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Cotton vs. Linen: The Ultimate Showdown for Hot Weather Comfort

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Model Mike and dog

Before comparing the two fabrics, it is helpful to know the composition of cotton and linen. Cotton is made from the natural fibers of the cotton plant. The cotton material that makes the fabric is grown in the cotton boil. Linen fabric is made from natural cellulose fibers that grow in the stalks of the flax plant. Linen is one of the oldest cultivated plants in human history. Flax also requires less watering and can grow in most any conditions, making it more friendly to the environment.

Comparing Cotton and Linen Fabrics

 SS Linen

For starters, linen has lower heat conductivity compared to cotton. OK…so what are we saying here… well, linen fabrics absorb less heat from the environment or body, keeping the fabric itself cooler to the touch. It helps in reducing the sensation of warmth against the skin, making it more comfortable to wear in hot and humid climates. Our short sleeve linen shirts in striking tropical designs will keep you looking sharp and feeling more at ease on those warm days that can last from late spring into early fall.

Cotton has similar insulating properties to fiberglass, which is somewhat better for cooler temperatures, but not so great for summer’s heat. Linen flax fibers are hollow, making them very cool during the hot, humid summer months.

Cotton is very breathable, and absorbs moisture a bit better than linen. Cotton can absorb 25% of its weight, while linen can absorb 20% of its weight. 

However, if you are prone to sweating, beware. Although cotton absorbs a little more moisture, it is unable to wick moisture away from the skin as effectively as linen. Linen is both breathable and highly wicking. Wicking means linen draws moisture (sweat) away from the skin and dries quickly, keeping you more comfortable in the heat. 

LS Island Coral Flamingo

So, what does this mean for you? Even our long sleeve linen shirts will keep you cooler, preventing the damp sweat from engorging your look. Check out our linen accents that can easily take you from ‘corporate to casual’ with a touch of Caribbean flair that exhibits a just the right amount of panache in either setting.

An anti-microbial textile, linen is anti-fungal and anti-microbial… Huh?!? In short, it means that it will not smell even though it does absorb moisture. (remember, it is highly wicking!!)

Both linen and cotton are hypo-allergenic, however, linen is slightly better for those with allergies as the lower thread count and its loose weave is less likely to trap dust and other particles. The loose weave also allows better airflow which aids in cooling. 

Heathered Linen Blue Shorts

Cotton does have more stretch and flexibility than linen, but it is not as durable. Fabrics like cotton, polyester and wool tend to pill more because these fibers are weaker than the flax fibers in linen. So, if you love your linen shorts and pants they will last much longer, saving you money over time. Here is an example of the durability difference using bedsheets.

Cotton is a naturally smoother fabric, because flax fibers are initially rougher, therefore, cotton sheets are softer right out of the package, and can last around five years. But linen softens with each washing, becoming more and more comfortable with each wash, and lasts much longer, up to 30 years. 

The same is true for linen clothing. Those working outdoors in the Caribbean, Central and South America, experience a great deal of tropical weather and wear linen because it has excellent wicking, and their garments last much longer. Importantly, repeated washings do not damage the structural integrity of the garment. 

Wrinkles. Let’s face facts, both linen and 100% cotton fabrics are going to wrinkle. Linen does naturally wrinkle a bit more than cotton. Both linen and cotton are natural fabrics and cannot be grown ‘wrinkle-free.’ They can be blended with other materials like rayon and polyester to make them more wrinkle-resistant. But this reduces the cooling benefits of the fabrics.

If you do want fewer wrinkles, a quick minute or so with a steam iron is all you need, and you can embrace the natural comfort linen provides throughout the day. You will look and feel as comfortable as possible in the heat while others are bathing in their own sweat. 

Guayabera and Linen Pants

Together, our intricately patterned Guayabera and linen drawstring pants exude the tropical lifestyle of our Madda Fella linen collections.

The Verdict Is In

One last tip, no matter the fabric, when the sun is beating down, wear light colors to reflect the heat, not darker colors that absorb the heat. Both cotton and linen are popular fabrics. But in warm, and/or humid climates, linen’s unique properties tip the scales for comfort and durability. Stay cooler, look great wearing linens, and enjoy the summer!

Check our linen shirts linen pants; and linen shorts collections.

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