Cotton vs Linen Dress Shirts: What's the Difference?

Cotton vs Linen Dress Shirts: What's the Difference?

If you're looking to buy a new men's dress shirt, you'll need to choose the right fabric. While men's dress shirts are available in more than a dozen different fabrics, two of the most popular include cotton and linen. Whether you are going to work, attending a wedding, or hanging out with friends, you can't go wrong wearing either of these options. They are both comfortable, stylish and versatile, making them an excellent choice. However, there are a few key differences between cotton and linen dress shirts that you should know.


Although cotton dress shirts look similar to linen dress shirts, they are two unique materials. Cotton is a textile made from fibers of the flax plant, whereas cotton is a fluffy textile made from the fibrous organic material around the seeds of the cotton plant. Both cotton and linen are readily available textiles, but cotton is more common. According to some sources, about 2.5% of the world's total arable land consists of cotton farms, and the world produces some 25 million tons of the textile each year.

Moisture Absorption

Some people assume that linen absorbs more water than cotton, but this isn't necessarily true. A linen dress shirt will absorb up to 20% of its water in weight until it feels wet. In comparison, it takes only a fraction of this water to make a cotton dress shirt feel wet. Neither cotton nor linen is water resistant. Therefore, you should avoid wearing them for outdoor activities when you expect rain. Alternatively, if you decide to wear a cotton or linen dress shirt, bring an umbrella.


Here's where linen dress shirts really shine -- or should I say breathe? Linen is one of the more breathable textiles on the planet. When wearing a linen dress shirt, you'll feel the air flowering across your body, assuming you aren't wearing an undershirt. This makes it an excellent choice for the summer. If you're planning an outdoor activity that requires you to wear a suit, for example,  wearing a linen dress shirt will keep you cooler and more comfortable throughout this otherwise hot time of year. The breathable properties of linen are simply unmatched; even cotton does come close to matching its breathable properties.


Although it's highly breathable, linen doesn't offer very much warmth. If you're looking for a new dress shirt to wear this fall or winter, you may want to choose cotton for this very reason. Linen dress shirts are cool and comfortable for the spring and summer months, but the lack the necessary insulation for the cooler months. You may find yourself getting extremely cold while wearing a linen dress shirt in the fall or winter, especially if you aren't wearing a jacket. Cotton, on the other hand, offers a high level of insulation and protection from the elements. You can even choose some of the thicker 100% cotton shirts for increased comfort. Regardless, though, cotton offers a superior level of warmth when compared linen. shirts-591750_960_720


There's no such thing as a wrinkle-proof fabric. Both cotton and linen dress shirts will develop wrinkles. They are usually more common, however, with linen dress shirts. Because linen is so thin and breathable, it naturally develops more wrinkles. This alone shouldn't prevent you from choosing a linen dress shirt, though. There are ways to prevent and control wrinkles. For starters, removing your linen dress shirt from the dryer and immediately transferring it to a clothes hanger will prevent most wrinkles from forming. You can also prevent wrinkles by following the manufacturer's instructions on the care label. If a linen dress shirt says "dry clean only," don't wash it in the washing machine. Rather, take it to a local dry cleaners to have it professionally cleaned.


The next time you go shopping, take a minute to compare the softness of cotton to linen. You'll probably discover that they are both very soft. However, some people will argue that linen is a slightly softer, especially after it's been washed and worn many times. Over time, linen actually becomes softer. So, even if a linen dress feels soft now, it may feel even softer later down the road. Just remember to clean and care for it according to the manufacturer's instructions.


Although there are exceptions, linen dress shirts typically cost more than cotton dress shirts of the same type. This is due, in part, to the fact that cotton is more readily available. Some manufacturers also say that linen dress shirts are more difficult to produce than cotton dress shirts. Either way, you can expect to pay a little more a linen dress shirt than a cotton dress shirt.


You might be surprised to learn that linen dress shirts are stronger and more durable than cotton dress shirts. According to some sources, linen is up to 30% stronger than its cotton counterpart. What does this mean for shirts made of this textile? It means linen dress shirts are strong and more durable than cotton shirts. They can still be damaged, so you should take the necessary precautions to protect them from harming when wearing them. The good news is that linen dress shirts are less likely to sustain damage than cotton shirts.


Finally, linen dress shirts typically last longer than cotton dress shirts. How many years of use will you get out of a linen dress shirt? Well, it varies depending on whether or not you maintain it, how you clean it, etc. With that said, many men continue wearing their linen dress shirts until they no longer fit. Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of the differences between linen and cotton dress shirts. As you can see, linen offers several key advantages over cotton. However, there are still reasons to choose cotton dress shirts, such as cost and warmth. Consider when and how you'll be wearing the shirt and choose the fabric that's best suited for your needs.