How to style a linen shirt
Friday, 29 October 2021
It’s the natural miracle fibre guaranteed to make you look 25% more like someone who owns a yacht. Welcome to our men’s linen shirt guide.
What is a linen shirt?
Linen shirts work for almost any occasion and any time of day. They’re one of the most versatile, breathable, durable and stylish shirts going around. The fabric itself is ancient: derived from natural flax fibres and first woven in Egypt thousands of years ago. For a long, long time, linen was mostly confined to bedding and textiles. It was fabric for sheets, not shirts. Then the ‘90s rolled around and men’s linen shirts became an international style symbol: the unofficial shirt of Mediterranean summers and carefully disheveled luxury.
Why every man needs a linen shirt?
Linen shirts are usually slightly more expensive than their cotton cousins, because linen is a little trickier to source and manufacture. You can find linen/cotton blend shirts, although you tend to lose a lot of linen’s natural advantages that way. So if you can, stick to the pure stuff. Why? Because linen is nature’s miracle fabric. The weave of linen allows more airflow than cotton, so the shirt is more breathable. It wicks away moisture from your body, but is also somehow quick-dry. Linen has a lower environmental impact than cotton, too, and it’s got natural anti-microbial properties (up to a point—you still need to wash your linen shirts).
What to wear with a linen shirt?
Linen shirts are lightweight and breathable, so they tend to be spring or summer shirts. You can wear a linen shirt in winter, but you’ll need to layer up. The best style tip when it comes to men’s linen shirts is: think breezy, think light. Let the shirt do most of the talking, and don’t weigh it down with too many layers, distractions or accessories.
Linen shirt and suit
Most linen shirts are what we’d call ‘smart casual’ shirts, but you can find linen business shirts for the office, too. In fact, they’re a great summer alternative when the weather heats up and you find yourself sweating on the commute. Look for long-sleeve linen shirts with a cutaway collar, trim fit and decent shoulder structure. Just ditch the tie and throw on your favourite suit jacket.
Linen shirt and shorts
Linen shirts and shorts are like strawberries and cream. It’s hard to go too far wrong. Grab a sand or navy linen shirt, undo the top button, and pair it with your favourite cotton chino shorts. Finish the look with boat shoes, driving shoes, sandals or sockless loafers. It’s an effortless (but very classy) summer outfit, and you can wear it to the beach, the pub, or the backyard BBQ.
Linen shirt and jeans
Of course jeans and linen shirts go together. Jeans go with everything. But there is a right way and a wrong way to go. First, you need to think slim. You want slim-fit jeans and a well-fitted shirt – if the fabric is ballooning out from your shoulder blades, your linen is way too big. Just pick your favourite colour (khaki, white, navy, sand and pink are all winners) and throw on some white lace-up sneakers.
Linen shirt and chinos
Our personal favourite combo. There’s something about a crisp white linen shirt and tan or khaki chinos that just…works. They’re natural best mates. Again, like jeans, make sure your pants and shirt fit well. Leave your linen untucked. And complete the look by cuffing your chinos (a double cuff or pinroll cuff is best) and rocking some sockless loafers or lightweight espadrilles.
Colour rules for mens linen shirts
Probably 90% of the linen shirts you see will be white, off-white, navy or khaki. And there’s a reason for that. Those colours mix and match with nearly everything. It means you can get more mileage out of your linen shirt, throwing it over pretty much whatever you want.
Men's white linen shirts
White linen shirts are the archetypal men’s linen shirt. It’s the classic Mediterranean look, and a good place to start if this is your first time on the linen train (usually we’d recommend steering clear of pure white, but linen shirts are the exception). Just throw on some cuffed indigo jeans or navy chino shorts. Job done.
Men's navy linen shirts
Navy linen shirts have a certain nautical vibe, like you just stepped off a yacht in Cannes or Saint Tropez. If you’re going navy on top, keep your bottom half light and neutral. Tan, beige and ivory chinos are all a great fit. Navy is a good after-dark option, too. It tends to handle evenings better than pure white.
Men's green linen shirts
Light green or khaki linen shirts are becoming more and more popular. It’s a good earthy, neutral shade, and it matches easily with jeans. We like this guy for weekend barbecues, restaurants and beer gardens, where a white linen shirt becomes an instant food splatter magnet.
Men's sky blue linen shirts
There are two ways to go with light blue or sky blue linen shirts. You can dress tonal, matching the light blue on top with some indigo jeans or navy shorts. Or you can dress in contrast, with beige chinos and brown leather shoes. Remember to roll up your sleeves and flash some accessories – a linen shirt and vintage watch always work well together.
FAQ: General styling tips for linen shirts
Do you tuck in a linen shirt?
As a general rule, no. Linen looks best when it’s well-fitted and blowing gently in the breeze. We’d only tuck a linen shirt if it’s a formal linen shirt. The kind you wear with suit pants and a jacket.
Do you wear an undershirt with a linen shirt?
You don’t have to, but there’s nothing wrong with it. Linen shirts look great on their own, but you can easily add a tee underneath for some extra warmth. Crew necks are good, and scoop necks are even better (they go with that whole carefree summer beach vibe). Just pick a light, neutral shade that compliments the linen. Navy and grey. White and off-white. Khaki and tan.
How do I look after linen?
Linen’s one downside is that it can be a bit fiddly to care for. Wash your shirts in cold water, if you can, and let them dry slowly in the sun. Never throw linen in a hot tumble-dryer (that’s a guaranteed recipe for shrinkage). Iron your linen shirts after each wash and hang them in your closet, alongside your business shirts.
Can i get away with a linen shirt in winter?
Of course! But you might need a few extra layers, depending on the weather. Linen is great at regulating temperature, but a cold wind will rip straight through it. We’d generally recommend sticking to wool or cotton during the colder months. Save your linen for the beach.
Bradley Mclennan has been with POLITIX for 5 years as a designer, and has over 11 years' experience across womenswear, everyday brands and streetwear. He has always been fascinated with how a creative outlook affects people's lives. A great song. An inspired building. Brad love's to push the boundaries. He's the guy injecting colour and pushing the team to be bold. Bringing the whole thing together with an insane attention to detail.