You’ll cotton to this.
The story of Supima, America’s super cotton.
Unless it’s Cotton Mather delivering a fire and brimstone sermon, cotton very rarely makes us sit up and take notice. Maybe we’ll check a label to see if something is made of 100% cotton, but rarely do we go beyond that. Supima® cotton though is something even grave, colonial Puritan preachers, who weren’t exactly known for their fashion choices, might get excited about.
Supima by southwest.
In the early 20th century the U.S. Department of Agriculture went on a mad-fiber-scientist-type mission to produce the world’s best cotton. They wanted to cross Sea Island with Egyptian cotton and decided to carry out their experiments in an area of Arizona that had been written off by early settlers as “valueless” for agriculture. Not a very promising start. The area’s Pima Indians, though, had been cultivating cotton for hundreds of years, and the experiment proved wildly successful.
This new extra-long staple cotton was named Pima in honor of the Indians and first became popular as an industrial fiber. Because of its excellent strength-to-weight ratio, the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company began using it in their tires. And early aviators, like Charles Lindbergh, flew planes where it was incorporated in the fuselage.
From Pima to Supima.
Like the Marines’ recruiting commercials say, “The few, the proud,” only a small percentage of the Pima cotton grown qualifies as Supima. It’s superior Pima, the best of the best. And, because it requires a microclimate found only in portions of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, it’s extremely rare. Of the 120 million bales of cotton annually produced around the world, less than 1% qualifies as Supima.
Why wear Supima?
You’ve probably guessed—from the fact that it was used in tires and aircraft construction—that Supima is durable. And you’d be right. It wears longer than other cottons. It won’t shrink, lose color, or stretch either. But what qualifies Supima as America’s luxury fiber is how it feels—rivaling cashmere and silk for softness and luster. And because Supima is both so rare and so highly prized, only a select few clothing retailers are able to purchase it. This means you’ll find it in finer brands where quality of construction and attention to detail will complement Supima’s luxurious properties.
Seek out Supima.
The next time you’re buying clothes, be sure to look at the label. Because now that you know all about Supima, ordinary cotton may not do it for you anymore. Unless, of course, you’re a colonial Puritan preacher, whereupon you might feel that after it’s all said and done, you feel more comfortable in a scratchy wool tunic instead of a dress shirt made from America’s luxury fiber.
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