An Englishman abroad

In a past life, I’m convinced I was one of the sun-worshipping Inca tribe down in Peru.

God bless those healing rays and everything they stand for. Blue skies, short skirts, the crackle of Hendricks gin on ice and the whiff of Hawaiian tropic. Magical.

Earlier on this month I was having it large in Ibiza, to celebrate my friend Flynny’s fortieth birthday. Staying at the Destino Hotel, with big nights on the agenda, it was going to be a glamorous affair, leaving me with the question, what to wear?

The first thing on my shopping list was some new strides. I’ve got legs like an anorexic flamingo so wanted something fairly fitted, with narrow bottoms to show off the new loafers. Looking through LBD’s ‘Mersolair’ bunch, I picked out a couple of pairs in light-weight cotton, and then something odd happened. I found myself flirting with linen.

Made from the fibres of the flax plant, it’s a durable fabric with the ability to absorb and lose water quickly. This means that it is perfect for hot, humid climates. My problem is with the creasing. Ten minutes on your back after pressing and it looks like an elephant’s foreskin.

That said, the weather forecast was looking good – big, fat, sweaty sun-shines the whole way through – and so I plumped for a pair in powder blue. There are moments in my life that I will look back on and smile, and wearing them at the nightclub ‘Pacha’ is one of them.

Ten of us, old friends, hands in the air, screaming our heads off, jumping up and down on sofas in the VIP section, the life of a responsible parent parked for three glorious nights. As I poured myself a glass of Cristal and surveyed the scene below, I was living the life of a playboy and had the trousers to match.

My newly found enthusiasm for linen was strengthened further when my customer Neil commissioned this suit for a forthcoming trip to Tuscany.

Many of the suits I make are head-turners. Sharp, closely fitted numbers, perfect for a night on the town, or a day at the races.

This one is different. It’s for chilling. Made up in a relatively heavy Irish linen, it’s a lovely warm colour and has a wonderfully relaxed, almost rustic feel about it. I love the patch pockets and the trousers have a split back as they are to be worn with braces. There’s even a large ‘hare pocket’ on the inside to accommodate a newspaper, or, rolled up Panama hat.

It’s the perfect attire for the Englishman abroad. I can just see Neil and his wife bimbling along the cobbled streets of Firenze, sitting down to a late lunch of Bistecca alla Fiorentina and a glass of Brunello.

Closer to home, what better attire could there be for a garden party? The jacket draped over the back of a wicker chair, feet up with a glass of Pimm’s, laughing with friends, kids running wild, cricket on the radio.

Linen to me is an enigma. It’s the scruffy cousin of the Huddersfield luxury worsteds and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s louche, devil-may-care attitude makes you immediately comfortable within it’s sun-drenched, wrinkly skin.

Whether it’s a bon viveur floating about on his yacht, a man from the Foreign office doing the rounds in Panama, or, a tailor reaching for the lazers in Ibiza, the flax plant is up there with the best of them.