Consider the linen suit, pt. 1

The linen suit. The linen. Suit. Few get-ups have a reputation more stained than the linen suit. This is an unfortunate thing, but not an entirely undue one. Some stains, see, are there for very good reason.

Best not dwell on what has gone before. True, the linen suit hasn’t always kept the best company, and like all of us, it has made mistakes, but the motion tabled here is this: there is nothing much wrong with the linen suit, and there is very much that is right about it.

Linen blazer, worn with grey Irish linen Kelly collar shirt.

The case for the linen suit will be made by taking each term in turn. First up: linen. Good linen is plainly the basis for any effort to undo past damage done. Hardy, stouthearted linen; linen of a respectable weight, made by a mill in Lancashire, north-west England, and packed with characterfully multifarious tones and hues. It should be linen that can, at least figuratively speaking, stand up for itself; linen miles apart from the flimsy and the floaty and if you’re unlucky the slightly see-through. It should be linen made better by a good, softening wash, when it affects a slightly crumpled gait.

Second: suit. Or rather, blazer and trouser. Good use of the linen described above would be cutting it into something unstructured, short, casual-looking. Top-stitching on the front edge, and on the collar and lapel — ideally small and gently rounded off — might help too. Large “up and under” patch pockets wouldn’t go amiss. Nor should be forgotten the oft-neglected notion that what goes on inside a garment is as important as the outside. And so the finish should be very clean: a clear off-white half-lining, cotton binding on every seam, and neat jet pockets that fasten with a small button and loop. Those buttons, incidentally, might well be horn — real horn, Midlands-made even, with a matte finish.

The trousers have a traditional — read slightly longer than normal — rise, and the legs start at a standard width and taper down to a narrow hem.

Trousers, adopting linen-ism wholesale or otherwise, should have a decently sized rise, with legs wider at top than bottom. On the waistband, pockets, and fly they should have the exact same horn buttons as the blazer — and, for full-on top-to-bottom cohesion, a small rounded notch at the centre back-seam which matches that of the blazer lapel, too.

Do that you’re very far indeed from the sort of linen suit that has, over the millennia, given the linen suit a bad rap. You’ve got a linen suit — or, if you’d prefer, a linen blazer and some linen trousers — that can be found in very limited quantities here and here.