Linen is a beautiful material, one that we believe is far too uncommon.
As it is held, the history of the fabric is transmitted through the senses. Its foreign, yet familiar feeling resolves as the material’s ancestral connection is recalled; sparking a curiosity for the natural elegance and versatility that have characterized linen for millennia.
Fast forward to today, and the product of an industry built on tradition and craftsmanship is not nearly as popular as it once was. Replaced by a variety of fabrics, both cheaper and easier to mass-produce, linen makes up less than one percent of textile fibers produced each year.
Unseen here, however, are the countless new material applications and societal forces that are coming together to form a quietly emerging linen renaissance.
Across the world, linen – and its constituent flax fibers – are being introduced in projects well beyond their typical settings, from surfboards to tennis rackets. Eco-innovators are harnessing linen’s unique material properties to both enhance product performance and meaningfully improve on sustainability.
As it stands, those who intentionally seek out linen are the appreciators, the wisdom-seekers, the pioneers, the impact-minimalists – or at least that’s what we like to call ourselves :)
It is for these reasons that we choose to make our handkerchiefs of 100% Irish Linen of European-grown flax:
Flax, the plant fiber used to weave linen, is by far the first natural fiber ever used by humans.
The oldest discovered flax fibers date back more than 30,000 years to a cave in the Caucasus Mountains in the Republic of Georgia; the age of megafuna roaming the Earth and the extinction of the Neanderthals.
The material was, however, not made famous in history until much later by the Ancient Egyptians, with images of early linen production methods appearing on hieroglyphics across the kingdom.
The labor-intensive growing and weaving processes meant most of the linen was reserved for pharaohs and religious figures in their life and death – up to 1,000 meters of fine linen cloth would be wrapped around pharaohs during the mummification process.
As trade expanded, the fabric eventually made its way to Greece, finding new uses there. Perhaps the most famous of which being Alexander the Great’s armor, made of not metal, but 11-20 layers of laminated linen fabric, fused together with flaxseed oil, and compressed to a strength capable of stopping arrows, while also remaining lightweight and somewhat flexible.
From prior to civilization onwards, the story of linen continues – evolving and adapting like a living species.
We believe that, like all evolutionary successes, linen’s longevity cannot be without cause. We would suggest that the fabric’s unique material properties are what has kept it around.
Linen is host to a number of uniquely desirable properties that set it apart as the ideal handkerchief material.
Comfort & Durability
For one, linen balances luxurious comfort with formidable durability. This is a rare combination as these attributes are often materially at odds with one another – improvements in one typically leading to losses in the other.
To the touch, linen’s natural flax fibers glide against the skin, never irritating, and age extremely well, becoming softer and more pliable through continued use.
Meanwhile, linen is also the world’s strongest plant-based fiber.
This strength comes not at the expense of added weight or toughness, but from the elongated flax fiber structure – with each individual strand acting like a rope in tension. This bestows a remarkable longevity that, when well-kept, can last for decades.
Absorptivity & Drying Speed
These qualities are due to the naturally spacious weave of the fabric. Linen’s loose weave and low thread count result in the formation of larger pore spaces between fibers, capable of rapidly absorbing and dispersing moisture – much in the same way as performance sportswear.
In a similar manner, linen’s exceptional breathability comes from applying the same principle to air flow – larger pore spaces lead to increased air flow through the fabric and, in turn, faster drying speeds. Therefore, linen acts as a great body temperature regulator and performs very well in high temperatures. This is why linen is common in items from bed sheets to desert travel apparel.
Two borderline medicinal properties that relate to linen excelling in a handkerchief application: the fabric is hypoallergenic, which is supplemented by linen being both lint-free and antistatic, keeping it free of dust and other particles; and lastly, there is evidence to suggest that flax fibers are naturally antibacterial.
Taken together, linen consists of almost every property sought after in the pursuit of creating the best handkerchief possible. To the point that one would believe that a fabric that excels as well as it does across multiple performance categories would need to be synthetically engineered. Thankfully, however, linen is an impressively eco-friendly material.
Linen has one of the lightest environmental footprints of all textile fabrics.
In Europe (where we derive our linen), certification institutions uphold rigorous standards regarding locally focused farming practices and environmental impact throughout the weaving process. These standards, along with the dedicated flax farmers – most of whom have been in operation for generations, have established the Northern European flax growing region as the very best in the world.
From the start, European flax cultivation has been committed to zero land alterations, zero GMOs, zero chemical fiber extraction, and little to no agrochemicals use – limiting resultant waterway pollution. Flax requires just 3% of the water necessary for cotton production, allowing for water requirements to be met by rainfall alone, absent of irrigation. Further flax is a zero-waste product, meaning that although only the longest flax fibers go on to linen production, every part of the plant will eventually be utilized in various applications. Lastly, being that linen consists of no material additives, it is biodegradable in its natural, undyed form.
The impact of these practices become amplified when compared to those of other textile fabrics. This is because most other fabric supply chains result in negative environmental impacts such as soil degradation, disrupted ecosystems, and excessive water use and pollution. This has been confirmed in a life cycle analysis comparing a 100% linen shirt with a 100% cotton shirt, which concluded that the environmental impact of cotton was roughly 7X that of the linen equivalent.
For these reasons, we are very comfortable utilizing European-origin linen for our handkerchiefs. It is clear that when compared to other textiles, linen has by far one of the lowest impacts on its surrounding environment.
Linen is a product with an awe-inspiring lineage that continues to be utilized across the world for purposes new and old. For us, this cannot be understated. We remain hopeful for the increased use of linen in age-old as well as innovative applications in the near future.
We are proud to be a part of linen’s historic legacy and to be a modern-day torchbearer.
Natural, durable, comfortable, and absorptive, we believe linen is the ideal material choice for our everyday handkerchiefs and overall, uniquely well suited to the needs of our time.