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Once and For All: Are Linen Sheets Worth It?

Linen sheets are known for their softness and breezy relief from night-sweats. But are they really worth it? VICE talked to an expert to find out.
MF
New York, US
May 14, 2021, 6:56pm

​​Welcome back to Once and For All, where we figure out whether the stuff people rave about, cherish, and form their entire identities around is actually worth the investment. We've looked at cast iron pans, KitchenAid stand mixers, and more, and today, we're investigating the cult of linen sheets.


It’s that time of the year again, rock lobster. The time when the temps rise, bodies sweat in new (and old) places, and our beds turn into crockpots. As much as we love a hot, butter-dipped clambake, that is not how we want to feel when we sleep in our sheets this summer. We want to crack our eyes, hurl our alarm at the wall, and feel freshly born from a cloud. We want breathability, and natural texture. We want linen. At least, we think we do? 

Even outside the world of bedding, linen gets a lot of hype for its ability to cool us down. Say “wool loungewear set,” and we see an autumnal, anthropomorphic hedgehog—but say “linen loungewear set,” and we are on the shores of Greece, under an olive tree during pre-production for Mamma Mia! 5 (let us dream). But we want to know, once and for all: Are linen sheets worth it? Is this where we should be putting our money, and our sweaty ass crack? 

We love sleep, and we’re trying to make more conscious efforts to not just buy, but invest in our home goods. We’ll end up rolling around in our bed for decades of our life, or whatever, so it’s time to ask all our maybe-embarrassing questions about what makes linen so great.

“Linen wicks away moisture better than cotton, and its long staple creates a fabric that is as soft as it is durable,” Buffy CEO Leo Wang told VICE, “[so] a high-quality linen sheet set can stand up to decades of use [...] There’s a huge difference between sleeping in linen compared to your average cotton or microfiber sheet set.” 

leo wang the linen king

Photo by Buffy

Silk can also feel cool and luxurious to the touch, granted, and does have nice breathability. But if it’s woven too tightly, those threads can trap heat next to your skin. It is also “weakened by sunlight, [and] perspiration,” according to The University of Georgia, and while it’s more wrinkle-resistant than linen, the latter has the “best wicking of natural fibers, [is] therefore cool to wear, [and] dries quickly.” Which sounds great. But what, exactly, constitutes linen? In layman's terms, Wang said, “linen describes fabrics made from long natural fibers with a distinctive weave. Traditionally linen has been made out of flax, but at Buffy we use hemp for our linen products.” It’s more environmentally sustainable, because it “requires 99% less water to cultivate than a comparable cotton sheet set,” and perhaps not incidentally, gives it the natural, nonchalantly rich aesthetic matched only by the linen of a Luca Guadagnino film. 

The sateen shine of hotel cotton sheets is a mood, for sure. But, as Mr. Ocean would say, we’ve been thinkin’ bout forever. And we’re feeling the more low-key elegance of linen (specifically: in shades of mustard yellow) in the bedroom. Hemp linen is one of the most value-driven choices because it’s better for the planet, will “hold up better against years of sleeping and washing” than a similar cotton set, and will also allow us to totally swaddle ourselves in an airy weave this summer (which we very much need after this year). It’s exciting for bedding aficionados, because it’s about getting closer to what Wang calls “the purest expression of the product.” No chemical treatments, no dyes. “Just an incredible fabric in its natural color.” 

sheets buffy linen

Soft Hemp Linen Sheets (Full), $249 at Buffy

There are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for linen. “Threadcount isn’t a useful way to think about linen quality,” Wang said, “because the extremely long fibers create a unique and thicker yarn.” So when you’re investing in a linen set, remember that “what you really want to look for is the quality of the fibers used and what treatments have been applied to the fabric—the more natural the finished product, the better." 

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Once you’re fully indoctrinated (welcome to the clan), have fun with it. There are a lot of great brands out there doing cool stuff with linen, from indie crafters to brands like Buffy, Brooklinen, Parachute, and more. 

Start with an accent pillow

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A little euro-sham can go a long way. It’ll add texture to your house, and be a blessing for your face when you pass out on the couch. This linen from Parachute runs on the softer side, and it’s “crafted in Portugal from the finest European flax and garment washed for a perfectly lived-in feel.”

Linen Euro Sham, $59 at Parachute

Get in on the mustard decor trend

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ICYMI, mustard yellow is having a moment in bedding. We absolutely want to feel like we’re sleeping in a giant, 1970s egg yolk this summer, and Cultiver makes a duvet cover that’s definitely worth investing in, despite the slightly higher price point. The dyes are natural, the fabric is soft, and we can absolutely pummel it in the washing machine (and in the throes of life). “Kudos points to the durability,” writes one reviewer, “I have a cat who loves to sleep in the bed at night and this set stands up well to his paws, I’ve had no issues with snags or pulls.”

Linen duvet cover in mustard, $260 at Cultiver

Take the plunge

Remember, sheets are the innermost workings of your sleep situation—the custard at the center of the cake, if you will. So, if you want to start slowly investing in linen, and see how it feels, start with something like pillow shams:

buffy shams

Soft Hemp Linen Shams, $79 at Buffy

As well as a duvet cover:

hemp duvet

Soft Hemp Linen Duvet Cover, $199 at Buffy

These “clout sheets” are on sale

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What began as a humble NYC company (by a couple that just wanted to sleep better, and in less sweat) is now one of the most coveted sheet slingers in the game for its comfy, luxurious fabrics. Brooklinen’s linen core sheet set is dyed in small batches, comes in a bunch of color and stripe designs, and is certified in an independent laboratory against a list of over 350 harmful substances, so you can go to bed cozily, and with less dread of weird chemical junk hitching a ride on your sheets. The ideal set for Virgos? Yes. The ideal deal for those who keep reopening that Brooklinen tab? Mhmm.

Linen Core Sheet Set, $269 $242.10 at Brooklinen

You’re on a budget, so here’s a popular blend sheet

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We get it: You’re sticking to your few-dozen-dollar budget, but don’t want to buy crap. As with a fine table wine that gets the job done, this 4.4 star-rated sheet is a smart blend of the stuff we love. It’s 55 percent European linen, 45 percent cotton, and as one reviewer says, “[It] washes well and has a crispy, linen feel.” 

Biselina Linen Blend, $37.99 at Amazon

Sleep tight, sweet princes.


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