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Hi-Tech Suits

High-Tech Manufacturing has Transformed Modern Fabrics into Lightweight Cloth for Everyday Wear
G. Bruce Boyer
From the Print Edition:
Jack Nicholson, Summer 95

(continued from page 3)

Hand: Short for "handle" (meaning to feel), the quality or characteristic of fabric perceived by the sense of touch; hand covers the tactile qualities of cloth.

High Twist: Wool cloth in which the yarn has been lightly twisted before being woven. This produces a springy, crisp, wrinkle-resistant cloth that has a dry, pebbly hand. It drapes well and has been taken up these past few years as lightweight men's suiting. Sometimes called "cool wool" and "high-performance" worsted.

Micron System: The current and most scientific method of grading wool. A micron is one millionth of a meter (.00004 of an inch), and micron counts refer to the actual diameter of the wool's fibers. The two important points to remember are 1) the smaller the micron count, the finer the fiber, and 2) in the "Super" labeling system, the higher the number, the finer the cloth. Thus, Super 80s cloth has a micron count of 19.5, while Super 150s has a count of 15.5.

Selvage: The narrow border or edge of the cloth, attached when weaving to prevent unraveling. The trade name is usually woven into the selvage and is a guarantee of the cloth's quality.

Super Wools: Finer-worsted cloth resulting from the weaving of fibers with a micron count of fewer than 20. At the moment, Super 150s are the finest quality, but the clear direction of technology is to make finer, lighter cloths all the time.

Tweed: Rough and hairy, tweeds (the most famous being Donegal, Harris and Shetland, from their places of origin), were usually heavier cloth (from 14 to 24 ounces) and used for cold-weather suiting, sports jackets and topcoats. More recently, fabric houses such as Holland & Sherry and Dormeuil have produced tweeds that have all the beautiful characteristics of the traditional cloth but with less than one-third the weight. Dormeuil's Sportex tweed, originally woven at 20 ounces, is now produced at 12 ounces; Holland & Sherry, whose original Shetlands weighed in at 14 ounces and more, now produce a line at 11 ounces.

Vicuña: The smallest of a triumvirate of South American llamas (llama, alpaca and vicuña, in order of size), vicuñas grow what is considered the world's most precious animal fiber. Each adult yields only about eight ounces of usable undercoat in a fleece of amazing resilience, strength, beauty and softness. Traditionally the vicuña was killed when sheared; herds became so depopulated that the animal was put on the endangered species list in the 1970s. Now a method has been found to shear the animal without harm, and its numbers are growing. The vicuña is expected to prosper and be removed from the list, and production of its beautiful cloth will soon resume.

Worsteds and Woolens: The two basic types of cloth woven from woolen yarns. Generally speaking (and there are always exceptions), worsteds are smooth finished, tightly woven, strong and wrinkle resistant (examples are serge, gabardine, tropicals and high twists). Woolens are more loosely woven, softer and have an unfinished, napped surface (such as most flannels and tweeds).

Resources for Fine Cloth

Beckenstein Men's Fabrics, Inc
121 Orchard Street
New York, New York 10002
Telephone: (212) 475-6666


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