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Okay, so it’s creased. You might need to give it an extra iron before you can wear it. But it doesn’t matter. Few fabrics can create such a heady sense of good taste as linen does. So it’s worth letting the body breathe this summer.
What many consider to be linen’s greatest disadvantage is also its greatest strength. The fabric’s thin fibres and fine weave mean it creases easily, particularly on the back and at the crook of the arm. But instead of worrying about the garment losing some of its shape, many have learnt to love the slight sense of effortlessness and informality you get from linen.
Despite the best efforts of the 1980s to tarnish linen’s reputation, there are still some icons from this period we can learn from. Don Johnson’ Crockett and Philip Michael Thomas’ Tubbs in Miami Vice showcased the linen suit, and if you prefer pastel colours, bulky jackets and ample chest hair, this is the show to watch for summer wardrobe tips.
The linen shirt
More cultured types, however, should instead take their linen style cues from authors. The literary colossus Ernest Hemingway is often cited as a standard bearer of the linen look, visiting exotic locations well suited to the fabric both in his books and in person. The linen shirt with rolled up sleeves has become something of a signature garment, both for Hemingway and the entire ‘Lost Generation’, and he often gave his romantic characters similar style traits. This applies particularly to the combative journalist Jake Barnes in the 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises.
Another journalist and author who romanticised and crafted stories as cool as linen is Hunter S. Thompson. Like his character Paul Kemp in The Rum Diary (played on the big screen by Johnny Depp), Thompson gladly nurtured his cult of personality with large quantities of alcohol, sun hats and eccentric Hawaiian shirts, preferably made from linen
Hunter S. Thompson perhaps wasn’t always the most gentlemanly of men. But like other icons, he too had an eye for the nonchalant elegance of linen.