If your summer travel plans involve hot and humid destinations, do yourself a favour and pack linen clothing in your suitcase. With a travel wardrobe that includes a few linen pieces, you’ll be comfortable even when the weather turns muggy, and improve the odds of enjoying your travels fully. No retreating from the heat of the piazza, cutting out of walking tours early, or finding yourself distracted from museum treasures because you became a sticky mess en route from the hotel. Linen is the quintessential summer fabric that keeps the wearer cool, whilst also lending them a certain sprezzatura, an Italian word that translates to “studied carelessness.” This nonchalance is perfect both for your travel clothing and your mindset for the journey.
What is Linen?
Linen is an ancient, natural textile woven from the fibres of the flax plant. Growing, harvesting, and manufacturing flax into linen is a complex, time-consuming process. Flax plant fibres must be removed from long stalks through a process called retting that washes away surrounding plant cells. Once the fibres are separated, they are rinsed, combed, and dried before being spun into flax yarn. This flax yarn in turn is woven into linen textiles used in bedding, table linens, and linen clothing.
How Linen Keeps You Cool
Several properties of linen work to minimise hot-weather discomfort. Linen fibres and weaves are thin and breathable, effectively regulating your temperature by allowing air to circulate and cool you off. Additionally, linen is a naturally-wicking fabric that absorbs moisture and dries quickly. This means wherever you roam — to a Caribbean island, to the Australian Outback, or to the savannahs of Africa — you’ll keep dry even on the hottest days: linen is akin to wearing a natural cooling system on your body. Finally, linen gives you some space. This is not a clingy fabric that makes you feel smothered in the heat. Linen drapes away from your body, offering further air circulation and catching any welcome breezes that pass your way.
What Linen Clothing to Pack
Even one article of linen clothing will serve you well when you travel to warm weather locales. But before you pack for your trip, consider what you plan to do in the midday heat and on warm nights abroad. If you are relaxing on the beach in your bathing suit most days and enjoying outdoor cafés in the evening, linen shorts or a linen popover tunic are easy to throw on at end of day. If you are sightseeing most of the day, you’ll be cool throughout with linen trousers and a linen tee. Feel free to wear linen from head to toe and fully embrace the fabric’s laid-back panache. But linen also goes well with other fabrics so you can mix and match as you wish.
When to Not Wear Linen
A linen caveat: because it is such a thin and cooling fabric, linen will make you feel uncomfortably cold in air conditioning and when the temperature drops. Opt for a different fabric, or bring along a warmer layer if you expect to be in a chillier environment.
Linen’s Crumpled Finish
Finally, embrace linen’s creases, crinkles, and crumples. Think of linen’s characteristic rumpledness as the embodiment of your laid-back travel aesthetic. There are likely to be some wrinkles along the journey, but you’re going to keep perfectly cool and take it all in stride throughout.