When looking around for an off-the-rack suit or a tailored suit, you may often see the cheap suits come with a textile label listing some kind of micro fabric or in the best case scenario mixed wool. This means that only a certain percentage of the fabric is made from wool while the rest of the fabric is from different types of polyester material. Then you have the branded and non-branded suits, throwing around Super Wool numbers such as Super Wool 150S or “Tropical Wool” etc. And to add further confusion, some fabric brand suppliers offer worsted wool. So, what are the differences among these materials and why do some cost more than others?
The usual difference is between woolen yarns and worsted yarns. But this does not necessarily tell you anything about the quality of the wool. It does, however, determine the yarn spinning process. It is important to know that the process of spinning worsted yarns is more labour intensive and hence creates higher grade yarn which feels smoother to the touch.
Compared to carding only, the worsted wool process typically uses longer wool fibres (two inches and longer) which are carded first. Carding is a mechanical process whereby a machine first detangles the yarn and then cleans it. The length of the fibre is not the only difference here, as carded yarn can also have fibres with two inches and more in length. When it comes to worsted wool, it is the final result that counts in the end. Worsted wool is machine combed multiple times after carding. During the combing process, any shorter or broken fibres will be eliminated and all the fibres would be aligned nicely. This process will be repeated until the targeted diameter of the yarn is achieved. When the fibres are perfectly aligned and all the out of place fibres are removed, the end product has a smoother feel. The wastage is higher in the course of making worsted wool and it also requires more effort than carding only.
But to demonstrate how complicated it is, the worsted wool thread now still needs to be weaved. There are not only a variety of weave techniques but also different weaving qualities depending on which mill is processing the same worsted wool thread, not to mention the dyeing process of the thread.
So, what does all this mean when you go shopping for a suit? In addition to the style or design of the suit and fit, look closely at the material offered. Try to avoid any kind of micro or polyester material for your suit. Chose, at the least, a mixed wool with 50% wool content or above. Better still, go for 100% wool. Do not be deceived by branded suits. Even in the mid to high sector, many branded suits sell you polyester suits with a fancy label, especially off the rack. Yes, a mixed wool or full wool suit will cost you more, but undoubtedly, you also get more value for money. If you can afford it, go for it!
Worsted wool is the end result of a process where wool yarn is meticulously carded and combed to produce a nicely aligned yarn, which is smoother than yarn from the same quality of raw wool material which goes through only carding. But, it does not tell you much about the quality of the wool itself, only the effort taken to get the yarn thread. Different mills also produce different wool fabric qualities with the same worsted yarn. Hence, look for wool material which you can trust is of the highest and consistent quality. Yes, admittedly, branded material from Italy or England are more expensive than some unbranded material from other countries. But, opting for such material also gives you the likelihood of obtaining the best quality as well.
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