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Biologically speaking Sea Island-, Pima and Egyptian Cotton is all the same. It’s latin name is Gossypium barbadense. If it’s called Sea Island-, Pima or Egyptian Cotton depends on where its produced.

Therefore, in my opinion, you can not say that one is better than the other. If you want a good cotton fabric don’t get stuck on different names (which by the way are trademarked(!)) look at how long the staple is in the cotton that was used to produce that individual fabric.

In one case an individual fabric made with Sea Island cotton might have a shorter staple then an individual fabric that was made with Pima cotton. In another case it might be the other way around. You can’t make general rules based on where the gossypium barbadense comes from.
 
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It's funny how some people give a thorough explanation of something and then someone else comes right after and completely steps over them and continue beating the dead horse.
 

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Which one is preferable for shirts?
Sea Island cotton is typically the equivalent of a 140s or 160s cotton and is fine for dress shirts but I have also seen Sea Island cotton used for sports shirts at Maus & Hoffman in Florida and made by Brioni. True Sea Island cotton can only be grown in the West Indies, has staples reaching 50mm and must be certified and inspected by the West Indies Sea Island Cotton Association (WISCA).

Egyptian cotton is not a type of cotton by simply a cotton that is grown on the Egyptian nile delta and is noted along with Sea Island for having extremely long staples of up to or exceeding 50mm. Egyptian cotton can come in any fineness depending on how it is woven, from a very course 50s to an ultra fine 300s and in a single or even quadruple ply. The best Egyptian cotton is either spun or woven in Switzerland or Italy and is a typically standard fabric for dress shirts.

Pima cotton is often utilized in oxford cloth and it is not as expensive as Sea Island or Egyptian and while it is grown in the Southwest of America (Southern California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas) and can be woven in a myriad of places including India, China and Japan. However, those country's mills are not as high quality as the Swiss and Italians.

Good long staple cotton can not be grown in Switzerland. The Swiss don't grow cotton they only spin and weave the cotton. However, the finest mills in the world are located in Switzerland (Alumo). Brooks Brothers Sea Island cotton fabrics are spun in Switzerland but I don't know by which mill.
 

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spoerry, textiles amazonas

This are two spinning mills one in switzerland the other in Peru. the first is one of the main suppliers of certified sea island cotton, the other is a fine peruvian mill for pima cotton.

They can explain the characteristics of both staples. Length is a leading condition for the quality of the yarn and afterwards the fabric...but the resistance and the finesse of the staple will also contribute to the hand of the shirt and its tactile sensation.
 

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This are two spinning mills one in switzerland the other in Peru. the first is one of the main suppliers of certified sea island cotton, the other is a fine peruvian mill for pima cotton.

They can explain the characteristics of both staples. Length is a leading condition for the quality of the yarn and afterwards the fabric...but the resistance and the finesse of the staple will also contribute to the hand of the shirt and its tactile sensation.
Thank you for the information. I didn't know that there are only two mills in the world that spin Sea Island cotton although it now makes sense since I only see Sea Island cotton being spun in Switzerland on the labels of fine garments made from that cotton.

You also reminded me of Pima cotton from Peru. I should mention the difference between US grown and South American grown Pima cotton. US grown is trademarked as Supima cotton and the growth and harvesting of the cotton is regulated by the Supima organization. The top 5 importers of Supima cotton are China, Pakistan, India, Japan and Indonesia where the cotton is woven into cloth.

Peruvian Pima cotton is a very high quality variant of Pima but I rarely see it used for dress shirts. Rather, Peruvian Pima cotton is woven into knits and used for polo shirts, t-shirts and sweaters.
 

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thefancyman:

there is indeed one important weaving mill in Peru called Creditex. they supply woven fabrics for many important companies in fine counts and middle counts as well.

you can check it out if it is of your interest to know which brands have fabrics from peruvian pima cotton
 

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Biologically speaking Sea Island-, Pima and Egyptian Cotton is all the same. It's latin name is Gossypium barbadense. If it's called Sea Island-, Pima or Egyptian Cotton depends on where its produced.

Therefore, in my opinion, you can not say that one is better than the other.
Biologically, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli are all the same (Brassica oleracea). But I'm damn sure that broccoli and cabbage are better than cauliflower or brussels sprouts.
 

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kewi said:
Biologically speaking Sea Island-, Pima and Egyptian Cotton is all the same. It's latin name is Gossypium barbadense.
Correct.

kewi said:
If it's called Sea Island-, Pima or Egyptian Cotton depends on where its produced.
Incorrect. Most importantly, the type of cotton derives from the lineage/ancestry of the seed as well as growing situs.

StepgenRG said:
Biologically, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli are all the same (Brassica oleracea). But I'm damn sure that broccoli and cabbage are better than cauliflower or brussels sprouts.
Absolutely on point. Except that Brussels sprouts are better. :icon_smile_wink:


What is Sea Island cotton, why is it better, and how does it relate to other top Extra-Long Staple (E.L.S.) Cottons?


Sea Island cotton has been termed "the longest, finest, and most valuable cotton grown in the world". The Sea Island cotton grown in the West Indies has an average fibre length of 1.75"-2". This is the world's longest. Its closest widely-recognized competitors are Giza 45, Karnak, and Menoufi, all with fibre lengths about .25" shorter. Karnak and Menoufi are cotton species of days-of-old and no longer figure prominently. To offer a bit of specificity, E.L.S. cottons are defined as those having a fibre length greater than 1.375".

Why are E.L.S. cottons prized? There are a number of reasons. These cottons are not only longer, but they are also finer in diameter and possess significantly greater tensile strength - often as strong as 50 tons per square inch. This high tensile strength is what permits the spinning of the high yarn numbers (120s and up) necessary to produce the finest shirtings. The longer fiber permits a smoother finish to the yarn, and thence the shirting, simply because there are fewer "joints" than characterize cottons of shorter length. By derivation, the smoother finished yarn yields a smoother finished fabric.

Sea Island cotton has a long and sometimes checkered history. It was first grown in the United States in 1786 from seed obtained from the Bahamas. Although many attempts were made to grow this special cotton inland, the finest specimens were always grown on the Sea Islands - James, Edisto, John, and Wadmalaw. Although Sea Island cotton was being successfully grown inland as well, the seeds obtained from the inland grown did not retain the superb characteristics for long. The inland growers were dependent upon the Sea Islands growers for a replenishment of seed at least every three years.

In the first decade of the 20th century, starting in 1902, the culture of Sea Island cotton growing was introduced to the West Indies. Expert growers from the Carolinas were employed to teach the farmers of St. Vincent, Antigua, Barbados and other smaller islands how to grow Sea Island cotton. So successful was this project that within the decade, Sea Island cotton from the West Indies was offering stong competition to the Southeastern U.S. crop. Hit by the boll weevil in 1919, the U.S. Sea Island cotton crop was decimated. In 1924, U.S. production hit an all-time low of 11 bales.

The sad fate of U.S. production aside, the growing of cotton from the Sea Island seeds continued - and continues - in the West Indies. Various attempts were made to grow it elsewhere including Pima County, Arizona and in Peru. These attempts failed. The primary requirement for successfully and continually growing any certain species of cotton, climate and knowledge aside, is that there can be no other species of cotton growing nearby. With the wanton windborne wandering of pollen different species will cross-polinate and, with rare exception to the contrary, dilute the prized genetic characteristics of the better species.

The best of today's cottons come from two regions. Sea Island is grown in the West Indies. Egyptian E.L.S. cotton is grown in the triangular area at the mouth of the Nile River roughly bounded by Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said. Also in the running are Peru and the American Southwest.

What the future holds for these cottons is yet to be determined. Egyptian Giza 45 has "run out". In lay terms, this means that the quality of the seed has degenerated to a point where the expected characteristics can no longer be reliably maintained. At current usage rates, there exists sufficient Giza 45 cotton in storage to last another 8-10 years. The Egyptian government and private industry are working rapidly to develop a new strain. The continuity of Sea Island production is more certain as the West Indian Sea Island Cotton Association, Inc. (WISICA) strongly enforces proper cultivation.

Finally, when it comes to shirts, socks, and underwear, what are the implications of the term "Sea Island cotton"?

1] "Sea Island Quality" is easiest to dispel, for there is no such thing. Either is is Sea Island, or it isn't. Just using a Long Staple - or even an Extra-Long Staple - cotton does not make it Sea Island. All claims of "SIQ" should be ignored.

2] "Sea Island cotton": Here there are murky waters.

Firstly, is it certified? That can usually be determined by the presence - or absence - of the WISICA certification shown by a holographic sticker on the product.

The second qualifier is difficult, if not impossible, for a lay person to determine. This qualifier is: What percentage of the cotton used in the product is Sea Island and what percentage, to steal from the car rental commercial, is "not exactly"? Publicly available specifications are non-existent. Only three methods, two certain and the other less so, can answer this question:

The first certain method is to remove yarns from the product, unspin them, and microscopically compare their composition of fibres to genuine Sea Island fibres. One somewhat off-balance men's furnishings e-seller has been known to do this at times.

The second certain method is to follow the "food chain". This requires beginning at the retailer, moving up to the weaver/maker, following the trail to the spinner, and being permitted to follow the incoming certified Sea Island bales through the process from ginning to spinning. In fact, the only persons permitted to see this chain-of-process, aside from the spinner's employees, are the fabric weavers and sock knitters ... and then only rarely. Most of them simply haven't the staff or the time to perform such verification and simply accept the spinner's certification.

The third method is simple: you could take the word of the third-assistant salesperson who has been with the retailer for at least three months and has no plans to migrate to new employment for at least another three months: He was told that "it is Sea Island".

An Aside

1] Why this post? After contributing to the thread referenced above by Medwards, I became curious as to the true state of affairs, rumors, supposition, and vendor allegations being insufficient. I embarked on a research project to ascertain what is correct. The myth of Sea Island is one not easily pierced. Profiting from the term is widespread and the continuation of the shroud of mystery inures to the benefit of the profiteers, but extensive investigation yielded what I have stated above. To the best of my knowledge, it is as accurate as can be determined.

2] Having tested one product with one of the certain methods above, I can attest to the fact that the Alumo Sea Island fabric is genuine. Having tested another two products with the other of the two certain methods, I am convinced that the Sea Island cotton socks of Bresciani, and those in development by Marcoliani, are genuine. I have also investigated a number of other "Sea Island" claims, specifically by sock makers, and found that, while a percentage of the cotton used is genuine Sea Island, other E.L.S. and L.S. cottons are combined with the Sea Island to produce a less expensive yarn. I prefer not to state the specific products.

3] A short word about Pima cotton. Often overlooked, geniune Pima cotton is actually an extra-long staple cotton ranging in length from 1.5"-1.675". Though much emanates from Peru, a goodly amount is still grown in the American Southwest. This is a prized, expensive cotton. The American varieties are used by a number of European makers, including Zimmerli, Marcoliani, Bresciani, Facenti, and Albini, for some of their top-of-the-line products. It should not be ignored in one's search for fine quality.
 

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Correct.

3] A short word about Pima cotton. Often overlooked, geniune Pima cotton is actually an extra-long staple cotton ranging in length from 1.5"-1.675". Though much emanates from Peru, a goodly amount is still grown in the American Southwest. This is a prized, expensive cotton. The American varieties are used by a number of European makers, including Zimmerli, Marcoliani, Bresciani, Facenti, and Albini, for some of their top-of-the-line products. It should not be ignored in one's search for fine quality.
Is the American variety pima always branded Supima or is that a horse of a different color?
 

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Is the American variety pima always branded Supima or is that a horse of a different color?
Supima is the name given to the better pimas by the Supima (super-pima) Cotton Association. Most who deal in pima cotton don't live or die by the superlative. Pima is pima; the critical measure is fibre length.
 

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thefancyman:

there is indeed one important weaving mill in Peru called Creditex. they supply woven fabrics for many important companies in fine counts and middle counts as well.

you can check it out if it is of your interest to know which brands have fabrics from peruvian pima cotton
Thanks again :icon_smile:. I went to the Creditex website and read off their list of clients, very impressive. I've become a big fan of Lacoste polos lately and I knew that Devenlay, the company that manufactures Lacoste polos, uses Peruvian Pima cotton but I didn't know from who. I also like LL Bean polos and knew from the description of their polos from their website and catalog that they are 100% pima. I'm glad to see they're using top quality materials which makes them an even better buy. It's also interesting to see that Ralph Lauren sources their cotton from them too, as RL is probably Lacoste's biggest competitor in the polo market and they are both similarly priced in the $70-$80 range.

https://www.creditex.com.pe/ingles/clientes.htm
 
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