Super 100, 120, 140 anyone? What exactly are these numbers when your tailor is talking about wool, and what are their differences? Heck knows says you! Also, you're now probably thinking and saying to yourself, here he goes again, complicating the basics of suits for men.
But please indulge my insanity.
Until today, throughout Suit Insights we have solely focused on the exterior of the classic men's suits. Today, we look at what's within.
Firefighters uniforms are made of fire resistant fabrics (mainly Aramids such as Nomex and Kevlar or polybenzimidazole 'PBI' ), to protect the wearer. Choosing the right suit fabric should be based on the same principle. What is the suit for? Is there a particular occasion? Do you live in a certain type of climate?
So now let's dive into wool and its Super numbers.
The term ‘Super’ relates to the diameter of the woven wool/yarn count (number of threads per square inch within a fabric.), indicating the fineness of the wool fibre.
Larger fibres in diameter take up more space, so will have a smaller thread count. This gives an advantage of durability but may sacrifice fabric softness. In contrast, smaller type of fibres need more threads to fill a one-inch square space, giving it a smoother and beautiful drape. However, may break and scuff easily, due to their fragility.
With that in mind, consider the function of your suit when choosing your fabric. Is it for every day or just occasional use? If occasional, i.e. your wedding for example, then you can opt for higher super numbers such as 140 and above.
All of this is well and good, but I believe I would be doing a disservice to the industry should I not touch on the creative process behind each cloth of wool.
The 4 Main breed of sheep
Interestingly enough, wool quality varies between each breed of sheep; Merino, Lincoln, Dorper and Jacob.
Merino sheep are highly demanded worldwide for their high-quality wool but only the most skilled weavers are able to gain access to this wool. Australia is home to about 71 million sheep, with close to 3/4 of Australia’s flock being Merino (Woolmark, 2017).
Lincoln and Jacob sheep have finer fleeces while the Dorper sheep has a good combination of wool and hair and are highly popular in western regions. Maybe next time you could ask your tailor what breed of sheep your wool came from.
How is it produced?
Wool is only taken from the sheep’s back and sides because the fibre lengths are longer than the wool from underneath and legs. Products made from wool tend to be heavier, softer and warmer because they contain more air, which insulates the body. Worsted products tend to have a lighter, shinier finish as the fibres are woven tightly together.
In the 14th century, with unrest in Finland, Flemish weavers fled to England where they brought new weaving techniques. They settled in Worsted, Norfolk and that’s how the system is known now.
The wool processing:
35% to 40% of the wool’s weight is due to contaminants and grease in the wool. In order to wash these out, the wool has to go through a process called Scouring. The greasy wool is fed into a machine where it is repeatedly washed with warm water, detergent, and an alkali through multiple bowls. The clean wool is then put through a machine which beats out all the moisture as well as sand and dust that the wash may not have gotten out. Then it is transported to a closed room known as a bin, where it is allowed to blend and stand until the moisture content is just right.
Top-making is the next step in the process of manufacturing wool. Here the wool is prepared for the spinning process and consists of Carding, Gilling and Combing. These three processes ensure the wool is of the highest quality. The wool is then spun into yarn, and wool fibres are drawn out and spun together. The yarn can either be knitted or woven. Then it’s dyed with a plain or pattern finish. The wool is now ready to make your tailor-made suit!
So there you go, a little more knowledge to what goes beyond the modern Gent's armour.
Next on the list, where to find the right Super Suit?
Until next time gents!
The RJ Clothing Team
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