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Right Thread Count For Mens Dress Shirt

How to Determine Appropriate Thread Count

Choosing custom-made clothing is increasingly an objective for men and women who have for years chosen to buy their clothes from popular retail stores. When it comes to choosing custom-made dress shirts it is important to understand the key elements that define a quality item. These elements include fabric, embellishments, and fit. The most important of these elements is the fabric. Fabric choices for a custom-made shirt are a function of the fabric thread count. The best dress shirts in the world are made of Egyptian Cotton with a thread count of at least 200.

What is thread count?

Thread counts are commonly referenced when qualifying the quality of bed sheets. Thread counts are also increasingly referenced when talking about the finest line of custom-made dress shirts. First, let’s understand the true meaning of thread count and how it relates to the quality of cotton products. Thread count is defined as the number of threads woven together in a single square inch of fabric. The finer the threads and the tighter they can be weaved together, the softer the fabric will be.

Thread count refers to the number of horizontal and vertical threads per square inch. Generally, the higher the thread count, the softer the sheet, and the more likely it will wear well-or even soften-over time. Good sheets range anywhere from 200 to 800, although you'll occasionally see numbers over 1,000.

The thread count number is based on the threads woven horizontally ("weft") and vertically ("warp"). Extra threads can be woven into the weft threads to increase thread count. These added threads are called "picks" and are included in the overall count. High-end sheet makers offer sheets with thread counts in the thousands, but the actual number is indeterminate. The number is arguable and depends on the specific manufacturing mill. This gives you some perspective for how to differentiate single-ply, unpicked weaves and ones that add threads indiscriminately to bump up the count.

Thread count is also important in defining the quality of a cotton shirt. it is important to understand what a specific thread count number means in making fabric choices. The thread count for a specific custom-made dress shirt varies based upon the occasion it will be worn for. Certain fabrics are appropriate for formal wear occasions while other fabrics are more appropriate for more casual settings.

When it comes to making high quality shirts, thread counts that are very high don’t equate to making better quality shirts. Most weavers will say the maximum number of threads that can be woven into one square inch of fabric used in shirt making is 500 to 600. References to Egyptian, Sea Island, or American Pima cotton define the type of cotton used to make the weave, rather than describing the type of weave.  Pima, Sea Island and Egyptian cotton are originally derived from the same plant: Gossypium Barbadense. They are more desirable because they are typically “extra-long staple length” cottons (length greater than 1 3/8″), allowing them to be spun into finer, stronger yarns.

Thread Count for Formal Dress Shirts

Formal wear that you wear for special occasions should be among the most luxurious items in your wardrobe. The appropriate dress shirt you wear with a tuxedo or formal suit will make a big difference in the way your ensemble comes together, so the thread count for this shirt will be high creating a crisp, yet soft look. Formal wear suits are made of the finest wool with lapels often finished with silk. The high quality of your white cotton shirt provides an additional slight sheen in complementing the overall elegance of your appearance. These characteristics are applicable to both men’s and women’s formal attires.

Thread Count for Business Style Dress Shirts

Typical fabrics used to make business-style dress shirts need to be softer than fabrics used to manufacture casual style shirts. They are not as soft and elegant as what is used for formal wear but high thread count business shirts create a crisp, prestigious look to a business suit and silk tie combination. Men and women in the business world enjoy projecting an image of authority and control. The quality of their shirt plays a key role in creating this image.

Thread Count for Casual Shirts

Thread counts used to make casual shirts are chosen based on the activity level associated with the wearer. Extremely active people will choose fabrics that breathe well and allow free and comfortable movement. The materials used to make casual shirts aren’t meant to be crisp and soft. Wrinkle–free materials look more comfortable and are easier to care for. Sometimes these shirts are worn not ironed when they come out of the drier to create a casual, comfortable look.

While thread count can be an indicator of fabric preference, ply, mill, and quality contribute just as much to how luxurious the cotton fabric is. Custom dress shirts come in multiple styles and multiple fabric options. As you make fabric selections and create, remember the guidelines for which fabrics are most appropriate for how they will be worn. Design a variety of options that will serve you in every social situation.

The type of fiber used to make dress shirts is also a defining characteristic. Egyptian Cotton fibers are the best because of their length, strength, and softness. A longer fiber means a stronger fabric and a higher thread count configuration.

When choosing the best cotton fabric to make formal dress shirts and business quality dress shirts, Master Tailors look for three things: Egyptian Cotton, where the fabric is woven and, the thread count. While thread count is often a distortion, the buzz around Egyptian Cotton is legitimate. The very best cotton in the world is grown in Egypt although Pima Cotton, grown in the United States is also a high quality fabric.

The weaving of cotton is an art and Italian weavers are considered the "master weavers of the world" due to a long tradition of high-quality fabric weaving and their use of Egyptian Cotton. Master Tailors always confirm that the label says 100% or pure Egyptian Cotton in making sure the fabric isn’t a blend with only a small percentage of Egyptian Cotton. They look for a minimum thread count of 200 and from there it is all about their preference and the type of shirt they are making.

All three of these cottons are typically regarded as high-end, luxury raw goods. Egyptian and American Pima will be the most readily available, while Sea Island Cotton is well-known for being more difficult to get. Often, American Pima Cotton will be woven into fabrics of a slightly lower quality than Egyptian as it is not as clean of a fiber, despite having similar staple lengths.

There is also a famous, rare form of Egyptian Cotton called “Giza 45″ that is used to make some of the world’s finest shirting fabrics–notably Thomas Mason Gold line fabrics. This is a highly acclaimed form of cotton found in a particular portion of the Nile Delta, that can be woven to produce incredibly fine yet strong yarns. Fabric made from Giza 45 cotton tends not to degrade over time as much as other Egyptian or American Pima cottons.

Accounting for just .0004% of the cotton supply available, Sea Island Cotton is the rarest. What makes Sea Island cotton so desirable is its unique combination of characteristics: extra-long staple length, remarkable fiber strength, incredibly uniform growth, and a significant brightness in color. While other high-end shirting cottons like Egyptian cotton and American Pima can boast extra-long staple length above 1 3/8″, Sea Island Cotton’s durability, consistency, vibrant color, and silky luster makes it the most desirable. The uniformity, strength, and “hairlessness” of the Seas Island fiber enables a long-lasting finish that becomes each time it is laundered.

The best Sea Island Cotton Fabric comes from the Barbados because the incredibly uniform, humid climate of the island allows for these cotton plants to grow in a consistent way throughout the year. The cotton in Barbados is also picked by hand in a way that ensures the highest quality. Keep an eye out for “Certified Sea Island Cotton” vs. “Sea Island Quality”, as only the former will be authentic.

If all things are equal (weave, ply, mill, and type of cotton), higher thread counts equate to smoother, silkier, more expensive fabrics. Thread count is often referred to with a number like 50s, 80s, 100s, 120s, 140s, 170s, etc., up to 330+.  These numbers refer to the yarn size, but keep in mind that typically a thread count above 100 will imply a 2-ply fabric.

Though there are some exceptions when extremely fine single ply yarns are used, these higher number thread counts will be two yarns twisted together. For example, 120’s thread count means that two 60’s yarns are twisted together. Generally, this fabric will be more durable than a 60’s single ply, but it won’t necessarily be smoother. 140’s thread counts are typically two 70’s yarns twisted together.

Two Ply vs Single Ply

Ply is how many yarns are twisted together to make a single thread. Shirt fabrics are most often two-ply or single ply. Two-ply means that two yarns are twisted together to make a single thread that is then woven into the fabric. Two-ply fabrics are generally superior to single-ply fabrics in their durability. Three-ply fabrics are rare but can be found occasionally. The higher the yarn size, the finer the thread and the greater the number that can fit into a one-inch square of fabric – thus a higher thread count. Finer threads allow the fabric to be smoother, lighter and more pliant.

The manufacturing mill is also important to understand. Cotton threads are woven into different fabrics based on ply, warp, weft, pick variations. The fabrics are then finished to burn off fuzz and treated to increase strength, luster, and dye affinity. This highly technical process requires great skill.  Thus, trust a mill that is 50 to 100 years old because they have mastered the craftsmanship of producing fine fabrics over many generations.

Feel the Fabric. While the thread counts for sheets in the market go up to 1200 that for dress shirts are usually below 200. Thread counts that exceed 500 are almost impossible to achieve.  However, if all other factors were the same, then a higher thread count means finer, smoother fabric (also more expensive). You should always feel the softness and smoothness of the fabric before buying anything.

Key takeaways for a well-designed Dress Shirt

    Can be anywhere between 50 to 150 thread counts

    Either single ply (for softer and lighter casual shirts) or 2-ply (for stronger, more formal shirts)

    For longer-lasting shirts, look for shirts made of the higher quality cotton fibers like Egyptian or Pima cotton

    Fabric is woven in well-established mills who have mastered the art of craftsmanship

    Stay away from blended fabrics especially if your skin is easily irritable

So don’t let anyone fool you again when they tell you that higher thread counts equals better quality and therefore justifies the greater price. You know better now.

My Custom Tailor is a third-generation manufacturer of custom-made suits and shirts that serves men and women all over the world. Their preferred method of engagement with new clients is to have them interact with My Custom Tailor Master Tailors that constantly travel to cities all over the world and conduct Travelling Tailor Roadshows. These roadshows are designed to educate consumers on the value and quality of custom-made suits as an alternative to suits purchased from popular retail outlets and specialty clothing stores. Attending a roadshow is a unique, entertaining, and informational experience. Travelling Tailors bring fabric samples, finished pieces, and styling examples that educate prospective clients on the value of buying custom-made clothes that meet specific buyer desires.

The key to evolving trust with a Master Tailor is building a relationship that starts with information sharing. My Custom Tailor Master Tailors are strong two-way communicators with particularly good listening skills. When you meet one of these tailors at a roadshow event, you will find them first and foremost interested in you as a person and as a novice buyer of custom-made clothes. As you embark on your quest to build a quality wardrobe, one of the first purchases that you will consider is a custom-made shirt or suit. The Travelling Master Tailor will confirm all the information you have learned about thread count and the extensive variety of cotton fabrics. Look at the standards My Custom Tailor Master Tailors and Cutter adhere to.

While the best way to get started is to attend a Travelling Tailor Roadshow you can also visit one of our online collection catalogues on the My Custom Tailor Website. Select the type of suit you wish to order or use the “Shop by Style Search” feature to identify a specific clothing item you want to focus on. This is a great way to get calibrated to what My Custom Tailor offers and the broad array of different styles and fabrics. Weekly specials are offered where shoppers can save money on individual items and combinations of items across many styles.