Paul Galvin: The very fabric of summer
From bags and shoes to shirts and trousers, linen is everywhere, says Paul Galvin
So linen is back with a, ahem, whisper. Did it ever really go away? I'm not sure. No one ever knows with linen, the silent fabric. It slinks in and out, around and about the house without ever making much noise.
The best thing about linen is that it may keep Irish men out of shorts this summer.
Don't be fooled by its light, airy texture, however. This is one tough fabric, made from vegetable stalk fibres. Which vegetable, I hear you ask? The flax plant, actually. What's a flax plant, I hear you ask? Well... I haven't a clue. Ask a hippy, I'd say! Linen is much more durable than cotton, though -- I know that much.
I had a pair of linen drawstring trousers when I was younger. Wore them everywhere. Thought I was the man. I wasn't! They lasted me years. A few years too many, in hindsight.
For all its summer suitability and versatility, it's not a fabric I'm a huge fan of. It's a bit too Man from Del Monte for me. Still, it made a big splash on this year's spring/summer catwalks, everywhere from Prada to our own Orla Kiely.
While you might normally associate linen with bedsheets or tablecloths, it is much more versatile than that. Prada has gone from linen shirts and bags to shoes and sandals this season.
I love the espadrilles and creepers that are available for men online. I'll hardly buy a pair, though. Lots of my trainers and plimsolls are made of canvas which have a linen origin or can be woven in tabby with cotton. Again, they're lightweight and neat summer-weather shoes.
Prada also does linen-frame tote bags, which are perfect summer accessories for the beach or a day's shopping for the girls. Where Prada goes, Miu Miu follows with her polka-dot canvas platforms and linen totes.
D&G also went big on linen for men this season. It's a fabric for the older man and the more mature lady. D&G went for a combination of linen jackets and vests over hemp trousers to create a baggy, loose silhouettewhich is forgiving and free. It takes the pain out of middle age and adds comfort. I'm not quite there yet.
Orla Kiely's genius throws up the most interesting take on linen for me this year. Her silk linen collection is eclectic, which is quite something for such a fabric. Her choice of earthy mustard and deep-green colours adds lots of character and suits the aesthetic of both the fabric and the designer, which is testament to her creative brilliance.
The more she diversifies, the better she gets. Kiely's silk linen coat dress can be worn as a coat or a dress, and the structure and colour make it very classic yet modern. The silk linen drape-neck dress is bright and summery and very structured too. The mix of fabrics and attention to detail give these pieces such personality.
Recent visitor to Ireland Christian Louboutin, meanwhile, adds lace over linen to his peep-toes.
Now, enough of the fancy fashion schtik, for I surely sound like a fashion expert, which I'm not. If you want to see how men wear linen this summer, hit the Hamptons. Ralph Lauren, Rochester and Perry Ellis will all be there wearing it, staying cool.
It is a real holiday fabric for both men and women. It keeps you cool in the sun, is versatile enough to wear over swimwear, it covers you up if necessary and is lightweight and easy to pack. Just try getting the wrinkles out when you unpack, though!
Jaeger at Arnotts does great linen suits in black, navy and beige. Austin Reed combines cotton and linen in his suiting, and there are great casual linen blazers from Tommy, Strellson and Remus. Farhi stocks linen trousers and shirts too -- perfect for keeping your dad cool if you forgot Father's Day, or for sailing towards the horizon from the yacht club.
Try a nice pair of linen pants with boat shoes and a T-shirt, maybe at the tennis club for a barbecue. A linen shirt over jeans is a great look for a walk on the beach. I'm not quite ready for it myself just yet. The Man from Del Monte says... maybe. When I'm older.