Those who once have been searching for suiting fabrics have probably stumbled upon such terms as “worsted wool”, “woollen wool”, “Super 100’s” or “Super 250’s”, “Prince of Wales checks”, etc. These terms are not purely professional and worth to be learned, as they describe various important properties of a suit, such as fineness, smoothness, vulnerability to pilling and the type of pattern. The aim of this guide is to give you an overview of various suiting wool fabrics so you won’t be puzzled with some specific terms.
Worsted vs. Woollen wool fabrics
In general, suiting fabrics are subdivided into worsted and woolen ones. Worsted wool is woven from combed yarn containing no short staple fibres, which results in smooth hand, light weight and quite a glossy finish of the fabric.
In contrast, woollen yarn is brushed not that thoroughly leaving both long and short staple fibres. Such structure is obviously weaker. Moreover, it makes a matte effect and leads to pilling.
The picture below illustratively represents the difference between the two types of yarn in a microscope scale:
The “Super” index
This one is an indispensable attribute of a worsted wool fabric for suits. It stands for the number of bales that can be made out one pound of a particular wool sort. Hence, the higher the number, the finer the fabric is.
Which is remarkable, this measurement has been evolving with the development of a textile technology. Several decades ago, “Super 60’s” was supposed to be the highest technically achievable one in the rank. To the beginning of the 1990s, it was “Super 100s”, in 1999 the record has been set with “Super 150s”, until some whopping “Super 250’s” by Scabal appeared in 2005. Up to the present day, this plank hasn’t been lifted yet, and it is believed that no finer wool can be created.
Today, with never-stopping development of high technologies and sales margin plans that keep up with quite the same pace, it is common to expect the following connection: with increase in the Super number, the price increases too, which must be the sign of better quality and better wearing experience. Well, it doesn’t follow such concept, actually. What the higher Super number indicates is the complexity of the production process, e.g., the Super 250’s fabrics of Scabal Summit collection are woven almost by hand. This extremely fine suiting wool is exceptionally smooth, it is imbued with a miraculous sheen of luxury, but do keep in mind that you pay for that not just with your money, but also with higher risks of tearing and wrinkling. Moreover, here comes another surprising fact about fine wool: it’s no cooler than thicker fabrics.
What needs to be added here, is that “Super …’s” relates only to fabrics with more than 45% wool content. In case of lower wool percentage, the fabric is only marked with “…’s”, without the prefix “Super”.
Classic Patterns for a Worsted Wool Suit
Wool fabric by the yard for suits comes both in solid and patterned types. Today, solids are represented in a wide colour palette, although the formal dress code options – blacks, greys and navy blues – are the most widespread. As a suiting fabric, however, worsted wool features the classic suiting check patterns such as tartan, herringbone, houndstooth, sharkskin, pinstripes or Prince of Wales. What is special about each one?
Tartan. Its history dates back to 325, Edinburgh, and since then tartan is widely associated with the Scottish culture. However, its origins are disputable, as check pattern clothing is found in different parts of the Earth. The number of Tartan patterns is countless, as every single Scottish clan has its family pattern. Yet, the world’s fashion knows 6 most famous tartan types:
- Caledonia – universal pattern that every Scottish may wear.
- Black Watch – a military that has become the base for many other tartans, such as Gordon and Caledonia.
- Dress Campbell – the parade tartan of the Campbell’s clan.
- Burberry – the custom tartan created for the Burberry company in 1920 and enlisted in the catalogue in 1985.
- Dress Gordon – the festive option of the Gordon tartan.
- Royal Stuart – the most famous tartan in the world.
Houndstooth. The history of this pattern ruins the traditional stereotype about Scotsmen preferring tartan over other clothing styles. As we know, tartan is a traditional Scottish pattern, but the thing is that in the past, each clan should have its own distinctive pattern. In case you was spotted wearing someone else’s tartan, such an encounter could end up in a quarrel or even fight. That’s why the Houndstooth pattern that wasn’t “protected by copyright” of any clan, has become the way to go for many.
What is houndstooth? Also known as hound’s tooth check, or pied-de-poule, it is about abstract black and white four-pointed shapes. Originally used by shepherds in the beginning of the 19th century, it has become favoured by the upper classes in the 1930s and started to associate with wealth. These days, it is a popular option in casual clothing, both for men’s coats and jackets and women’s dresses and skirts. Houndstooth is best combined with a striped shirt and solid tie.
Herringbone. Most commonly used in heavy wool fabrics like tweed, it is a stylish option for worsted wool as well. As the name implies, the weave of this wool resembles the shape of herring bone, while some tend to see a chevron in it.
You can put on a herringbone jacket for various occasions, especially if the pattern is small and tight. It doesn’t require a particular type of shoes or ties. What you should avoid with herringbone, however, is another pattern of this kind in your outfit – they will look messy.
Sharkskin. This one is welcomed for a formal suit. Sharkskin is renowned for its smooth and soft texture, light weight and resistance to wrinkling. What makes it particularly remarkable, is the two-tone effect, achieved by using the threads of 2 different colours. The darker threads are woven diagonally to the lighter ones, which results in a classy shimmering look.
Pinstripes. Having the reputation of a traditional bank clerk’s choice, pinstripes is a bit less popular pattern compared to the rest. In fact, it is not somewhat strictly conventional to be afraid of. What you should know about pinstripes, is the following:
- vertical stripes always visually increase your height;
- thestripe width matters: the wider the stripe, the louder your look becomes;
- It is quite tolerant to another pattern type;
- It is worth of your attention when planning a casual outfit. Depending on the weather, you can be bold enough to pair a pinstripe suit with a polo, high quality T-shirt or ribbed sweater. Solid white sneakers will perfectly complete your party-ready look.
Nevertheless, pinstripe pattern is still highly regarded as a classic trend for a formal dress code, and is definitely worth of your attention in case you need a suit to feel more confident in.