The earliest known textile fibre found in Europe, linen is very strong, absorbs moisture easily and leaves the skin feeling cool. Because of these properties in ancient times it was the preferred fibre of the south, since then it has almost exclusively been used in shifts, shirts and chemises for all levels of society. White linen was considered by far the most hygienic and was therefore pretty much the only colour found next to the skin right up until the late 19th Century.