Dispelling the myths of thread count

15 August 2016

Dispelling the myths of thread count

Superior fabrics don’t just come that way, they’re created. And centuries of tradition and expertise have informed the process to give tailors beautifully crafted cloths to turn into incredible suiting. Of course beautiful fabric can only look its best with skilled tailoring, but with a myriad of cloths available, how do you know what you’re buying is the best and represents the best value for money? 

You might be familiar with the term ‘Super’ in fabric choice, and generally super by name rings true, but at times it can be a misnomer. The higher the number, the finer the gauge, and to the untrained ear, it might sound contradictory.  But simply put, each step of ten (ie. S100 to 110S) corresponds to 0.5 micrometre less in allowed maximum fiber diameter.  So how did it all begin? In the Yorkshire wool markets two centuries ago, super numbers were a standardisation created to signify the amount of yarn that could be procured from one pound of wool. For example, a S60 meant 60 hanks (or spools) of wool, which is the equivalent of 560 yards of wool per pound. Now that’s a lot of yarn. And as the wool quality increased and the fibres became finer, the more yarn could be produced and thus more premium cloth.

Cut to modern times and our super numbers start around S100 and run up and beyond S180 thanks to modern manufacturing—but that’s not necessarily a good thing. The wool must first be of high quality in order for the cloth to reflect this. A higher super number doesn’t necessarily mean a superior-quality fabric unless you’re buying from the best cloth-makers like Dormeuil or Huddersfield. Higher-count wool is always priced higher than lower numbers as it can produce more yarn that’s silkier to the touch.

But what about thread count? Fabrics such as cottons used in the creation of bedlinen also have a numbering system, but instead of referring to the fineness of the yarn, it refers to the number of threads per inch—higher thread counts mean greater softness. In tailoring it’s not really a consideration, but it will make all the difference when you jump into a hotel bed.

So how do you choose? Let your tailor advise you. Don’t get bogged down in the detail: a super number isn’t a metric that informs quality. Instead it’s about the quality of the wool, how it’s milled and where it’s milled. A reputable tailor will know which fabrics will give you the superior sheen and lustre and can create a suit that’s worth its super number in gold.