It is essentially derived from the cotton plant, which is a member of the Gossypium family. The fibres, which are made entirely of cellulose and are frequently found in nature, including trees, were designed to protect the seeds. Additionally, cellulose is the basis for outer materials like viscose and bamboo textiles. Although cotton plants, which are technically bushes, grow widely today, they are still primarily cultivated. Looking back, cotton was mostly found in the Middle East and was used in clothing up to 6000 BC. All of the cottons being farmed for commercial purposes are descended from that historic cotton plant.
Columbus observed that the rise of cotton itself had a significant impact on slavery when he arrived in the Bahamas. To learn more about this, I strongly encourage you to read our in-depth tutorial on the internet here. Most cotton imports today come from the US, China, and India, as well as other African and South American nations. While industrialised nations mainly rely on machines to harvest cotton, cotton is still picked by hand in Africa, Egypt, India, and other developing nations, where commercial level growth is substantially subsidised in the US.
Naturally, hand selecting requires a lot more labour and pays quite handsomely for those who do. Additionally, you obtain a pure fibre because no impurities enter the fibre during the selection process. When cotton is harvested, the seeds are often chosen. As a result, following harvesting in both the nation of origin and the country where the cotton is spun and woven, the cotton is sent to numerous gins that take care to remove all the seeds, impurities, and dirt from it. Because cotton is better when it is more pure.
Different cotton fibers have different qualities; the better ones are longer and come in lengths of five to six centimetres, or around two to two and a half inches. It is typically softer, but you will notice pilling much more immediately and it will wear out prematurely because cotton has shorter staples and is difficult to spin into yarns at the same time. All high-quality cotton products therefore rely on long-staple cotton. After the fibre has been cleaned, it is spun into yarn. Sometimes this yarn is a two-ply yarn, which means that two strands of yarn are applied together. This helps to produce a yarn that is more durable while also being more reliable and long-lasting. The practise of gassing is another way to enhance cotton.
It is used to smoothen and brighten the fibre, giving it the typical excellent sheen you might recognise from more expensive cotton shirts, particularly in the twill weave. After the cotton is woven, a variety of finishing processes that are occasionally exclusive to the manufacturers are used to actually maximise the performance of the cotton fabric. Let's speak about how it affects the environment now that you know how it's manufactured. Both during the growing and manufacturing processes, cotton is particularly resource-intensive. It requires a lot of water, and the chemicals used to prepare it can have a negative impact on the environment. Since cotton thrives in warm temperatures, it is frequently cultivated in places with insufficient rainfall, like Egypt, where it is primarily reliant on irrigation.
Genetically modified seeds have been produced that keep pests at bay so you don't have to use as many chemicals, but you still need a lot relative to other methods of pest control. The entire movement toward organic cotton, which is always expanding, was established as a result of rising levels of cotton that reach the final product. Organic cotton is by definition free of herbicides, pesticides, and seeds that have undergone genetic modification. Cotton must be connected to desertification in some parts of the world as well as ground solidification in addition to needing a lot of water. Unlike synthetic materials like nylon or polyester, organic materials like cotton will disintegrate in the absence of cotton art.
The staple length is where it all begins in terms of cotton quality. A short staple is one and a half centimetres, or three quarters of an inch. Long staple cotton ranges from one and a quarter inches to two and a half inches, whereas medium staple cotton is between three quarters of an inch and one and a quarter inches. Even though short and medium staple cottons make up the vast bulk of the world's supply, the staple is only mentioned in the advertising for higher-end cottons. The word "sea island cotton" can occasionally be found on labels for higher-end cotton, but what does it actually mean? It is a cotton variety with an extra-long staple that is raised on sea islands west of South Carolina and Georgia.
Theoretically, the sunshine and humidity level offer the ideal surroundings for a premium cotton. The so-called West Indian Sea Island cotton, which is only permitted to be produced in certain Caribbean regions, is an even higher variety of cotton. Despite the fact that the island's size restricts production, a lot more items with the name "western Sea Island cotton" are really produced each year. Although there is obviously a lot of fraud occurring there, if we can get our hands on real West Indian Sea Island cotton, it will feel almost as luxurious as feeling cashmere. When shirt manufacturers offer Egyptian cotton, they essentially indicate that it is the batch's longest-staple cotton; however, Egyptian cotton is not always advertised as such.
Towels and other items that come into contact with the skin also contain Egyptian cotton. Typically, it's employed to ask the buyer to pay more. There is a higher-end subgroup of Egyptian cotton known as Giza cotton. There is a unique number for each giza quality. The most opulent and high-end Egyptian cotton available, giza 45 con is extra-long, exceptionally fine, and very consistent. The longest staple giza 45 cotton is carefully chosen and hand combed to ensure the best quality, ensuring that there are no impurities and that you receive the finest cotton available. Pima cotton, sometimes known as American pima, is occasionally available. It was developed in the 1900s and is named after an American Indian tribe. Additionally, you may have heard of or seen supima cotton, which is short for superior pima cotton and is an organisation that works to promote pima cotton but is not a grade. Like organic cotton, which by itself does not describe its quality but only indicates that no pesticides or chemicals were used and that it was not genetically engineered. If you pay more for organic cotton, you do so because of the impact it has and the lack of pesticides, not because of the quality because it doesn't tell you anything about the staple length. In my opinion,
West Indian sea cotton is the best available; I would even rank it higher than giza 45 cotton. I always choose a two-ply cotton dress shirt that is 100% cotton and does not have any stretch from nylon or polyester. Although it increases its durability and may be suitable for uniforms, work attire, and possibly for cooks in the kitchen, it is not something you should wear directly against your skin because it is rougher and less pleasant, as well as less absorbent. If you're fortunate, you may occasionally locate polo shirts made of pima cotton, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Interestingly, linens and towels are typically measured in thread counts or gsm grammes per square metre rather than clothing. My experience has shown that there is a lot of fraud occurring, therefore I wouldn't rely just on a number that is given to me. How can you ascertain whether the cotton is luxurious then?
The issue is that although soft cotton may feel quite nice on your skin, its short staple actually makes it soft. Higher-end cotton is typically exceedingly fine, allowing for a very fine weave and a lovely sheen. If you're looking for men's shirts, Albini is arguably the biggest name on the block. If you want to learn more about that brand, see our guide on this website. While there are other reputable cotton producers as well, reliance on brands can occasionally be problematic because the quality of the product could change over time without your knowledge or without any label changes. For instance, the quality of the Polo Ralph Lauren sweaters I've owned for more than ten years has drastically declined. The sweaters have gotten softer, but that is only because they are made of shorter-staple cotton, which is much easier to pill, appears older, and fades colours much faster than the previous sweaters I own.
What are the dos and don'ts while purchasing cotton? Never assume that all cotton is the same. Since you can wear high-quality cotton for extended lengths of time, it is typically softer, shinier, finer, and less harmful to the environment. A higher-end cotton vendor should always be able to provide you with more information, such as what precise type of cotton was used, how many plys there are, how heavy the fabric is, and where it was acquired. Nevertheless, be wary of labels that are not supported by a reputable industry authority, such as Albini, Thomas Mason, Tessitura Monti, or other well-known cotton manufacturers who are known for producing high-quality goods made of long-staple cotton.
So how should cotton be cared for? Fortunately, it's one of the simpler things to deal with. The only time I wouldn't machine wash my cotton is in a suit, such as a seersucker suit or another cotton suit, but mainly because of the canvas and the things on the inside and not necessarily because of the fabric itself. You can machine wash it, you can hand wash it, but machine washing is totally fine. Ideally, you should always follow the care instructions on the label because if you wash it too hot, the colour may come out, and I also urge you to wash it with light colours because if you don't, the likelihood that it will seem duller is significantly higher. It's best to avoid washing a pair of jeans after every wear in order to preserve the cotton's quality and colours, but if you must, you can turn them inside out like you would a sweater to try to reduce noticeable pilling on the outside.
Additionally, cotton benefits from not being over-dried, hence air drying is preferred. If you really must use a dryer, consider running it only half before hanging it to air dry; otherwise, your clothing won't last as long. Dress shirts should never be dried in the dryer since the interlining could come loose and the process is tougher on the shirt. Always air dry those. Either iron a dress shirt while it's damp to make it very simple and remove creases. You have to determine what makes sense for you because it takes much longer, which is the problem. Ideally, you should hang it up to dry. When in question about what temperature to wash your cotton at, choose a lower setting or wash it on cold to ensure that the colours stay vibrant longer.