What is Supima Cotton?


Did you know that less than 1% of apparel worldwide is made with Supima Cotton? What exactly is Supima Cotton anyway? Is it really better than other types of cotton? 

Types of Cotton 

There are four types of cotton. These types are Gossypium Hirsutum, Gossypium Barbadense, Gossypium Arboreum, and Gossypium Herbaceum.

  • Gossypium Hirsutum is native to Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and southern Florida. This type I would refer to as conventional cotton and is made up of 90% of the world's production of cotton.
  • Gossypium Barbadense is known as extra-long-staple cotton (ELS) it is native to South America and is only 8% of the world's population.
  • Gossypium Arboreum is a tree cotton. This type of cotton is native to India and Pakistan and makes up less than 2% of the world's cotton. 
  • Gossypium Herbaceum is levant cotton. This cotton is native to southern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and also makes up less than 2% of the world's cotton. 

Extra-Long Staple Cotton is derived from the Gossypium Barbadense species of cotton and you probably have heard of some of these types of ELS Cotton:

  • Pima Cotton
  • Egyptian Cotton 
  • Supima Cotton 

The only main difference between Pima and Egyptian Cotton is where they come from. Pima cotton is primarily grown in the USA. Egyptian cotton is mainly from the Nile River Valley. Known for their hot, dry climate - which is great for growing cotton! 

Both Egyptian Cotton and Pima Cotton can have great qualities very similar to Supima Cotton. However, unfortunately, there are a lot of mislabels these days. For instance, any cotton grown in Egypt can technically be labeled 'Egyptian Cotton' even if it doesn't have the ELS cotton qualities. If companies can verify the origins of their cotton - that is the best bet. As both Egyptian and Pima have been mislabeled, far too often using inferior cotton blends. It has been reported that nearly 89% of cotton sold as Egyptian or Pima is not the real form of either of those kinds of cotton. According to Applied DNA Sciences, a forensic science biotech company cited in a Bloomberg article that 83% of tested products labeled 100% Pima were partially or entirely made of another type of cotton. 

Yikes! Have you ever wondered if your cotton t-shirt was in fact cotton?? If that is not enough, listen to this! 

There have been shortages with Egyptian Cotton that have caused manufacturers and big-box companies to blend this high-quality fabric with less-quality ones and not disclose that to their customers. This caused some outrage in 2016...

It has been proven that Target has sold fake 'Egyptian Cotton' sheets and pillowcases. Target had to recall 750,000 units as they found these sheets and pillowcases were made with a cheaper form of cotton.  You can find the lab study here.  It is believed that other brands were effected by this manufacturer where Target was getting their goods, called Welspun Cotton. Other retailers believed to be affected are Wal-mart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Khols, Macy's, K-Mart, and J.C Penny. 

Now let's get into our favorite type ... Supima Cotton! 

Supima Cotton vs. Pima Cotton

Supima Cotton is actually American-grown Pima Cotton, but not all Pima cotton is Supima cotton. Confused? A lot of Pima cotton is not actually Pima cotton as mentioned before and has less expensive kinds of cotton blended in or substituted for the real stuff. Only Supima Cotton is 100% American grown Pima Cotton. Supima Cotton is usually grown in a desert climate, like Arizona or Texas. This type of cotton as been traced back to Mexico as early as 3400 and 2300 BC!  Supima Cotton has some amazing properties, which is why we chose Supima Cotton as our signature fabric.

All genuine Supima Cotton has been certified by the American Supima Association (ASA). This association is a group of textile manufacturers and farmers who come together to retain credibility in their fabric and yarn. This association has incredibly high quality and only exists within the USA.  This means it is only possible to buy true Supima Cotton fabric in the USA.

Take it from other companies choosing Supima Cotton as well over Egyptian and Pima Cottons. 

"There are only two choices that we can choose. One is Egyptian long-staple cotton, the other one is American Supima cotton.  There is almost no difference between the two if we just consider the performance of plant fiber. But the degree of industrial standardization of Egyptian long-staple cotton is far less than that of Supima cotton, and in the process of international trade acceptance, Egyptian cotton is ultimately based on the actual goods, we have to accept the cotton whatever they give us unconditionally. Obviously, there is an unstable risk, but we cannot bring this risk to our customers." - L.Martin 

The graph below reviews how Supima Fabric is Made:

Supima Cotton Tshirts

Image from Sewport. 

Properties of Supima Cotton

The main property of Supima Cotton is the longer fibers. Each cotton type has an average length for their fibers and what makes Supima Cotton stand out is the average length of 1 7/16". Gossypium Hirsutum form of cotton which makes up 90% of the world's cotton has an average length of 95 cm to 1" long. This is pretty important as we will dive into how the longer fibers add to the other properties of Supima. 

Durable

Supima Cotton is one of the most durable fabrics on the market due to its long fibers. Longer fibers make the yarn stronger, which makes the clothing item last longer etc. The longer fibers also mean that the fabric can be made finer for a more lightweight feel. You will get this feeling in our Classic Supima Cotton Crew. We make our Classic Crew with a lighter weight fabric than with our Classic Supima Cotton V-neck. I never liked how Women's t-shirts were so sheer and see-through, so we used a higher weight fabric for our Classic Supima Cotton V-Neck

Color Retention

Color Retention is another property that is due to Supima's longer fibers. With the longer fibers it has, it is able to achieve a greater color shade depth. This is very important if you are using low-toxic dyes. If the dyes you are using to dye your cotton clothes with do not have chemicals.. they will not last as long. So with the longer fibers, they are able to last longer without chemical dyes. Clothes will not grow dull as quickly as other cotton clothes made with smaller fiber lengths. 

Softness

Softness.. my favorite property! The combination of fine fibers, with the length and strength Supima Cotton, possess results in a silky feel. In Fact, one of our hotels; Acre of Roses in Australia mentioned our cotton “feels like silk.” Take it from them ;) Supima Cotton has a luxurious luster. What’s not to love?! I know we are all about Supima Cotton on this post but this is the very reason we choose Viscose for our Men’s boxer brief underwear and not modal. Modal is a great soft fabric but pills very easily with each wash. You can see Supima Cottons luxurious luster from this picture below:

Supima Cotton

One of the last but not least qualities that customers love best is that Supima Cotton tends not to pill. Those pesky little balls that form after washing or wearing your clothes, especially cotton clothes. It is possible to own a Supima Cotton garment for years and not notice any pilling! Pretty amazing! 

If that doesn’t make you love Supima Cotton – I don’t know what will!

It has even been stated that Supima cotton was used in the mid-1800s for some of Levi Strauss’s first jeans, produced by Amoskeag Manufacturing. We think he could have chosen this fabric due to his durability. In fact, Supima Cotton remnants have been found in abandoned gold mines proves that Supima was being used in the Gold Rush.

Is all Supima Cotton Fabric Organic?

Supima Cotton is one of the most environmentally friendly textiles out there today. Due to its low availability - what is out there as we have previously stated is all certified by ASA. To be certified by ASA, they have strict agricultural standards that make organic grown Supima Cotton the preferred choice of farmers who grow Supima. Most Supima Cotton doesn't have the label 'organic' but it is in fact organic if it is 100% Supima Cotton. Keep in mind, to get USDA approved for organic costs a lot of money to hold those certifications. Many small companies like our own, can't afford that. But just because it doesn't have the name doesn't mean it isn't organic! Always, always email and ask your favorite companies and brands as to what their standards are. 

What are Cotton Fibers Natural Colors?

Cotton fibers naturally come in white, brown, pink, and green hues. A lot of farmers have been scared that the natural white color will die and they only produce the white-colored fiber. 

Supima Cotton Plant

"Cotton has been spun, woven, and dyed since prehistoric times. It clothed the people of ancient India, Egypt, and China. Hundreds of years before the Christian era, cotton textiles were woven in India with matchless skill, and their use spread to the Mediterranean countries."

No wonder Supima is one of the most sought after fabrics, used from medical wear to sheets to towels to apparel. Let us know what your favorite property of Supima cotton is below! Personally, mine is that it truly gets softer with each wash! 

xoxo, LEISURE Team


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