If you’re looking for a new suit, you may have seen suits described as super 100s, 120s or even 200s.
But what do these numbers mean, and what makes them ‘super’? In this blog, we look at the history of super numbers, how they’re determined today, and what it actually means to you when you’re buying a new tailored suit.

The history

Before the development of modern grading technology, the quality of wool was judged by how much yarn could be spun out of one pound of raw wool. The yarn was measured on ‘hanks’ (a spool totaling 560 yards of yarn), and the finer the fibers of a wool, the more hanks of yarn it could produce. This led to wool being assigned a ‘60s count’ if one pound of wool could yield 60 hanks. It’s this measurement, and not thread count, that is the basis for all the baffling super numbers that appear on the labels of wool suits today.

For many years, the best wool available that could be turned into cloth was 60s and 70s grade. But gradually over time, Merino sheep in Australia began to develop a fine undercoating that could be classed as 80s grade. This wool was produced in limited quantities and became the gold standard across the world. Nearly all of it headed for textile mills in the UK, before reaching Saville Row in London, where it was transformed into the finest suits that money could buy.

But the Australian sheep farmers were not content with just reaching the 80 mark. Their goal was to produce wool that could yield 100 hanks of yarn and be given the mythical status of 100s count – something they eventually did through selective breeding and the control of pastoral areas. Today, as this advancement has continued, wool can now reach up to an incredible – although fairly impractical – 200 count.

The science

The International Wool Textile Organization (IWTO) is the international body representing the interests of the world’s wool textile trade and industry. It states that ‘super’ should only refer to pure new wool and not any wool blend fabrics. It has also created a scale to precisely identify the count of a wool, rather than using the approximate ‘worsted count’ method, which involved the spinning out of one pound of wool on hanks.

This IWTO scale involves the direct measurement of fibers under a microscope. A super number is then assigned to the wool depending on the maximum diameter of the wool’s fibers, which are measured in micrometers (one millionth of a meter). For example, an 80s count wool must have a maximum fiber diameter of 19.75 micrometers or finer, and a 90s count wool a maximum fiber diameter 19.25 micrometres or finer. The scale currently continues to 210s at 13.25 micrometers or finer. This means each increase of 10 on the count scale corresponds to a drop of 0.5 micrometers on the maximum fiber diameter measurement.

So now when you visit a tailor or gentleman’s outfitters and a salesman begins to tell you about the incredible quality of a super 150s suit, you’ll know that it’s made from a wool that’s been examined under a microscope and been awarded this figure because of the diameter of its fibers.

The numbers

So now you know how super numbers are awarded, it’s time to learn what different super cloths look like and feel, and the types of suits they should be used for.

Super 70s, 80s and 90s count

Suits that are 70s, 80s or 90s grade are made from a very thick, durable wool that creates a heavier, stiffer suit that will certainly keep its wearer warm during the colder months. Garments made from this fabric can last generations and stand up to most things life thrown at them (literally).

Suits made from this cloth are best for men who:

  • regularly experience very cold climates and need a suit that offers excellent heat insulation
  • want to wear their new suit often and need it to be durable so they get extended wear out of it
  • have slim builds and want to wear thicker, more sturdy clothing to add bulk and structure to their frame.
  • have a small budget, because suits made from this grade of cloth tend to be cheaper.

Super 100s, 110s and 120s count

Suits made from a 100, 110 or 120 grade wool are a thinner and lighter suit but still durable. They are typically more comfortable to wear than a suit made from a lower grade wool but not as warm to wear.

Suits made from this cloth are best for men who:

  • want a durable and comfortable suit they can wear often and looks great in most settings
  • live in a climate that is sometimes cold but temperatures don’t go below zero every often
  • have a good physique and want a stylish suit that highlights their build.

Super 130s and 140s count

These higher grades of wool create suits that are made from a very fine and soft fabric. These suits also feel very light on the skin and are extremely comfortable to wear. However, suits made from this cloth are not particularly good at keeping the body warm and are far less durable than suits made from lower count fabrics.

Suits made from this cloth are best for men who:

  • will not be looking to wear their new suit very often
  • want a lighter suit that they can wear in the warmer months of the year or when abroad in a hot climate
  • care more about luxury and superior comfort than factors such as durability and heat insulation.

Super 150s to 200s count

Suits and tuxedoes made from these very high grades of wool are incredibly fine and almost silk like in their texture and weight. Although they can feel exquisite, they are not particularly practical and you won’t be able to wear them regularly.

Suits made from this cloth are best for men who:

  • have a large budget and want to occasionally wear a rare, luxury item of clothing that feels incredible to wear.

The end result

So, there you have our blog on super wool fabrics. Hopefully, you have a much deeper understanding of which fabric to choose when buying a suit and don’t just select the highest super number available to you.

Instead, it’s good practice to consider these four questions before selecting the fabric for a new suit:

    • How often will I wear my new suit? (every day / two days; once a week / month; only on special occasions)
    • In what type of weather will I wear my suit in? (very cold / quite cold / warm / hot)
    • How long do I want my suit to last for?
    • How important is the comfort of my new suit to me?

In addition, why not book a free style consultation at HKT by calling us on 770-458-8682, or emailing service@hktclothiers.com? This is certainly the best way to understand the different looks and feels of super cloths, and we have hundreds of world-class fabrics to choose from. Our style consultants and tailors can also advise you on the best style of suit for you and what type of pockets, linings and much more will make you look a million dollars.