How To Wear Linen: 17 Stylish Outfits Perfect For Hot Weather
Lightweight, breathable and more versatile than you might imagine, here's how you should be wearing linen this summer.
Linen is an underrated fabric. Often shunned in favour of rival summer fabrics like cotton and, increasingly, lyocell, linen is a warm-weather OG. Lightweight, breathable and more versatile than you might first imagine, it’s ideal when cut into loose, drapey shirts and soft, unstructured tailoring. It’s got plenty of texture too, adding a little visual interest which is often lost on flatter, more tightly woven fabrics.
Despite its many qualities (it’s sustainable, too), linen’s reputation has had to be restitched in recent years. It was, for a long time, associated with shapeless styles that did the wearer no favours. It was Simon Cowell, dishevelled ambassadors and Monaco yacht owners with more money than taste.
More recently, designers have recognised linen’s technical properties and fashioned the fabric into modern garments cut for aesthetic as well as comfort. But which styles best suit linen, and how can you incorporate them into the rest of your summer wardrobe? From styling tips to linen outfit inspiration, here’s everything you need to know.
Linen garments to consider this summer
As summer tops go, the linen shirt is up there as the most versatile and comfortable. Easy to style, it adapts to smart and casual dress codes and should be a go-to if you’re after something more refined than a T-shirt. A step up from polo shirts and tees, linen shirts can nevertheless look just as laid back, thanks to the material’s casual associations when compared to cotton.
Wear one open over a tee and shorts and you’ve got a relaxed spring or summer look that’s perfect for BBQs, drinks in the pub garden or casual Friday in the office. Equally, if you need to don a suit in warmer climes, a linen shirt is the perfect accompaniment. Find one with a slim, flattering fit and tuck it into tailored trousers, then finish with a matching or contrasting cotton blazer for weddings, work events or fancy first dates.
Linen trousers don’t always get the kudos they deserve. And it’s not difficult to see why. Often appearing slouchy (and not in a good way), they’re easy to get wrong. It usually comes down to fit and colour.
Linen has a tendency to stretch slightly due to its loose weave, so relaxed fitting linen trousers can quickly become saggy and unflattering. Moreover, buy a pair in stone or cream and it’s easy to fall into badly dressed tourist territory, with the only thing missing a golf cap and sandals with socks.
On the other hand, go for the right pair of linen trousers (dark colours, relaxed but not loose fitting) and you’ve got a breathable, lightweight, slightly smarter alternative to shorts. What’s more, linen trousers are surprisingly adaptable. The trick is to treat them as you would a pair of chinos and dress them up with an Oxford shirt and blazer, or down with a T-shirt and sneakers.
Gone are the days of the baggy, ill-fitting linen suit. Today, brands are making use of the versatile fabric for form-fitting, unstructured blazers and tailored trousers, which are perfect for sharpening up your office attire throughout the spring and summer months.
Linen’s breathability makes it perfect for lightweight, warm-weather tailoring that keeps the wearer looking smart without overheating. But it’s the fabric’s texture that’s arguably its greatest asset when it comes to suiting, giving blazers and trousers a more interesting look and feel versus flatter, smarter wool and cotton blends.
Go for a dark navy linen suit then and you’ve got a lightweight two-piece you can wear throughout summer – wedding receptions, work parties, you name it. Not only that, you’ll also have a suit with bags of character and individuality, that’ll combine as well with an open neck polo as it will a shirt and knitted tie.
Linen might not be the obvious choice for outerwear. It’s not waterproof or particularly warm, so you might be better served by a coated cotton fabric or a wool blend. But for lightweight summer jackets such as chore coats, Harringtons and bombers, linen is a surprisingly versatile option.
The fabric comes in many different weights and weaves, from featherweight loose weaves to denser, thicker blends. For outerwear, the latter option is often best as it gives jackets structure and shape while still retaining the signature breathability of linen. This is especially important if linen outerwear has pockets, as any fibre too thin will render them pointless and too vulnerable to rips or tears.
Find a classic style like a chore jacket in a heavyweight linen though and you’ll have an adaptable piece of outerwear that’ll finish off casual looks. Wear one with lightweight chinos, polos or tees and sneakers, and you’re good to go.
Men’s Linen Outfit Inspiration
Neutral linen trousers
A summer staple and one that will see you through a wide variety of warm-weather occasions, neutral linen trousers are an excellent alternative to standard chinos. Look for a pair cut with a mid rise and a relaxed, tapered leg and combine them with a polo or, for something jazzier, a floral shirt, and finish with suede chukka boots.
Break up the linen suit
A linen suit might look its best when worn as separates. Sure it looks smart as a two piece, but break it up and you’ve got a whole host of versatile outfit combinations that can take you from the office to the bar in style.
Try, for example, ditching the jacket and pairing your stone linen suit trousers with a T-shirt and canvas sneakers for a smart casual look that’ll see you through a wide variety of social settings.
Linen drawstring trousers
Drawstring trousers are quickly becoming a capsule wardrobe staple. Their unrivalled comfort makes them an attractive option over traditional fixed waistband trousers, yet they still retain the smartness of the latter, meaning they can be worn with shirts and blazers or dressed down with polos and sandals when on holiday.
When looking for your own pair ensure the fit is relaxed and the colour classic and versatile – think navy, stone or cream and you’ll be on the right track.
The linen T-shirt
A T-shirt is just about the most adaptable piece of clothing you can wear. Ideal for layering and wearing under shirts and jackets, or just on their own above a pair of shorts, classic cotton jersey tees are one of the most worn garments in the world. But they can get a bit boring.
One way to mix them up is by switching the fabric; look for a linen-blend T-shirt and you’ve got the perfect alternative to a regular tee and one that’s even more lightweight and breathable.
A full linen suit can be tricky to pull off, open to Man From Del Monte jokes. But find one with a sleek tailored fit and a soft shouldered construction and there are few sharper ways to dress in the sun.
One of the downsides of linen, though, is the fact it creases so easily. If you’d like a breathable suit with a bit more structure to the fabric, try opting for a linen-cotton blend, which fuses the lightweight nature of linen with the more durable handle of cotton.
Linen does, of course, make for a more casual suit, so when styling yours consider pairing it with similarly laid-back pieces like polos, tees and Oxford shirts instead of more formal business shirts and ties.
Colourful linen tailoring
One way to introduce linen tailoring to your wardrobe is by fully embracing its casual nature and going colourful. Sure, you’ll likely get more wear from a navy linen suit, but pick one up in deep forest green and you’ll have a seasonal statement suit that combines well with other earthy shades like brown and stone as well as pastel tones of yellow and pink.
This is an ideal look for a beach wedding or a summer garden party.
Tailored shorts are an underrated summer purchase. Smart and easy to wear with shirts, polos and knitwear, they give your bottom half a refined look that’s lost on most other short styles. Find a pair in linen for something that still looks sharp but is about as breathable as it gets, ensuring you look well put together while staying cool.
Linen drawstring shorts might be the must-have of the summer. Infinitely more comfortable thanks to their elasticated waistbands, which expand with your body as your move, they feel almost as though you’re wearing pyjama shorts.
Find a pair in linen and you’ll be cool no matter how hot it gets – just look for a 1-2% elastane blend, which ensures the fabric will stretch slightly for added comfort.
Linen takes colour especially well – there’s something about the loose weave and matte finish of the fabric that gives colours depth. For something summer ready yet subtle, consider pastel pink, which works well in a button-down shirt or a crisp pair of shorts. Keep the rest of the outfit muted with soft whites to allow your chosen shade to take centre stage.
For a smart look perfect for Fridays in the office, try a windowpane check linen shirt with a pair of light blue cotton shorts. The cotton and the linen add plenty of texture, while the matching blues bring the look together. Finish by going sockless and with a pair of suede sneakers and you can’t go too far wrong.
While typically worn in casual situations, linen can work as part of a tailored business look. A well-fitting linen shirt with a cutaway collar made from a deep green linen fabric looks great tucked into a pair of pleated, mid rise tailored trousers.
Simple, minimal and effortlessly smart, this look is ideal for taking notes in the boardroom or, when finished with summer footwear like espadrilles, enjoying a beachside restaurant reservation.
Simple white linen
You can’t really go wrong with a simple white linen shirt. Treat it as you would a plain white Oxford and pair it with jeans, chinos or shorts in the summer. If you’re trying the latter, wear a pair of beige cotton shorts and off-white canvas sneakers for a tonal look that’s ideal for lounging by the beach or taking a weekend city stroll.
Relaxed fit linen
For a smart but relaxed look, a slightly oversized linen shirt can be the answer. Perfect for wearing open over a white tee and shorts, or tucked into tailored trousers or chinos, this is a versatile alternative to an Oxford shirt, and one with a bit more artistic flair. Try a striped version and tuck it into dark grey or olive green trousers, and finish with canvas low tops.
Linen Cuban collar shirt
A Cuban collar shirt is a summer essential, no matter which way you look at it. Perfectly smart yet still laid back, they’re ideal for wearing with tailored trousers or throwing over a pair of shorts when the weather really ramps up. Go for one in linen with a boxy fit and there’s likely no finer warm-weather shirt to be had.
Short sleeve linen
A T-shirt is a staple that rarely disappoints. But on some occasions you might want to dress a touch smarter, which is where a linen short sleeve shirt comes in. The ideal T-shirt replacement, they’re smarter and more sophisticated but work in virtually every outfit a T-shirt would, from a chinos and loafers combo to a jeans and sneakers fit.
Utilitarian pieces like chore jackets and work shirts are usually made from hardy fabrics like cotton twill, moleskin and cotton canvas. While durable and able to take a beating, they’re not usually the most lightweight or breathable, making these pieces difficult to wear in the middle of summer.
Find one in linen though and you’ll have all the functional style without any of the excess weight. Wear it as you usually would and combine it with neutral chinos or carpenter pants, tees, polos and canvas sneakers.
You won’t regret investing in a linen blazer. Infinitely more versatile than you might first think, they’re easy to combine with other tailored pieces including contrasting trousers, Oxford shirts or lightweight knitwear. But you can also dress them down with denim jeans and tees.
Whether you’re looking for a warm-weather alternative to a heavier cotton blazer, or you need to smarten up your casual wardrobe, a linen blazer is a wise choice.