Not sure if you should wear that Tommy Bahama shirt out tonight? The magnificent bastard is here to help. Go ahead. Ask away.
Q: Hi - my brother is one of the groomsmen in a wedding and they are all being told they are wearing tan linen suits, white shirts and some sort of colorful tie (Florida wedding). He knows how you stand on linen, but doesn't have much choice here and is wondering what kind of white shirt goes with a linen suit. Linen? Regular dress shirt? I have to admit, I have no idea.
A: Gabriela, definitely not a linen shirt. That's like the wedding equivalent of the Canadian tuxedo, aka denim on denim. And as everyone knows, you should only wear denim on denim if you're feeling lucky, punk.
What the wedding party needs is lightweight 100% cotton shirts with sewn collar and cuff interlinings, which will complement linen with their natural, artfully disheveled look. Dress shirts with fused interlinings are almost always too neat in our opinion, but they are an especially bad match with wrinkled linen suits, kind of like the shirt-suit equivalent of Crystal Harris and Hugh Hefner.
We know you didn't ask about the ties, but if you have any pull with the groom please insist they absolutely not be silk. Again, too shiny/smooth of a contrast with the linen's matte/nubs. Go for linen or a linen-cotton blend.
Earlier: How to Wear Denim on Denim, by Clint Eastwood
Q: We know the MB views linen suits as having too much dishevelment regardless of any artfulness. And this MB agrees. But now Indochino offers suits that are 55% linen and 45% cotton. Does this blend allow them to avoid the problems of shape retention and excessive wrinkling? Please advise.
Q: Does the warning against linen apply to shirts as well as to pants?
A: Every year about this time we're asked whether there's any sort of special dispensation for wearing linen given our feature Linen: It Sucks. Not really.
Don't be seduced by models wearing perfectly puckered linen shirts. Linen shirts are made out of the same thing as linen pants: Linen. And thus they fall prey to the same problems, veering disastrously from artful dishevelment to plain dishevelment within minutes of wearing.
As for the suit, we've previously argued that whatever material linen is blended with, that material must retain at least a 51% ownership stake. The Indochino suit misses this requirement by 6 percent. While it may not wrinkle as fast as, say, 37-year-old Kate Moss, it will still wrinkle faster than you'd like, even if it never touches a cigarette.
Where is 50%+ linen OK? Whenever the article in question is not expected to sheathe entire limbs — scarves, pocket squares, dinner party napkins, or ties like this black and almost-white gingham from Nashville, TN tiemaker Otis James are all acceptable.
This guy is clearly cracking under the pressure. Paired with the right summer blazer that scarf could be magnificent, but accompanying only a polo it's wrong, and this guy's sheepish grin shows he knows it.
Q: Indochino, whom you reviewed in your Custom Shirt Reviews feature, just launched a line of made-to-measure linen suits called the Linen Collection. They claim that "the words sharp and crisp are new adjectives to associate with the fair weather suiting staple renowned for wrinkles. But we've found the perfect sturdy linen, still lightweight and soft, that maintains professional standards throughout the day with a blend of silk for sheen and tight weaves for structure." Worth a look or too good to be true?
A: Pete, given our own experiences with linen, we think it's probably easier to discover a cure for cancer than it is to create "sharp and crisp" linen. On the other hand, we live in a miraculous age. We would've never bet that our top scientists could create a wrinkle-free Joan Rivers, and yet look at her. She's sharp and crisp, with a nice silky sheen that's totally appropriate for fair weather suiting. So maybe Indochino has pulled off something similar. If they have, we applaud them -- and hope they start in on cancer soon.
via John Varvatos. $298.00.
Q: I like the darker colour of these John Varvatos linen/cotton blend soho pants better than the 100% cotton versions that MB recommended a few months back.
But knowing linen's terrible tendency to wrinkle (these are 53% linen) I'm prevented from clicking the buy button for fear of looking like I've cruelly robbed the trousers straight off the legs of a style-conscious hobo.
No less a figure than H.P. Lovecraft is reputed to have discovered a long forgotten fabric treatment that prevented linen from wrinkling, however the side-effects were horrendous...
So, failing the precise execution of a Lovecraftian material trans-mutation ceremony enacted in the tomb of an Egyptian Pharaoh; 53% linen fabric OK, or not OK?
A: Despite our extreme prejudice against 100% linen, linen blends can work. In general, we prefer that whatever material the linen is being blended with retain at least a 51% ownership stake, so you're tempting fate with those particular pants. But if you're feeling lucky, go for it.
Q: I have to go to an all white event (Bar Mitzvah). I have a white linen shirt and white linen pants. Can I wear both or do I need another top. And if the answer is yes, do I need a blazer or sweater?
A: Kevin, it would seem you haven't seen our bit on linen. It's trouble, and can turn a fella into a total mess within seconds. We've seen it happen. But when life gives you lemons, we say make lemonade (or at least some really outstanding lemon twists). Second, nobody wears white-on-white, except hospital orderlies and Mr. Clean (inset). So the objective is to break up the white with a shade of white, either in a different shirt, a sweater, or blazer. Take a look at this picture from the DKNY collection at Bloomingdale's, then ask the host if you can go as a bed.
It's sometimes useful to look to cinema for reinforcement of style principles. When the creators of Bull Durham wanted to create a shlubby, clueless rookie pitcher "with a million dollar arm and the 5-cent head" they dressed Ebby Calvin 'Nuke' LaLoosh in:
1. Pleated, linen pants. (Note the wrinkles!)
2. Tommy Bahama-style camp shirt.
3. Shiny gold watch and ring.
4. Pinkie ring.
Q: Please tell me that the bastard on your front page banner isn't wearing linen pants.
A: No, the Magnificent Bastard on the front page banner is most definitely not wearing linen pants, because we've all witnessed the disaster they turn into. Just cotton with a dash of elastane.
Q: Again with the white pants. At the risk of sounding like Tim the homophobe, I'm concerned that you may not appreciate the gay factor of some of these endorsements. I have prepared this graph for your reference.
via Bloomingdale's. $117.00.
Juicy Couture's slide toward brand oblivion isn't helped by this disastrous camo short triple play:
1. Linen. It sucks.
2. Long. 24" inseam a bit much, closer to slacks.
3. Camo. So 2006.
Even though they're on sale (surprise!), avoid.
via Bergdorf Goodman. $103.00.
Bergdorf Goodman is having their "Final Sale of the Season", and there's free shipping with code BGJULY7.
While there's some good stuff, be sure to avoid these Etro Linen Trousers. Sure, they might look nice on the model now, but literally seconds after that picture was taken they looked like shit. Don't believe us? Check out the time-lapse photography from a new MB feature: Linen. It sucks.