Both cotton and linen are great options for your Irish grandfather shirt.

This post is a quick guide showing you the differences between them and the benefits each offers.

Cotton Grandfather Shirts

Cotton is a natural fiber that grows in fluffy clusters called bolls. The bolls are turned into fabric through a process in which individual fibers are woven together into a yarn. This yarn is then combined to create the fabric.

Cotton is a more widely used fabric than linen the world around. Perhaps this is due to the immediate softness and availability of cotton, or perhaps it is simply a force of habit.

When it comes to Irish grandfather shirts, cotton was the original material of choice. This is because the shirts were originally worn by rural Irish who were laborers. Cotton was a breathable and comfortable option and could be worn all year round.

Another advantage of using cotton is the fact that it doesn’t wrinkle as easily as linen.

Cotton also offers the ability to create a more diverse range of colors and patterns.

Linen Grandfather Shirts

Linen is another natural fiber woven from flax. It has a much different feel than cotton, and the shirts tend to be more rigid until they have been washed a few times.

Though grandfather shirts were originally made from cotton, they quickly expanded to include linen also. This may be because Belfast became a major linen hub in Ireland during the Victorian period.

As time went on, the linen grandfather shirt became known as the “Sunday shirt”. It was considered a slightly more formal than the original cotton shirt. And it could be worn to mass, weddings, christenings, and other special occasions.

In some senses, linen is actually the more authentic option for your grandfather shirt, given the fact that the available colors and patterns are still somewhat limited with this fabric.

Though it wrinkles more easily than cotton, the breathability and strength are considered far superior.

How These Materials Stack Up

As you’ve probably realized, cotton and linen share many of the same strengths. So the question becomes: which is the better option?


It’s difficult to declare either cotton or linen the clear winner on the subject of comfort. Both both are natural fabrics can be quite soft and comfortable for your grandfather shirt.

The answer really depends on your definition of comfort, how high quality the fabric is, and how many times the garment has been washed.

If you define comfort at the shirt which will keep you coolest and not cling to your body in the summer months, linen is the obvious choice.

If your preference is softer material, cotton is the better option for you. Although, high-quality linen can also be soft (and gets softer over time).


No question about it, linen is more durable than cotton. This is due to the simple fact that flax fibers are stronger than cotton fibers.

It also means that a linen grandfather shirt is much less likely to shrink when washed as compared to a cotton shirt.


Though both cotton and linen are natural materials, linen is actually the more eco-friendly of the two. This is because the manufacturing process for linen requires less water than creating the same amount of cotton fabric. If you make an effort to “think green” in everything you do, then linen clearly wins out on grounds of sustainability.

Moisture Wicking

Both cotton and linen wick moisture away, though linen tends to do a better job of it. This is especially important when you consider that the grandfather shirt was designed to keep laborers cool and comfortable, regardless of the time of year. It’s worth noting that cotton is more absorbent than linen, despite linen being better at moisture wicking.

Breathability and Warmth

In this category, cotton and linen must call a draw.

Linen is undoubtedly the more breathable of the two fabrics, but cotton tends to retain heat much more effectively.

This comes down to the higher thread count in cotton, meaning that it traps more heat within its fibers. Linen is typically worn in layers during the winter months.


Linen is generally considered to have a better texture than cotton. Where cotton can be flat and uninteresting, linen has an aesthetic of depth and richness.

However, this richer texture also comes with more frequent wrinkles, which can prove a headache for some.


This final point is entirely subjective. Cotton and linen both provide an authentic feel and look. So the question of which one looks better is totally a matter of personal opinion.

Both cotton and linen are great options for your grandfather shirt. Linen is likely a better option if you are living in or working in a hot climate, but not by much.

Still, you can’t go wrong with any authentically crafted grandfather shirt, so go with your gut and enjoy the traditional garment, whatever material you choose.

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