotton or silk pants for a work-appropriate look that is still cool and breathes during the summer.
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 are 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.
When the weather turns warm, you are going to want this lightweight staple. It might seem intimidating at first, but you’ll soon realize that a linen suit can be one of the most versatile pieces in your entire wardrobe. Few other materials can adapt to a business lunch, a wedding, a night out, or dozens of other settings with such ease and style. And that versatility will quickly make it a treasured part of your closet. As soon as the calendar turns to summer, you’ll find yourself reaching for your favorite linen piece every chance you get.
And when it comes to choosing the perfect linen suit for your style and your body, turn to a Knot Standard stylist. A consultation in one of our showrooms provides expert advice, giving you a bespoke suit made precisely to your measurements, which ensures the precise fit linen requires. Book an appointment in one of our showrooms today to get your summer wardrobe underway.