I have been thinking about the resurgence of wool as a fiber for outdoor clothes, and the fact that people seem to be using silk for a number of uses. I am wondering if linen might be due for a revival. I read up on it today, and I found out that it is structurally quite different from cotton, although both are cellulose fibers. Linen, however, is a bast fiber, and it is made of long continuous hollow tubes, basically. It behaves differently from cotton in a number of ways: it attracts moisture more quickly and it releases it more quickly. In other words, it is WICKING!
However, it may not be very warm when wet. Perhaps it is not as bad for you as wet cotton, however. Linen is rarely knitted into tee shirts; it's almost always woven. So you don't have the wet tee shirt that will never dry, as with cotton tee shirts. Lightweight woven linen seems to dry pretty fast, and I suspect that the fibers don't collapse when wet as cotton fibers do, since they are more rigid.
It seems to be highly anti-microbial. I wear the same linen shirt for days and it doesn't smell bad.
In European cultures, it seems to have been the original base layer, under wool. Perhaps more northern people also wore a soft wool undershirt under their linen shirt or chemise.
Linen fabric can be quite light, although I don't have any exact figures for weight per square yard. I think it could be as light as silk, though, as in handkerchief linen.
Just wondering if anybody knows why it is not favored by manufacturers for outdoor clothing. Of course, there's nothing stopping us home sewers from making some base layers out of linen.