What do Super numbers really mean?

July 20, 2012
Super 100s, Super 120s, Super 140's, Super 150s, Super numbers

English milled fabrics

When browsing fabrics with your tailor you may have come across bunches labelled as ‘Super 100’s wool’ or ‘Super 140’s wool’. But what do these numbers relate to and what should you be looking for when choosing cloth for a suit?

The phrase ‘Super 100’s’ was originally conceived by spinners Joseph Lumb & Sons more than 30 years ago, but was soon adopted by Dormeuil and other merchants. Marketing of this term has been so successful over the decades that it has now reached the stage where clients will ask for a specific Super number that they had in mind, even before their first visit to a tailor.

The number itself e.g. 100, 140 etc. relates to the width of the wool yarn in microns (a micron is one millionth of a meter). So a Super 130s fabric is 17.5 microns wide. The higher the Super number, the silkier the fabric feels and that affects price as well. Anything above Super 140s is too fragile for repeated daily use but can be saved for special occasions.

It’s important not to place too much emphasis on the Super number because other factors are more relevant to the performance you can expect from a fabric. For example the merchant, the breed of sheep, the weight, the mill it was woven in and the way that the fabric actually tailors during construction. Due to the fact that there are no regulations on labelling Super numbers you can purchase a fabric labelled ‘Super 100’s’ from two different fabric merchants and they can be very different in quality.

Often the Super number is mistakenly associated with weight but the two are not always related. For example Super 120’s exist in various weights from 9oz to 12oz. When choosing your yarn it’s important to choose a fabric that is right for the construction method and feels right to you. Trends in Super numbers continue to spread confusion as mill owners can produce finer and finer wools which people mistake for better performance.

As milling technology continues to improve, wool will be available in higher Super numbers but as discussed here that isn’t the overriding factor to consider when choosing fabric for your suit.

Hopefully this article has given you a bit more insight into what Super numbers actually mean and this will help you make an informed choice when choosing wool yarns.

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