by TYLER HAMPTON
When it comes to the South, summertime heat can seem nearly unbearable, but that doesn’t mean your style has to suffer. The world’s best fabric mills work diligently to continually develop the latest innovations in textiles. Whether it’s an ultralight cotton blend or a moisture-wicking performance cloth, the clothing we wear has come a long way in a short time. Even through all of these updates and improvements, nothing will keep you cooler on a hot day than tried-and-true pure linen.
It may not have the softest hand or most luxurious feel initially, but don’t let that fool you; this cloth ages like a fine bourbon. Its wrinkled appearance irks the nerves of many, but the wrinkling is truly a function of the fabric: much like seersucker, it lifts the cloth off of the skin and creates “channels” for air to flow, keeping you cool and dry. It’s like wearing an air conditioner.
Keeping cool pertains to more than just temperature, though… summer is the perfect opportunity to showcase your mastery of sprezzatura, or a nonchalant, effortless style. It’s the art of subtle sophistication while giving the appearance of a relaxed, natural ease. A brightly colored linen shirt unbuttoned one or two lower than you normally may, untucked with the sleeves rolled up, shorts or pants comfortably loose through the legs, and white sneakers with a few scuffs on them are all perfect examples of sprezzatura. You know the look, you can pull it off, and trust me… your wife will love it.
Another upside to this particular look is that body shape isn’t overly important. Since the style calls for looser, easier fits, it’s flattering for most figures. I hear a lot of guys (especially with larger builds) say they want lighter fabrics because they’re hot-natured, but lighter isn’t always better. The lighter in weight a fabric is, the more clingy and susceptible to showing outlines it will be. You don’t need the build of a model to look like one- the drape of the garments will create a shape which works for you while the breathability will keep the temperature down.
There’s really just one rule here: under no circumstance should you wear an undershirt with linen. This not only defeats the purpose, but looks completely out of place, combating the aforementioned effortless style.
I hear a lot of objections to linen in the store, mostly that “it wrinkles so easily.” It does, but as I said before, that’s part of the function of the fabric itself. It’s expected and accepted with linen. This isn’t your dress shirt you’re wearing to work, needing proper pressing to look the part… this is your shirt to wear casually with the open collar and sleeves rolled up, out to dinner after a day on the water, or on any of your weekend adventures when the weather’s warm. If you haven’t tried linen before, give it a shot! Swing by the new Hampton’s location on Mooresville’s Main Street and try one on. As Steve McQueen demonstrates here, summertime has never felt so cool.