What does "Super" mean for Suit Quality?
In the online world of sales, buzz words and gimmicks; "Super" might be the most confusing and misleading word for the appearance of high quality. This isn't to say that it doesn't play a part in the determination of what may make a high quality suit, but it's not the end all be all factor for suit & wool quality. The markings of a great suit to us will always be based on fit, feel and the wearing setting for your suit. You could own a super 200 suit, but if it does not fit properly, it's a waste. You could own a Super 200 Tuxedo but if you are not at a black tie event, it will look out of place and thus also waste. A truly special suit or tuxedo requires attention to fit and intention of setting.
But, nonetheless, lets dive into what the word "Super" means and why it matters.
The origins of the "Super" grading system is based in the amount of "hanks" 1 pound of raw wool can be spun. A hank = 560 yards of spun wool. Through the years of fabric refinement, sheep herding and looming technology mills have taken wool quality to new heights. To achieve a longer amount of spun wool, the individual fibers have to be twisted very finely to stretch further. So ultimately, the super designation is determining the "fineness" of the fibers in the fabric.
Why do higher Super #'s cost more?
The scale is based on the amount of hanks produced by a pound of wool. When the scale was originally invented in the 1800s in England, the highest grade of wool was a Super 60s or Super 70s.
So based on our hanks system, a Super 60s wool will produce 60 Hanks or (560 x 60) = 33,600 yards of spun wool fabric. So when merchants began trading raw wool, the higher the Super # the more expensive the raw wool would cost because it can produce that many more yards of spun goods. Thus creating that price increase between the Super #'s and inflating the demand for a higher wool count per pound. Demand for those finer pounds of wool went through the roof when each additional factor of 10 in grading adds 5,600 yards of fabric and demand on a customer level went up as well because of the thinner material feeling softer.
Why is there the perception that the higher the Super # the better the suit?
Now we know that the more hanks a wool produces the higher super # but to achieve a higher amount of hanks, those individual fibers have to be able to be stretched further or "twisted" in a much more fine manner. This makes for a smoother, softer and more luxurious feel.
Also to be considered a Super 100s quality wool, the individual fibers also have to be measured under microscope at at least 18.5 Microns in thickness. 1 Micron = 1,000,000th of a meter or 1/25,000th of an inch. So at 18.5 you are talking about a very very thin diameter thus creating a fabric that breathes and allows for more airflow because it is very light in weight by comparison.
It's starting to sound as if a Super number does in fact mean a higher quality?
Well yes and no. Remember, as that Super designation goes up, the fabric becomes thinner and thinner. So yes, in softness, smoothness and hand feel, you may assume a Super 160 is a higher quality suit...however, you may also be disappointed in how well that suit holds up over time. See as the "fineness" of those fibers increase, so does the probability of damage to such a thinly made fabric as well.
Most suiting experts will agree that an everyday suit should reside in the Super 100-140 designation to increase the longevity of the suit. You can find a million of really well made, well tailored and well crafted garments in this Super 100-140 range that provides an incredible finish and feel that dazzles everyone in the room.
Why even make a Super 160 suit then?
If you are extremely careful, not messy and have strict adherence to re-hanging and putting your suit back into a garment bag...a super 150-180 suit can be a fantastic suit for special occasions. However, being careful with your items is definitely going to be paramount as the delicacy of the fabric can cause damage quite easily. Many well dressed and distinguished gentlemen will opt for a super 160 suit as a "closing" suit or a tuxedo. The type of garment they only pull out when they need to look and feel impressive.
Dormeuil has positioned itself in recent years to be one of the worlds most impressive and highest quality suiting fabric makers. They have a 160s wool collection that is considered to be the finest suits a man can make, retailing near $2,400 a bespoke suit. I highly recommend this line for men wishing to craft that upper echelon suit because there are very few suits in the world that can match this level of quality.