Why Timeless Linen is the Fabric of the Future… and This Summer

Linen has been a trendsetter for centuries and as the magical warmth of the first summer sunshine on our backs returns, it’s easy to feel why.

Image credit: The Shirt Company

Timelessness is a word we hold dear in the Shirt Company ethos and if there’s ever a timeless fabric, it’s the flax-woven linen. Precious enough to be used as the burial-wraps for the afterlife obsessed ancient Egyptians, the luxury of linen has wafted through 19th century garden parties and into the present day.

While holding connotations of luxury, there is also something earthy and homely about linen which juxtaposes approachability with an easy kind of glamour.

When a fabric has a history that stretches back literally millennia, it’s safe to say it will be a permanent fixture in the fashion scene - but it’s not just the perennial status of linen that makes it an investment.

Image credit: Max Liebermann, The Flax spinners, 1887

On a less whimsical level, linen has a deeply practical bent which makes it a joy to wear. As well as standing the test of time through history, each linen piece will age gracefully in your closet. The more it’s washed, the softer and more snuggly linen becomes which means it shares the spotlight with Dolly Parton and cheddar cheese as something which genuinely improves with age.

Image credit: Canningvale

The flax which linen is grown from also has the power to improve our planet. Surely that alone is enough to make it a deserving candidate for the fabric of the future? All of the flax grown to make linen in Europe removes around 250,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year. If the abstract number isn’t impressive enough, that’s enough CO2 to whiz around the earth in a car 22,600 times.

There is something pleasingly pastoral about the words “flax fields”, and the floral meadows themselves live up to this image. A crop of flax helps to maintain biodiversity and keep insect populations thriving which creates fields thronging with life — especially if they happen to be organic, which many flax fields are — this robust crop grows well without pesticides.

Image credit: flickr.com/Gileswatson

The instagram-worthy blossoms of the flax field channel a summery idyll which is pleasingly infused in the fabric it creates. The hollow fibres of linen fabric allow air to breeze through, making it fresh and cool to wear, while the natural crispness ensures it drapes from the body with no unseemly sweaty clinging to kill the sunshine vibes.

Linen is bathed in sunshine as a warm-weather fabric in the collective imagination, but when it comes to sustainability, its relationship with the rain is equally as important. Natural rainfall is usually enough to allow flax plants to flourish which means there’s little need for irrigation. As a fabric for all seasons, linen is also great in cold weather as the same hollow fibres which keep us cool also retain warm pockets of heat when the mercury plummets.

Image credit: The Shirt Company

A good quality piece of linen will last for twenty seasons with ease, but when it’s life cycle is over, pure natural linen can begin to biodegrade in two weeks. Fitting for a fabric from a plant whose cultivation produces no waste. All parts of the flax plant are used in everything from varnish to paper production and — as the root of the plant remains in the soil when the plant is pulled — the remnants fertilise the soil and improve its productivity for years to come.

In a pleasing echo, the linen in your wardrobe will also enhance and elevate your look for years to come. With its prestige feel that other more oft-used fabrics can lack, linen truly has the makings of the fabric of the future, but also the summer we are just frolicking into