If I say the words “garment fabric”, what comes to your mind?
Exactly: Probably 99% of you thought of it immediately: cotton fibers.
Cotton is a very breathable material deriving from easily sustainable plants and it has hypoallergenic and insulation properties. It makes the majority of the natural fibres garment market.
We can find it in different thickness from the one used for though and heavy denim to the fine and elegant dress shirt yarn. It’s also a very popular choice in underwear.
Like many other natural products, such as coffee or wine, it varies in quality.
Not all staples are the same as the cotton plant species are formed by many different subspecies.
The quality of the cotton is measured by staple length, as with a longer staple you can produce a silky smooth stronger and finer yarn compared to a short one.To give you a perspective, medium-length fibres are considered to be around 25mm.
Knitted in different thicknesses, cotton garments can be worn all year round, thanks to its flexibility. Now, In Luxury garment, you will see the use of some cotton subspecies, such as the Egyptian, Pima, Supima and Sea Island cotton, all featuring extra-long fibres, over 33mm in length.
To improve the durability and shininess of the fibres even further, they are processed and coloured before being knitted. They are first gassed - a flame burns the unnecessary yarn hairiness leaving the fibres smooth, shiny and resistant to peeling-; they are then Mercerized: a process that results in extra shine and makes fibres more resistant and unshrinkable. It also permits a better pigment absorption making the colours more vibrant. Cotton that has undergone this process is also called Cotton Lisle.
These procedures, as you may have guessed, are really important in garments such as socks where you need an extra fine and very resistant fabric.
Back to cotton in general, last but not least, you can wash cotton garments easily in the washing machine without the need to take them to a dry cleaner.
It is very easy to see then why cotton is so popular.