With record-breaking summer temperatures now a scary norm, something drastic needs to be done to stay cool. Especially in the trouser department. Once regarded as the go-to trouser style for ’90s singer-songwriters and stuffy Brits abroad, linen trousers are now having a style resurgence, thanks to modern cuts, accessible colour palettes and polished finishing touches.
If you’re not worried about looking like Simon Cowell on holiday, you’re probably worried about the creases. Don’t be. Designers and retailers are developing more and more innovations to ensure that, while the linen won’t be completely crease free (it’s not meant to be), it’s going to look less like a dishrag and more elegantly dishevelled.
With brands like Cos, Uniqlo and Theory now using the summer-friendly material, you can also expect more considered fits; linen’s drape remains, but a tapered leg or cropped hem here and there helps to create some definition. And you can wear them in more ways, dressing them up and down as you need to.
How To Wear Linen Trousers
Broadly speaking, there are two directions you can go when styling linen trousers, tailored or casual. The former is the look you already know. Think pleated fronts, Cuban collar shirts tucked in, a tonal blazer over the top if temperatures call for it. All very Italian.
Avoid linen shirts and go with a cotton or Tencel shirt for some textural contrast. Sandals or loafers will finish the look.
For a more modern take, wear linen trousers like you’d wear a smart-ish pair of joggers (you’ll find lots with drawstring waists). Pair them with a neutral, block-colour T-shirt and easy-wearing high-tops or minimalist trainers for an easy way to stay cool in the city.
What To Look For
One of the benefits of linen in the summer months is down to the unique structure of the fabric. Its low thread count and moisture absorbency keeps you cool and allows greater airflow around the body. One hundred per cent linen, however, can be tricky to care for. You’ll need a red hot steam iron while the trousers are still damp in order to be rid of creases.
One way around this is to invest in a linen blend trouser. The linen will ensure a flattering drape to the trousers, while the addition of cotton or polyester will add an element of easy-care such as being fast drying.
Linen doesn’t have a natural stretch, so opting for a looser pair with a good drape is a good idea. It’s easy to feel cautious though as too loose a fit will invite some unfavourable comparisons, and no-one wants to look like the man from Del Monte.
Linen trousers now come in a wider range of fits than in years gone by. Counter the relaxed fit with tapered legs, turn up hems and drawstring waists, giving the linen trouser look an instant style update.
With linen being a natural fibre, the best colour options are earthy tones, like dark neutrals, stone, khaki and brown, especially if the desired look is more casual. Washed navy and denim-style indigo are a great way to help linen trousers appear smarter. Leave brighter colours to showboating yacht owners.
Like a lot of formal trousers, the classic linen trouser has undergone some upgrades in recent years. Drawstring waists and unfinished hems help to create a more casual, beachy look, whereas classic side adjusters and welt pockets on pairs with sharp pleats help to create a more office-appropriate summer look.
Opting for a linen trouser with a turn-up hem is probably the best way of getting the most bang for your buck. Tried and tested with suit trousers, the turn-up is dapper in the office, whilst also being perfect for further rolling up on the beach.
The Best Brands For Linen Trousers
US brand Theory’s classic Zaine pant has been given an update for summer. Cut the same as their best-selling trouser, the linen variation offers a linen-poly blend, making the trousers just that little bit easier to care for and a touch of stretch provides added comfort. The trousers are cropped to the ankle, making them easy to roll up for a more contemporary sea-side look.
Not quite ready to hang up the chinos in favour of a linen trouser? Head to NN07, which has developed a linen-cotton blend chino to satisfy the doubters. A great solution, especially teamed with an of-the-moment holiday shirt. For those ready to go beyond nodding at the trend, the Scandi brand also does a casual linen trouser with a drawstring waist, pleated front and tapered leg.
Marks & Spencer
Dressing for the office in summertime is hard, fact. High-street stalwart M&S has come to the rescue with a range of linen trousers that won’t look too casual for work, but will graft away in the wardrobe, doubling as a weekend option. Its slim fit linen trousers are cut just right to roll up for a weekend paddle and the blend of linen and viscose means they drape well with instantaneous creases.
With thoughts of linen come thoughts of Italy, and Italian brand Brunello Cucinelli certainly knows its way around a luxury linen trouser. Linen is a classic fabric, usually known for its coarse handfeel, but Cucinelli’s range is almost impossibly soft. We’re talking CEO prices, but this is sprezzatura at its best, with contemporary shapes and a mix of plains, Prince of Wales checks and distressed pinstripes in earthy blues and neutral tones.
Mr Porter’s in-house label has, in just a few short years, nailed considered takes on lasting, wearable trends. So it’s no surprise to see it stocking a few linen trousers for summer. Loose or tapered and tailored, the palette is muted and easy to style up or down depending on what you’re running out of the door for. And expect extra touches like drawstring waists, sharp pleats or chambray finishes.
Mango does the dapper European look at better prices than most and its linen trousers are a cornerstone of that look. The options are mainly tailored with turn-ups and pleats but you’ll also find the odd sweatpant-inspired cut. It’s also a good place to look for more interesting takes on staple colours, with versatile off-whites and tobacco browns among our favourites.
Linen can be a hard fabric to mould to the body, it’s designed to sit away to create a cooling sensation. The range at COS plays with proportions by creating a smart suit trouser which sits close to the body, for a more polished look. Then its cotton-linen blend joggers offer a more casual silhouette with a comfortable fit and an elasticated waist, for those BBQ weekends and Netflix binges.
British brand Far Afield offers a range of linen trousers with an easy palette to work with. They span linen suit trousers to looser, casual options, all of which will work with crisp shirts as well as an easy Breton top.
Bossing the premium end of the high-street, Reiss makes clothes that often look designer but without the same heart-stopping price tags. The linen trousers are a good case in point: well tailored, in interesting colours and with lots of extra touches like side adjusters and subtle patterns.