Men’s linen shirts have an unfair reputation for scruffiness. Sure, linen is a fabric that inevitably wrinkles, but that’s part of its charm. Cool and comfortable, a well-worn linen shirt in high summer is a thing of simple beauty. There’s no right or wrong here, but the key to one that flatters is finding a style that feels good to wear. Loose or slim fitting, spread or unstructured collar, striped or plain – the choice is yours.

From his workshop on London’s Chiltern Street, shirtmaker and founder of Jake’s, Jake Wigham, cuts modern shirts that subtly reference midcentury style. In summer, cool-to-wear cotton and linen blends are his fabrics of choice. He cuts these into either Popover shirts with classic button-down collars or his cult-favourite Leisure shirts, which have a generous fit and feature half-length sleeves, neat patch-and-flap chest pockets and cuban collars. “You want something that’s not going to cling to you; something that’s textural, and a bit drapey,” Wigham says. 

Jake’s London half-sleeve Leisure shirt, £145
Jake’s London half-sleeve Leisure shirt, £145 © Illya Sobtchak

“I often tell a lot of my customers to size up in summer so you’ve got even more room to breathe,” he adds. “I like to wear my Leisure shirts with a simple vest or white T-shirt underneath with high-waisted trousers or shorts. Wear the shirt either open like a jacket or buttoned-up and tucked in – it’s easy.”

That’s not to say that a linen shirt can’t be dressy when you need it to be. Designer Luca Faloni, who’s known for his handsome Italian-made shirts, creates linen shirts that are suited to smartening up. “We like to keep it elegant with the ‘paramontura’ – our signature one-piece collar – and no pockets, which make the design too casual,” he says. “We also prefer a slimmer fit to most linen shirts.”

Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet in 2017’s Call Me By Your Name
Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet in 2017’s Call Me By Your Name © Frenesy Film Co/Sony/Kobal/Shutterstock

The paramontura is a clever creation. Unlike a conventional shirt, which is made with a neckband into which a collar is sewn, folded over and pressed, a one-piece collar is cut as a single piece with no seam and attached directly to the shirt body. This gives the collar a fuller roll and, when worn under a jacket, keeps a bit more tension in the collar so it sits open properly. You can’t wear a tie with a one-piece collar, but in linen weather, why would you?

I wear shirts like these in classic colours – navy, sky blue, cream, taupe – tucked into dark pleated Irish linen trousers during the week, possibly with an unstructured blazer or overshirt on top. On weekends, I swap them for pastel colours like mint or pale yellow, worn untucked with tailored shorts and sandals. This look easily translates to holidays abroad, too (see Dickie Greenleaf in The Talented Mr Ripley or Call Me by Your Name for linen-shirt inspiration). All you need to finish is a pair of killer sunglasses and a canvas tote.

Luca Faloni Versilia shirt, £140

Luca Faloni Versilia shirt, £140

Thomas Pink short-sleeve Resort Fit shirt, £47

Luca Faloni Portofino shirt, £160
Luca Faloni Portofino shirt, £160

While Luca Faloni’s slim fit is flattering, you don’t need to restrict yourself to a close-cut linen shirt for it to look sleek. Brioni do luxurious-looking silk-blend iterations, while in London, Jermyn Street’s shirtmakers have also been having fun with linen – playing with colour, cut and volume. At Thomas Pink, designer Takashi Sugioka has just created a capsule of pure linen resort shirts with a boxy, informal cut. Available in a range of block colours and graphic prints, the collection recalls the classic cabana shirts of the 1950s, and, says Sugioka “represents a gentleman abroad, or at least signals that you’re out of office”.

New & Lingwood mustard collar shirt, £145
New & Lingwood mustard collar shirt, £145

Further along the street, New & Lingwood’s creative director Tom Leeper favours relaxed spread collar or neckband shirts in linen at this time of year, and the brand often pairs these with its statement dressing gowns as “working from home” or “pottering around the neighbourhood” shirts. “Dustier colours have been very popular this season,” Leeper says. “We have linen shirts in soft pink, duck-egg blue, and yellow. They’re easy to wear and tend to be more forgiving on different skin tones.” Wearing these with a silk dressing gown is one thing, but they are more than smart enough for venturing out and about in, too. “Tuck into a pair of lightweight tailored trousers and away you go,” Leeper adds.

No matter the shirts you choose, the most important thing is to embrace linen’s breeziness. Like the inevitability of death and taxes, that linen rumples is simply a fact of life. Consider it a rare treat to wear a shirt that doesn’t need to be pristine to look debonair. If in doubt, look to Alain Delon in Purple Noon, and remember to own the creases.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Follow the topics in this article