Sam Hober

Senior Member
916
Thailand
Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai
RJ, a good point about always looking for bias by writers.In this case I was simply looking for quick information about the book and not overly concerned about editorial comments


Of course, the fact that blog is the mouthpiece of a cotton growers' association in the American Southwest just _could_ be affecting their take on this...



I have not looked at this issue recently but apparently it is an academic fact that Sea Island Cotton is no more as stated in the Agricultural History journal many years ago.

The Origin of Sea Island Cotton
S. G. Stephens
Agricultural History, Vol. 50, No. 2 (Apr., 1976), pp. 391-399
(article consists of 9 pages)
Published by: Agricultural History Society

You can find the first page of the article here from the above citation:

http://www.jstor.org/pss/3741338


.......there has been a movement to reclaim the Sea Island designation and an association, WISICA, has sprung up, along with special holograms to be stuck on any items made with WISICA-certified Sea Island cotton.....

Sounds very much like marketing a good brand name as opposed to actual Sea Island cotton.

...... The one "Sea Island" cotton shirt I had made, my shirtmaker himself told me that at this point, who knows what "Sea Island" is or how it differs from the better Egyptian cottons?

I agree with your shirtmaker. Who is he?

The point is that indications are that "Sea Island as a brand name is not the same as Sea Island Cotton before 1920.

A fascinating question is will DNA technology or lost hordes of seeds enable us to grow it again? Possible - but land is much more valuable now in that area. I was on Hilton Head Island around 10 years ago visiting family and I just don't see commercial cotton plantations happening again.


This issue has more to do with business branding, growing problems, genetics and real estate values than shirt values so everyone in this thread has a roughly equal say.

Although Earnest in Brooklyn perhaps has more of a say because he has put things in the perspective of daily use - which in the end is what really counts.

Although when I stop to think - RJ - you also have a special perspective not as a man who loves nice clothes but as a man of the law who has lived in France where the laws are quite strict on regional brands is appellations the word that I am thinking of?

Assuming, that the agriculturists are correct in that Sea Island Cotton was something very special grown in a limited area for a limited time should all the others who owned, created or whatever the brand name later be able to use it in the French sense of what Cognac or Champagne is?

I am not talking about international law as most likely the West Indies folks and others can do as they please. I am just talking about plain speaking and honesty .

In Thailand there currently is a related problem going on with silk that comes from hybrid silk worms that are part Thai and Chinese being labeled and marketed as Thai silk.

Noina and I are friends with a Thai professor who is very concerned about this issue and as time goes on we want to grow and preserve Thai silk worms on our farm and are being encouraged to do so.

We are very busy in Bangkok now making ties so perhaps I will hire a Phd student who is interested in the issue to help.

This can be hard because Thailand like the USA has government agriculture offices in the countryside that gives out new hybrid worm eggs.

On further thought this whole issue philosophically ties into the issue of labels and country of origin - which is a murky dark subject these days.

Standing by for your view and that of others who want to take a serious look at the whole issue with which I personally am fascinated and biased in an old-fashioned way........
 

Earnest in Brooklyn

New Member
48
Fascinating indeed...

Perhaps, in the end, the only true honest marketers are the French and the Italians. Roquefort comes from roquefort and so forth. Of course, here in Brooklyn, we have a bunch of guys claiming to do Neopolitan pizza that my neighbor actually from Naples says taste like they came from...well...North Brooklyn. I also understand that a lot of olive oil marked as coming from Italy are pressed in Italy but the olives are from Turkey or Spain or Greece. Go figure.

But seriously, in any case, I am not under the impression that when I buy cotton that is marked Sea Island, it actually comes from the the islands off the coast. I understand the whole marketing thing. What I am buying is a comparison to what feels a certain way to me. In this case, I am paying a premium for a difference I can feel. All that said, there have been times when I bought a shirt that just said Egyptian cotton because it had the same feel I was looking for.

I do look forward to seeing this discussion evolve as it will be interesting to learn something.
 

kemalony

Inactive user
168
$25 * 1.5 = $37.50 fabric cost / manufacturing
$36 * 1.75 = $63 Cost to retailer
$63 * 2.3 = $145 Cost to customer

Not arguing it's reasonable, but it might be logical given the cost of goods.
I m sure that none of producers can earn 50%. Rate is aprox 15%. We used to produce for the brands for years and in Maras many factories still produce for brands they cant get over 15%.
Once I saw the price labels on a shirt in a factory I could not beleive that price differences are very high.(x 6)
 

Alexander Kabbaz

Tech and Business Advice Guru
6,681
United States
New York
East Hampton
What is Sea Island cotton, why is it better, and how does it relate to other top Extra-Long Staple (E.L.S.) Cottons?

Sea Island cotton has been termed "the longest, finest, and most valuable cotton grown in the world". The Sea Island cotton grown in the West Indies has an average fibre length of 1.75"-2". This is the world's longest. Its closest widely-recognized competitors are Giza 45, Karnak, and Menoufi, all with fibre lengths about .25" shorter. Karnak and Menoufi are cotton species of days-of-old and no longer figure prominently. To offer a bit of specificity, E.L.S. cottons are defined as those having a fibre length greater than 1.375".

Why are E.L.S. cottons prized? There are a number of reasons. These cottons are not only longer, but they are also finer in diameter and possess significantly greater tensile strength - often as strong as 50 tons per square inch. This high tensile strength is what permits the spinning of the high yarn numbers (120s and up) necessary to produce the finest shirtings. The longer fiber permits a smoother finish to the yarn, and thence the shirting, simply because there are fewer "joints" than characterize cottons of shorter length. By derivation, the smoother finished yarn yields a smoother finished fabric.

Sea Island cotton has a long and sometimes checkered history. It was first grown in the United States in 1786 from seed obtained from the Bahamas. Although many attempts were made to grow this special cotton inland, the finest specimens were always grown on the Sea Islands - James, Edisto, John, and Wadmalaw. Although Sea Island cotton was being successfully grown inland as well, the seeds obtained from the inland grown did not retain the superb characteristics for long. The inland growers were dependent upon the Sea Islands growers for a replenishment of seed at least every three years.

In the first decade of the 20th century, starting in 1902, the culture of Sea Island cotton growing was introduced to the West Indies. Expert growers from the Carolinas were employed to teach the farmers of St. Vincent, Antigua, Barbados and other smaller islands how to grow Sea Island cotton. So successful was this project that within the decade, Sea Island cotton from the West Indies was offering stong competition to the Southeastern U.S. crop. Hit by the boll weevil in 1919, the U.S. Sea Island cotton crop was decimated. In 1924, U.S. production hit an all-time low of 11 bales.

The sad fate of U.S. production aside, the growing of cotton from the Sea Island seeds continued - and continues - in the West Indies. Various attempts were made to grow it elsewhere including Pima County, Arizona and in Peru. These attempts failed. The primary requirement for successfully and continually growing any certain species of cotton, climate and knowledge aside, is that there can be no other species of cotton growing nearby. With the wanton windborne wandering of pollen different species will cross-polinate and, with rare exception to the contrary, dilute the prized genetic characteristics of the better species.

The best of today's cottons come from two regions. Sea Island is grown in the West Indies. Egyptian E.L.S. cotton is grown in the triangular area at the mouth of the Nile River roughly bounded by Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said. Also in the running are Peru and the American Southwest.

What the future holds for these cottons is yet to be determined. Egyptian Giza 45 has "run out". In lay terms, this means that the quality of the seed has degenerated to a point where the expected characteristics can no longer be reliably maintained. At current usage rates, there exists sufficient Giza 45 cotton in storage to last another 8-10 years. The Egyptian government and private industry are working rapidly to develop a new strain. The continuity of Sea Island production is more certain as the West Indian Sea Island Cotton Association, Inc. (WISICA) strongly enforces proper cultivation.

Finally, when it comes to shirts, socks, and underwear, what are the implications of the term "Sea Island cotton"?

1] "Sea Island Quality" is easiest to dispel, for there is no such thing. Either is is Sea Island, or it isn't. Just using a Long Staple - or even an Extra-Long Staple - cotton does not make it Sea Island. All claims of "SIQ" should be ignored.

2] "Sea Island cotton": Here there are murky waters.

Firstly, is it certified? That can usually be determined by the presence - or absence - of the WISICA certification shown by a holographic sticker on the product.

The second qualifier is difficult, if not impossible, for a lay person to determine. This qualifier is: What percentage of the cotton used in the product is Sea Island and what percentage, to steal from the car rental commercial, is "not exactly"? Publicly available specifications are non-existent. Only three methods, two certain and the other less so, can answer this question:

The first certain method is to remove yarns from the product, unspin them, and microscopically compare their composition of fibres to genuine Sea Island fibres. One somewhat off-balance men's furnishings e-seller has been known to do this at times.

The second certain method is to follow the "food chain". This requires beginning at the retailer, moving up to the weaver/maker, following the trail to the spinner, and being permitted to follow the incoming certified Sea Island bales through the process from ginning to spinning. In fact, the only persons permitted to see this chain-of-process, aside from the spinner's employees, are the fabric weavers and sock knitters ... and then only rarely. Most of them simply haven't the staff or the time to perform such verification and simply accept the spinner's certification.

The third method is simple: you could take the word of the third-assistant salesperson who has been with the retailer for at least three months and has no plans to migrate to new employment for at least another three months: He was told that "it is Sea Island".

An Aside

1] Why this post? After contributing to the thread referenced above by Medwards, I became curious as to the true state of affairs, rumors, supposition, and vendor allegations being insufficient. I embarked on a research project to ascertain what is correct. The myth of Sea Island is one not easily pierced. Profiting from the term is widespread and the continuation of the shroud of mystery inures to the benefit of the profiteers, but extensive investigation yielded what I have stated above. To the best of my knowledge, it is as accurate as can be determined.

2] Having tested one product with one of the certain methods above, I can attest to the fact that the Alumo Sea Island fabric is genuine. Having tested another two products with the other of the two certain methods, I am convinced that the Sea Island cotton socks of Bresciani, and those in development by Marcoliani, are genuine. I have also investigated a number of other "Sea Island" claims, specifically by sock makers, and found that, while a percentage of the cotton used is genuine Sea Island, other E.L.S. and L.S. cottons are combined with the Sea Island to produce a less expensive yarn. I prefer not to state the specific products.

3] A short word about Pima cotton. Often overlooked, geniune Pima cotton is actually an extra-long staple cotton ranging in length from 1.5"-1.675". Though much emanates from Peru, a goodly amount is still grown in the American Southwest. This is a prized, expensive cotton. The American varieties are used by a number of European makers, including Zimmerli, Marcoliani, Bresciani, Facenti, and Albini, for some of their top-of-the-line products. It should not be ignored in one's search for fine quality.

~ ~ ~
 

kemalony

Inactive user
168
In addition to cotton quality. Mercerization is really important too. You cant imagine the difference between raw cotton yarn and mercerized cotton yarn.

Much smooth and bright surface can be seen.
 
Last edited:

Alexander Kabbaz

Tech and Business Advice Guru
6,681
United States
New York
East Hampton
Mercerization is really important too. You cant imagine the difference between raw cotton yarn and mercerized cotton yarn.
The reason one can't imagine the difference between raw cotton yarn and mercerized cotton yarn is that no better maker would even consider using a non-mercerized cotton yarn. Hence, most who value the quality of their clothing have not experienced non-mercerized yarns. In today's market, basic mercerization barely qualifies as a selling-point and is taken as a given.

Better makers will use yarns that are not only mercerized, but double-mercerized and then singed. Singing (singe-ing) is not crooning at the cottons. It is the process of pulling the yarn through a flame to burn off excess cotton hair-fuzz and create an even smoother finished yarn.
 

kemalony

Inactive user
168
The reason one can't imagine the difference between raw cotton yarn and mercerized cotton yarn is that no better maker would even consider using a non-mercerized cotton yarn. Hence, most who value the quality of their clothing have not experienced non-mercerized yarns. In today's market, basic mercerization barely qualifies as a selling-point and is taken as a given.

Better makers will use yarns that are not only mercerized, but double-mercerized and then singed. Singing (singe-ing) is not crooning at the cottons. It is the process of pulling the yarn through a flame to burn off excess cotton hair-fuzz and create an even smoother finished yarn.
Right order is first process is singing (gazing) and next process is mercerization.not singing after mercerization.

Mercerization ungazed yarn is meaningless coz brighness of yarn cant be seen under hairly surface.
 

kemalony

Inactive user
168
The reason one can't imagine the difference between raw cotton yarn and mercerized cotton yarn is that no better maker would even consider using a non-mercerized cotton yarn. Hence, most who value the quality of their clothing have not experienced non-mercerized yarns. In today's market, basic mercerization barely qualifies as a selling-point and is taken as a given.

Better makers will use yarns that are not only mercerized, but double-mercerized and then singed. Singing (singe-ing) is not crooning at the cottons. It is the process of pulling the yarn through a flame to burn off excess cotton hair-fuzz and create an even smoother finished yarn.
Right order writen below
1.process is singing (gazing)
2.process is mercerization.
not singing after mercerization.

Mercerization ungazed yarn is meaningless coz brighness of yarn cant be seen under hairly surface.
 

Earnest in Brooklyn

New Member
48
Bravo...

What is Sea Island cotton, why is it better, and how does it relate to other top Extra-Long Staple (E.L.S.) Cottons?

An Aside

1] Why this post? After contributing to the thread referenced above by Medwards, I became curious as to the true state of affairs, rumors, supposition, and vendor allegations being insufficient. I embarked on a research project to ascertain what is correct. The myth of Sea Island is one not easily pierced. Profiting from the term is widespread and the continuation of the shroud of mystery inures to the benefit of the profiteers, but extensive investigation yielded what I have stated above. To the best of my knowledge, it is as accurate as can be determined.

2] Having tested one product with one of the certain methods above, I can attest to the fact that the Alumo Sea Island fabric is genuine. Having tested another two products with the other of the two certain methods, I am convinced that the Sea Island cotton socks of Bresciani, and those in development by Marcoliani, are genuine. I have also investigated a number of other "Sea Island" claims, specifically by sock makers, and found that, while a percentage of the cotton used is genuine Sea Island, other E.L.S. and L.S. cottons are combined with the Sea Island to produce a less expensive yarn. I prefer not to state the specific products.

3] A short word about Pima cotton. Often overlooked, geniune Pima cotton is actually an extra-long staple cotton ranging in length from 1.5"-1.675". Though much emanates from Peru, a goodly amount is still grown in the American Southwest. This is a prized, expensive cotton. The American varieties are used by a number of European makers, including Zimmerli, Marcoliani, Bresciani, Facenti, and Albini, for some of their top-of-the-line products. It should not be ignored in one's search for fine quality.

~ ~ ~
Alexander, thanks for taking the time to post such a well-researched and thoughtful post. Thank you! If I may take this discussion to the more practical. For dress shirts (and dress shirts only, not shorts), what strategy would you advise for someone such as myself who doesn't have that much knowledge, but is looking for fine, light, breathable fabric regardless of the season? My strategy has been to sort of feel the fabric on the shirt and not get too hung up on what name it is being marketed under, etc. In your experience, is Pima cotton more along what I am describing than "Sea Island"? I welcome any advice you may have for a novice such as myself.