Gentlemen’s Fabrics 101 – Linen

Cary Grant in Linen Jacket and Trousers
Cary Grant in Linen Jacket and Trousers

Just as ancient China lays claim to the production of silk, ancient Egypt brought the world linen. Linen is the fabric made from the fibre of the plant flax, Linum usitatissimum. Egyptians are recorded as having linen production as far back as 4 000 years and archeologists have discovered linen fragments near human encampments from 10 000 years ago, with some suspected dyed flax fibres being used for clothing as far back as 38 000 years ago.

The Flax Plant - Linum usitatissimum
The Flax Plant - Linum usitatissimum

The process to produce usable fibres from flax to spin into yarn and thread is labour intensive, hence the higher price for linen garments. The flax seeds must first be removed from the plant in a process called rippling. the stacks must then have the cellulose on the plant separated from the plant’s fibres through retting, where bacteria dissolve the unneeded cellulose. Next the flax stacks are scutched which removes all the woody material, as well as the oil, the source of linseed oil. Once scutched, heckling, through the use of the heckling comb, separates the short fibres from the long, where they can then be spun into yarn and thread and then woven into linen. Whew!

Cary Grant Traveling in a Double-breasted Linen Suit
Cary Grant Traveling in a Double-breasted Linen Suit

And taking our cue from style icon Cary Grant, linen is an ideal fabric for attaining Kingpin chic. Will over at The Houndstooth Kid extols the virtues of wearing linen. His most convincing point? It travels well. Very well.

It wrinkles. It’s supposed to wrinkle. A linen suit or jacket without wrinkles is like a car without wheels: they just have to be there for it to work. And since we sit for long periods of time when we travel, our clothes tend to wrinkle even if they aren’t supposed to.

Linen shirts, trousers, jackets suits and shorts are ideal for keeping your cool in the coming summer heat, and looking damn fine doing so!

Article first published as Summer’s Coming, Where’s Your Linen? on Technorati.

Published by The Kingpin

Kingpin's Hideaway is a gentlemens outfitter specializing in designer and vintage clothing and accessories. Getting men to dress like grownups since 1986. Kingpin Chic is gentlemenswear. With balls.

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