Some men are happy with ten-dollar shirts but I prefer the good stuff.
Shirts with 200 thread counts are the best.
Thread count, cotton count, yarn count, yarn size, yarn number – they all mean the same thing and are a measure of the fineness of cotton.
Thread count refers to the number of threads, both lengthwise (warp) and widthwise (weft) woven together in a square inch.
Using finer threads also allows for more thread to fit in a square inch. Finer thread often results in smoother, softer fabrics, part of the reason high thread count fabrics are considered more desirable than fabrics with a low thread count.
Long story short: The higher the number, the finer the cotton.
I don’t want to get too technical here but here’s a rule of thumb:
120’s and 160’s are ok, but 200’s are best. And you get what you pay for.
Single ply or two ply?
Yarn made by twisting two cotton strands is called two-ply cotton. Yarn that is simply a single strand of cotton is single-ply, or singles.
Two-ply is generally better as it is smoother, stronger, and more uniform than singles.
What about Sea Island cotton?
“Sea Island Cotton” used to be a generic term for fine shirt fabric/fine cotton. However, it is now the trademark of a Japanese company (West Indian Sea Island Cotton Association).
Actual Sea Island cotton – cotton actually grown in the West Indies are 100’s/2-ply.
So the next time you go to your tailor, custom make a 200’s/2-ply shirt.
Living well is the best revenge!
I get my shirts from Ascot Chang in Hong Kong and CYC in Singapore. I go to the CYC in Republic Plaza – I avoid their Raffles Hotel store because they are some idiotics working there.
You can also go to Excellent Silk House at Far East Plaza and consult Ali Meer for advice. He has a wide range of fabrics to suit whatever budget you have and he’s an honest man and won’t rip you off.
For suits I like wool – the Super 130’s and above are the best.
The grading system for wool (eg Super 100’s, Super 130’s, Super 150’s) is completely different from that used for cotton even though the numeric values are close.
Twenty years ago Super 100’s were considered a luxury, today there are even Super 200’s. However I find Super 130’s to be the best – not too crude, not too dedicate and fragile, just right.
Alpaca wool is the finest, but I can’t afford them.
Again, Ali Meer is the man to go to. You can also visit Joseph Koh at Joe’s Tailoring & Fashion Design, 50, Market Street.
The ever-smiling Joe is one of the nicest guys around, but if you hate hard sell, you may find that the other people in his store – particularly his sister-in-law Wai Meng – can be ferociously and obnoxiously aggressive.
When it comes to thread count for bed sheets, it gets confusing with charlatans and their “creative counting” touting thousand-thread count fabrics – this is all part of a scheme to confuse consumers, trust me.
“Once you get beyond 400 threads per square inch, be suspicious,” warned Julian Tomchin. The standard for counting is to add each warp (vertical) and weft (horizontal) thread per square inch. The most that normally fits, he said, is 400, after which the threads are thinner and weaker. Some companies use two- or three-ply threads and multiply the count. “An 800-thread-count sheet made of two-ply yarn should legitimately be relabeled as 400,” he said. “That’s how you get 1,000 threads per square inch: creative counting.”
Tomchin, 76, has been involved with fabrics since 1979, first as the senior vice president and fashion director for home at Bloomingdale’s; next as vice president of creative services at Fieldcrest, both in New York; and then, from 1993 to 2002, as senior vice president for home-product development at Macy’s West in San Francisco, where he is retired.