What is the best cotton for dress shirt?
It depends on what you make of your dress shirt. When we design our dress shirt, we are very specific about the quality of our cotton fabric. It must be durable, soft, smooth and not easily wrinkle, and these requirements left only one type of cotton, the Extra-Long Staple (ELS) cotton.
ELS cotton is the highest grade of cotton and accounts only top 3% of the entire world's cotton production. All ELS cottons have long individual fibers with the minimum length of 34.9mm, which means there are less exposed ends on the yarn. This is crucial to the long life of the shirt: cotton woven from shorter staple length is more likely to fray, pill and lose colour. Among all varieties of ELS cotton, Supima from California and Giza varieties from Egypt are the most well known.
During our research, we discovered another ELS cotton variety from Xinjiang, China that matches to our requirements. This particular cotton is called Fenghai® cotton and it was specially cultivated by Xinjiang Luthai Fengshou Cotton Co., Ltd in 2003.
Due to Fenghai cotton is relatively new to the industry, it is not well known like Supima and Egyptian cotton that have a long history since 1950s. Do note that Xinjiang cotton only references the country of origin and does not impart any measure of quality. Only a minimal amount of Xinjiang cotton is extra-long staple, but the majority of Xinjiang cotton is of a long-staple or a regular cotton variety.
We've chosen Fenghai cotton for two main reasons: the incredibly long staple length (39mm) and the optimum micronaire value (3.7) for wrinkle resistance property and smoothness.
The extra-long staple length of Fenghai cotton is inherently softer and more durable than Supima and Giza 45 cotton. As for micronaire value, fabric woven with the incredibly fine (2.95) Giza 45 cotton has the smoothest texture, but, it also wrinkles more easily. In contrast, Supima cotton with a higher micronaire value (4.0) has a better performance in wrinkle resistance, but in return the fabric is more stiff and has a "rougher" texture.
For that reason, Fenghai cotton with the balanced score (3.7) of micronaire value is our choice for silky smooth texture and wrinkle resistant dress shirt.
Thread Count and Ply
Thread count in dress shirt is usually indicated with numbers like 80s, 100s, 140s, 160s and these numbers refer to the yarn size. As thread count increases, the diameter of individual fibers decreases. So under the same circumstances: same weave, ply, mill and type of cotton, fabric with a higher thread count is often softer, smoother, thinner and more expensive than a shirt with lower thread count.
Nonetheless, shirts with thread count above 100s are more fragile and wrinkle-prone due to the finer yarn.
Ply on the other hand refers to how many yarns make up one thread. Fabrics can either be single-ply, two-ply or in the rare case, three-ply. Two ply takes two yarns twisted together to create a durable, smooth fabric. Single ply uses one strand and therefore, produces less overall quality. So a two ply, 100 thread count dress shirt would be better than a single ply, 140 thread count shirt.
At Corrington Co, we find the best fabric that has good wrinkle resistance property and soft to skin is woven in 100s 2-ply construction.
Each weave creates a different fabric, which has its own handle, texture, fluidity and way of taking colour. At Corrington Co, we are obsessed with these differences, and what it means for wearing shirts today. Here we break down the main constructions of fabric, so that as you can understand the fabric on your skin as a true connoisseur.
Twill is our choice of weave for our dress shirt as it is soft to skin, drapes beautifully and has just a hint of shine. This fine twill fabric also performs well in resisting creases and easy to iron.
Poplin also referred to as broadcloth, is the basic of all weaves with the same number of ends and picks per centimetre. Generally, poplin shirts are thinner and smoother due to their lack of texture but its also the most prone to wrinkling.
Oxford is the weave where multiple weft threads are crossed over with an equal number of warp thread. Usually, it uses slightly heavier thread and the warp thread is woven in white color, creating a dual-tone color appearance. Oxford is the most durable fabric and has a rougher texture.
Pinpoint, also knowns as Pintpoint Oxford, has the same weaving pattern as Oxford, the differences are the two-to-one weave construction and uses finer thread. Just like Oxford, Pinpoint is slightly heavier and thicker than Poplin.
Although the name is similar to Oxford and Pinpoint, Royal Oxford uses a diffrent construction, two-three-two structure. Royal Oxford fabric has a distinctive lustre and visible texture.
Twill is the easiest to recognise due to the diagonal weave or texture. The diagonal texture can be varied based on the weaving pattern. Due to the diagonal texture, twill is softer than poplin and has a greater drape effect, resistant to creases and a bit of shine.
Herringbone is a twill weave with a zig-zag pattern created with a reversed broken twill, making a wave effect like a constantly repeating "V". This weave shares all the benefits of twil weave and the unique texture makes this a great crossover fabric.
End-on-End is a poplin weave that adds in different colors to each weft and warp thread. So from a distance a plain shirt may look the same, but up close the weave has like a criss-cross detail.
Chambray shares the same construction with poplin and end-on-end, but it uses heavier thread. Chambray fabric is woven with a coloured warp and a white weft. The effect is for the white yarn to catch the light, creating an iridescence in the cloth and a new depth of shade.
At Corrington Co, our non-iron dress shirts undergo 3 processes to achieve grade 3.5 non-iron effect according to AATCC 124 standard. First, our dress shirts are dipped into non-iron treatment solution and caused bonding to the molecules within the fibres of the shirt, making it much more difficult to crease. Then we iron our dress shirts after removing from the solution. Finally, our dress shirts are heated to high temperatures to secure the benefits of the non-iron shirt.
Non-iron dress shirt may require little-to-no ironing to achieve the smooth and crisp appearance. It doesn't means 100% no wrinkle, in fact non-iron dress shirts have superior wrinkle-resisting performance compared to dress shirt without any treatment applied.
Semi Spread Collar
Asians generally tend to be smaller in body frame, so a smaller collar would be prefered as it doesn't overpower your face and makes you look smaller. So, we redesign the semi-spread collar with a shorter collar point (6cm) and use a premium fused interlining that looks clean and crisp, and easy for home and commercial laundering.
Interlining is a layer of material between two fabrics to give a more firm and structured look to the collar, cuff and sometimes the placket. Generally, dress shirt uses either fused or floating interlining. Fused interlining refers to the shirts have glued on interlining, resulting the top layer of a collar being thicker than the under layer. Floating interling on the other hand is not glued to either side of fabrics and you can feel middle.
For our dress Shirt, we use a 100% cotton, thick, premium fused interlining for a strong, rich and crisp collar and cuffs.
Removable Collar Stays
After years of wearing and washing, even a premium collar would wilt and creating a messy appearance. Hence, we've added removable collar stays for our dress shirt to solve this problem.
Collar stay is a piece of plastic or brass that is inserted into the collar point, to keep the collar firm and looking sharp.
Yoke is the back top part of the dress shirt over the shoulder. A single piece yoke or one piece yoke is referred to the back top part that is made from a single piece of fabric. When this panel of fabric is divided by a seam directly in the middle, it's called a split yoke. The reason for split yoke is to adding stretch to the yoke across its width. If you try to stretch your cotton fabric horizontally or vertically, you will find it doesn't stretch much. But, if you stretch it diagonally, it stretches pretty easily.
At Corrington Co, we put an extra effort to split the yoke. We cut the yoke’s cotton on the diagonal and match the Twill's diagonal pattern together, allowing slight stretch to accommodate the shoulder movement like driving a car or extend your hand to grab something. Although the pattern matching is not visible on a solid color shirt, we still do not overlook this little detail. Split yoke is usually found on high quality shirts as it takes longer time, more expertise and cost more to make.
Beside the shirt's fabric, buttons are the second most visible detail that tells the quality of a shirt and when a button is missing, everyone notices that. That's why we chose the exquisite mother-of-pearl button for our dress shirt because we believe buttons matter. Mother-of-pearl buttons are the gold standard for a high quality shirt, whereas a low quality shirt would have plastic or resin buttons that looks like mother-of-pearl. Mother-of-pearl button is made from the inner layer of a mollusk shell and buttons made from it is very strong and resilient to degradation. Mother-of-pearl button can be differentiated by touching the button. If it feels cold, it's a mother-of-pearl button. If it's not cold, it’s a plastic button. There are many types of mother-of-pearl buttons, for our Men White Non-Iron Twill Semi-Spread Dress Shirt, we picked mother-of-pearl buttons carved from freshwater mussels for their clarity and the lustre gives off when light strikes at different angle.
Simply stitching the buttons is not enough for us, and what we expect from the endurance of our shirts. Instead, we use a double procedure to fasten every button on our shirts. First, the buttons are lock-stitched to the shirt. Then, in a separate procedure, these threads are whipped and heat-sealed firmly in place. Our buttons are so firm, they should stay in place for the whole life-span. Besides, the heat-sealed process would cause the button to “rise up” a bit from the shirt itself providing easier access for less nimble fingers and timely shirt changes.
To the naked eye, there's no difference. Yet the heat-sealed whipping gives a strength to the buttons above and beyond most other shirts.
A well-made dress shirt's button holes are sewn with high stitch density, leaving a cleaner look. Besides holding the buttons in place, button holes with different angles also enhance the fitting experience of the wearer and this is why.
Button holes on the placket are cut vertically and we can easily slip the button through the hole because we tend to hold the side of the button and.
However, the majority of ready-to-wear dress shirts have their collar button hole sewn horizontally and people often take longer time to button the collar button because the horizontal angle of the button hole is not ergonomic to our finger movement.
At Corrington Co, we were inspired by the craftmanship of bespoke dress shirt and we cut our collar button hole at slanted 45 degree, providing a more ergonomic and quicker way to fasten the collar button. We also cut our last button hole on the placket horizontally so that the shirt can stretch more when you sit down.
Our Signature Arrow Gusset
The gusset is the small piece of fabric sewn in where the side seam meets the hem of the shirt. The gusset acts as an anchor of the shirt, reinforces the high-stress side seam. When you raise your arm or make any sudden movement with the side of your shirt, this extra piece of fabric helps hold everything in place and prevent the shirt from tearing at the seam.
The fabric used on our gusset was specifically chosen with a different weave pattern to add a little extra style.
As with everything, we believe it’s worth taking this extra effort to create a side gusset that’s neat and elegant, a signature that’s assured and that shows to the world this is a shirt with the craftsmanship of Corrington Co.
Single Needle Stitching
Our dress shirt uses a single needle stitching on the side seam and the sleeve. Seam with single needle stitching is much stronger and a cleaner look with only one visible seam on the outside. When the shirt is washed and dried, single needle stitching shirt has a lower chance to form puckers. On the other hand, lower quality shirt uses a double needle seam will have two rows of visible stitching on the outside and it is less labor intensive, but more prone to puckering and tearing.
Stitches Per Inch
Most high quality dress shirts have an average 18 and above stitches per inch (SPI). Higher SPI would produce a greater seam strength, but it can also rapture the fabric due to too much tension gather up the seam. Besides, the number of SPI also depends on what you make of your shirt. In our case, the optimum number for both quality and durability for a non-iron dress shirt would be 15 stitches per inch. Anything greater would cause the seam to have puckers after many times of washing.
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