Supima is a specific species of cotton that is grown in the southwestern United States and is a premium, extra-long staple fiber. The name Supima is a combination of superior and pima, which is a great way to think of Supima; it is truly the superior version of pima cotton. In fact, less than 1% of all cotton produced worldwide is classified as Supima.
Supima is a superior cotton in three key ways: its strength, softness and colorfastness.
Supima is twice as strong as regular cotton. This strength comes from the length of its fibers, which are approximately 35% longer than standard cotton fibers. Regular cotton fibers are typically one inch in length whereas Supima fibers average one and a half inches. This makes Supima significantly more resistant to pilling, breaking and tearing. For Boardroom Socks, this allows us to produce extremely durable socks
In addition to being stronger, Supima is also softer; the fiber’s increased length results in a smoother surface. If you haven’t tried our cotton dress socks, they are silky-smooth against your skin and are exceptionally comfortable.
Finally, Supima is able to better absorb dye and maintains more vibrant colors. This means that garments made with Supima, including our socks, will retain their color, wash after wash.
One of the many reasons why we choose to produce our cotton socks with Supima is because it is 100% American grown. California’s San Joaquin Valley is responsible for 93% of Supima production, followed by Arizona (3%), New Mexico (2%) and West Texas (2%). Supima is cultivated in these areas by roughly 600 family farms and, as a family business ourselves, we understand the passion and tradition that these families place into their products.
The American farmers responsible for cultivating Supima deploy a variety of technological tools to improve efficiency, including GPS navigation in the planting process and satellite imagery to track growth rates. Great care is also put into water management and soil conservation; fields are laser-leveled to ensure optimal water usage.
What’s the difference between pima cotton and Supima cotton? With cotton, quality is most closely associated with the length of fibers. Longer fibers produce stronger, softer and higher quality cotton. Both pima and Supima have longer fibers than traditional cotton and are considered premium cottons.
The key difference between these two cottons is the assurance of quality that you’ll receive when purchasing goods made with Supima. Unlike other cotton monikers, the term Supima® is trademarked and carefully monitored through a licensed supply chain.
The term pima is used more generically in marketing and is not trademarked or accompanied by a vetting process. Manufacturers may blend pima with other fibers to cut costs while still claiming their goods are made with pima cotton.
Egyptian cotton refers to cotton grown in Egypt but does not necessarily speak to the quality of the cotton itself. Many types of cotton are grown in Egypt, all with varying degrees of quality. Supima strictly refers to premium, extra-long staple cotton of the highest quality.
Unfortunately, much like the term pima, Egyptian cotton has become an abused term. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article detailing rampant misuse of the Egyptian cotton moniker. Many major US-based retailers were forced to pull products from their shelves after discovering that they were inappropriately labeled. The Cotton Egypt Association, responsible for licensing the term Egyptian Cotton™, estimated in the same Wall Street Journal article that up to 90% of products labeled “Egyptian cotton” are fraudulently mislabeled. Bloomberg published a similar article about the controversy, citing the increased use of DNA testing to combat mislabeling.
If you’re familiar with Boardroom Socks, then you know that we are fully committed to American manufacturing. Each pair of our dress socks is crafted locally in North Carolina and, whenever possible, we source our raw materials from the US.
We are excited to share that we are a Supima licensee and that virtually all of our cotton dress socks are crafted with Supima. Many of the images in this article have been provided courtesy of Supima. If you have any questions or comments, please share them below.
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The Boardroom Memo is a blog where the Boardroom Socks team shares care instructions, style tips, buying guides and more.