Why is linen clothing expensive and a luxury?

“The best things in life are free. The second best things are very very expensive” ~Coco Chanel

When we hear the term ‘Linen clothing’, we think of the perfect summer fabric - crisp, cool, elegantly wrinkly and premium. In recent history, Linen clothing is expensive compared to Cotton. But this was not always the case. Linen is one of the oldest fabrics - woven from the fibers of the flax plant all the way back in 7000BC! Back then, in Egypt and Mesopotamia linen was widely available and worn by all.

In recent times, Linen has become this exclusive fabric far more expensive than Cotton.

The cost of producing linen comes down to 3 factors.

#1 Flax thrives in cooler climates. As a result, the best flax comes from Western European countries like France, Belgium, Italy, etc. Due to the higher costs of living and business in these regions, the cost of growing Flax is simply higher than Cotton which is hardier and grows far more widely.

Flax field

#2 - Harvesting flax is time-consuming and laborious. From seed to harvest, the time for flax to be ready is about 90 days. The plant must be uprooted and not simply cut in order to maximize the length of the fiber that can be harvested. Once harvested, the process of extracting the flax fiber from the stalk of the plant involves a laborious 3 step process of retting (soaking the stalks to soften them), scutching (separating the woody stalk from the inner fiber) and finally hackling (separating the long fibers from shorter ones).

Flax flowers Harvested Flax 

#3 - Weaving flax into linen fabric is art too. Flax fibers are delicate and can break easily. As a result, weaving linen at an industrial scale requires machinery that runs slower and results in lower volumes being produced in the same amount of time compared to Cotton. 

Linen fabric


So, it’s not so much that Linen has become more expensive - rather it’s Cotton that has become cheaper and readily available. While it’s great that everyone has access to Cotton - a natural fabric, Cotton is sadly not as eco-friendly as Linen fabric. Cotton production consumes far more water and unfortunately chemical pesticides as compared to Linen. 

At Airthreads, our mission is to bring back an appreciation for Linen clothing and a deeper understanding of sustainable clothing options. We hope this elegant, stylish and cooling fabric can belong in every person's wardrobe so that every person can enjoy the benefits of owning a linen shirt and not just the elite. Airthreads linen shirts are crafted from the finest linen grown in France and Belgium. Our shirts are stitched by master tailors in India - known for a rich textile and apparel industry. We are able to keep our shirts affordable by eliminating inefficient middle channels and bringing this quality fabric directly to you our customer. And we partner with Forest Creators to plant a tree for every shirt we sell. 

Try out an Airthreads linen shirt. We bet you will love it.