Cotton threads made jeans and tees. Feel me?

a functional cotton gin (credit: billums via Flickr)

The breakdown on cotton and what you might not know.

Do you realize how much cotton appears in our daily wardrobes? Really give it some thought; it appears in denim, t-shirts, underwear/socks and so much more. The locations of these basic fundamental items we purchase are also limited when you think of it — at least in America. Large corporations are busting out cheaper quality cotton-made goods for the sake of a profit when in the past that was not the story.

The craftsmanship that represented the favorite saying “made in America” is long gone with these corporations cashing in on cotton crops. Rather than clothing that will serve as daily pieces for everyday use, we have options that seem to almost provide that solution yet fall very short. In the past, you would only consider buying one pair of jeans, they would serve them for years to come in work and play. The solutions offered nowadays are aesthetically pleasing, yet do not suffice as options for durable wear.

I want to provide you all with some insight into he inter-workings of the fabric we know and love. Cotton is a staple in daily life so lets take a minute to see why knowledge on this one fabric could affect your purchasing life.

large spool of cotton | credit: Unhindered by Talent via Flickr

Cotton, basically defined as the fabric of our lives.

The importance behind knowing the difference in grades of cotton will make decision-making easier between quality pairs of jeans, T-shirts, and other cotton-made products. These types of clothing are classified as basics, but it doesn’t mean that one should only have basic knowledge of what they choose wear. With more insight, one can make more informed choices the next time they’re looking for cost-effective and longer-lasting apparel.

In the past, cotton was produced as a durable and efficient means of clothing for the working class. Compared to the likes of today’s cotton products, there was no need to continually replace clothing because they were meant to last and not strain one’s budget. Today, it is common to see high-cost, low-quality cotton goods for the sake of aesthetics rather than long-lasting apparel.

a cotton boll (credit: Calsidyrose via Flickr)

In commercial use, cotton is classified in three different categories: fiber length, fineness, and geographical region of growth. There are so many grades of cotton that I would not dare to waste time by listing all of them off. Instead, I’ll highlight upon two specific grades to show the differences not only in quality but the end-use of the cotton.

Upland (Gossypium hirsutum) cotton, also known as Short Staple Upland, is the most planted strain within America, originating from Mexico. Considered as medium-grade, they are shorter in length and coarser to the touch than other strains. The end-uses of this grade are mostly for sleepwear, undergarments, and a lot of the denim mass-produced today.

Higher grades are known as Sea Island, which are grown in Georgia and the Carolinas (originating from Barbados), or Egyptian cotton which is also known as Extra Long Staple (Gossypium barbadense). They are long in length, soft to the touch and end-uses for this strain are usually quality bedding, dress shirts, and high-end denim.

The decision becomes easier to make concerning longevity of the item and comfortability to the wearer once the grades are compared side by side. If you’re stuck between two pieces, give them a good feel. There’s a difference between what’s called the loft of the fabric — the thickness of the threads used in the final product. Another way to tell is by means of the cotton’s luster. If you were to put a light on the fabric, the threads of higher grade cotton will have a shine to it as opposed to lower grades.

Cotton is a staple in our wardrobes, and fashion companies are making higher-grades increasingly available while keeping their products at modest costs.



Cheap Monday, for instance is a fashion company coming out of Sweden that represents that same mindset. They were originally known for their well-designed denims offered at lower-than-expected costs (averaging around $65 per pair) and utilize these extra long-staple cottons for extra durability and comfort. Higher-end brands such as Topshop out of London or Kitsuné out of Paris have made it blatant that they only use higher-end grades for their cotton-made products.

With all these companies offering higher-end cottons in place of cheaper and less-durable alternatives, one would behoove themselves to consider the quality of fabric before they sport end-use garments that continually need replacement.

Next pair of jeans you buy consider your cotton, for your denim for your life.

featured photo: billums via Flickr

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