In certain sub-sects of menswear enthusiasts, there is a serious fetish for an extremely fine type of suit wool with an extraordinarily soft hand. These wools are delineated by what is called an “S” or “Super” number. The higher the S number, the finer the wool.
The number itself refers to the number of times the wool thread is twisted. The more the yarn is twisted, the finer and thinner it gets, yielding a super-soft fabric with an extremely silky feel.
The average wool suit that most men wear is probably made with somewhere between a Super 100s and a Super 120s. Maybe up to a Super 130s on the outside. The ultra soft (and ultra expensive) wools happen at around a Super 150s and can flirt with 200 or higher.
Here’s the thing with the higher numbers, though: While these high Supers are extraordinarily soft, they’re also very delicate, making them very impractical for regular wear. Sit for an hour in a suit made with Super 180s wool, and you’ll be far more wrinkled than someone wearing a Super 110s. Another drawback is that the high Super wools don’t “bounce back” like the lower numbers, which means your suit will need a press or a steam before each wearing.
In my wardrobe, I have suits ranging from 100 to 140. My 100s are great, with a terrific hand and an impressive rebound after one night on a good hanger. (Fun fact: Super 100s are nicer than the finest wool suit fabrics available only decades ago.) My Super 140s wool/cashmere blend suit has an amazing feel and an incredible look to it. But after a normal day of wear followed by a day on a hanger, it invariably needs a touch-up steaming or light ironing before I wear it again.
The magic number for me is Super 120s. In terms of balancing a sharp look, a luxurious feel and an impressive ability to rebound from a day’s wear, my favorites in my closet are my charcoal suit and the navy pinstripe suit, both of which are made with Super 120s.
I’ve heard expert tailors and lifetime men of the cloth plainly bash the frenzy over ultra-high Supers as utter nonsense. Buttery soft, but highly impractical for normal men who live on Earth. The most discerning and experienced men see it as an exercise in frivolous extremes, going as far as claiming that the nicest 90s and 80s wools can be superior to the high Supers. Many fine suit makers don’t even pay lip service to the hype by not mentioning a Supers number on their suits at all.
Since I’m not that desperate to feel that impressive to myself or others, playing (and paying) to this extreme is of no interest to me. If I could have every suit made with a good Super 120s, I’d be quite happy.