What is Worsted Wool? A Gentleman’s Guide

When it comes to men’s fashion, worsted wool is everywhere right now.

Take a trip to a tailor or pop into any high street shop that sells menswear and you’ll be bombarded with the promise of quality worsted wool. The material has undoubtedly become the most popular fabric for suits. But not all worsted wools are made equal. There are many different things to consider when purchasing a worsted wool suit and quality varies drastically.

The Empire Outlet team are constantly working hard to bring you the very best designs and materials in our incredible collection of suits — and our worsted wool suits are no different. In this post, we’ll break down everything a discerning gentleman needs to know about this classic material.

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The universal appeal of worsted wool

What do you picture when you think about wool? A fuzzy, fluffy knitted jumper? A cosy knitted scarf? Although these items certainly have a place in any fashion-conscious man’s wardrobe, it’s not what you’d expect from your suit. That’s because there are two different types of wool. The fuzzy kind is known as woollen wool and the stronger, finer, smoother kind is known as worsted wool.

Worsted wool is made up of long fibres that are spun into a finer yarn. The result is a sleeker and finer cloth perfect for suits. The popularity of worsted wool in men’s fashion is not without good cause. Here are some of the reasons worsted wool has become a staple in men’s fashion:

  • Breathable: Worsted wool is woven, which means that there are air pockets and gaps within the fabric. These help to both trap warmth and encourage air to flow through the fabric. Its breathability helps to stave off the appearance of sweat marks and stains.
  • Durable: Worsted wool is one of the longest lasting and durable fabrics. If looked after well, your worsted wool suit could last for decades.
  • Water-resistant: Worsted wool is made from sheep’s coats. Their coats naturally contain a water-repellent fat known as lanolin. Traces of this fat remain on the wool, making the wool itself water resistant. Wool can actually absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture, without ever getting that wet and heavy feeling.
  • Wrinkle-resistant: The natural springiness of worsted wool helps to keep your suits wrinkle-free. This effect is known as ‘elastic recovery’ and it is what maintains the shape of the suit without becoming crumpled.

Painting with numbers: How to read the number system for worsted wool

If you’ve ever shopped for a suit, you’ve no doubt come across the worsted wool number system: Super 100 or Super 180. What do these numbers mean? The ‘Super’ number system indicates the fineness of the fabric. The number itself represents the number of times the wool has been twisted.

Let’s dive in a little deeper. Until the 18th century, wool merchants used a different system to classify their fabrics into the categories of low, medium, fine and super. This system was subjective and proved to be an untrustworthy indication of the quality of fabric. The system was then replaced with something a little more objective and this is the system still used today. The quality of the wool is estimated by how many hanks, or turns, could be spun from a pound of combed wool. The more hanks that can be spun, the higher the Super number.

So, the higher the number, the finer the wool. As a general rule, a Super 180 suit will have a smoother and more luxurious appearance and a Super 80 suit will have a sturdier and coarser look.

It’s not a just a numbers game, though. A Super 180 suit is not necessarily a better suit than one with a lesser ‘Super’ number. In fact, the higher the number the more prone the fabric will be to wrinkling and the harder it will be to clean. The lower the number the more durable and practical the suit will be for everyday use. Importantly, the ‘Super’ number is not internationally standardised and can vary from company to company. A Super 180 from one tailor may appear rougher than a Super 120 from another.

A fabric for all seasons: Worsted Wool and weight

The weight of the suit is also important. When shopping for worsted wool, you will come across a weight measured in either ounces or grams. The weight is decided by two things: the thickness of the yarn itself and the cloth it is woven into. But what does the weight mean? In general, the heavier the suit, the more durable and structured it will be.

Worsted wool is a versatile fabric and can be worn in all seasons. But to truly get the most out of your suit, a common misconception must be addressed. Many of us believe that the lighter the fabric, the more comfortable and cooler the suit. This is not necessarily true. The coolness of a suit depends on its weave. A relatively heavy fabric made from an open weave will be a more suitable choice for a hot summer's day than a tightly woven, light fabric. So, don’t be put off by the weight of a suit when it comes to choosing your summer wardrobe.

3 other things to consider when buying worsted wool

Weight and Super numbers aren’t the only ways to measure the quality of your worsted wool. Follow these steps to make sure that you’re only buying the best:

1. Fibre Length: The longer the fibres that make up the yarn, the less likely it is the fabric will break down. Checking the fibre length is a good way to judge the quality of your suit.

2. Fibre Strength: The strength of the fibre is indicated by the amount of times it can be twisted. A strong fabric has a longer lifespan, so your suit lasts decades.

3. Crimp: A crimp is a fancy word for bends in the individual fibres. The more crimps, the better. Crimps are measured in ‘crimps per inch’ or ‘crimps per centimetre’. For a luxurious suit, go for one with a higher crimp count.

Most importantly, choose a suit that matches your style and needs. Now you know how to find out which worsted wool two-piece or three-piece is the solution you need, it’s time to buy that suit that’ll serve you well for many years to come.

Empire Outlet is dedicated to providing men with suits of the absolute best quality, featuring the most stylish and desirable materials, including worsted wool. Browse our suit collection today and find yourself the perfect suit for any occasion.