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Business Shirts: Explaining Cotton Fabric

Fabric grading

The thread count of a cotton fabric is a measure of the density of threads per square inch of fabric (in cotton fabric, the threads are woven in a ‘criss-cross’ fashion).

The quality of the fabric can therefore be inferred from the density of this thread count; the higher the number, the finer, and higher quality, the fabric.

However, this is complicated by one additional factor – cotton can be woven either in single strands (‘single ply’) or with 2 strands twisted around each other (‘2 ply’).  These weaves can be distinguished by the number they are designated. For example, a single ply fabric with a density of 60 would be 60/1 (or just 60), while the 2-ply equivalent would be 60/2.  The 2-ply fabric is much more costly to manufacture than the standard single ply, but feels richer and will last longer, so there is a payoff. 


What’s so special about ‘Egyptian’ Cotton?

Cotton is the most widely cultivated clothing fibre in the world today.  It’s versatile, hard-wearing and breathable. 

It is grown in many regions in various conditions around the world, thick leads to a variety of characteristics in those different fibres. 

Egyptian cotton is the most sought-after variety of cotton, famous for its superior-quality longer fibres and with unique characteristics that make it that little bit special:

– When exposed to sunlight, Egyptian cotton gives off a unique shine
– Egyptian cotton affords excellent cooling on those hot and humid summer days (perfect for Egypt!)
– A high-quality and durable finish
– A higher level of lasting softness than other cotton varieties

Types of weaves:


Twill is our favourite fabric for plain shirts. 

Twill is a cotton fabric, characterised by its surface texture, comprising close parallel diagonal lines, which drapes very easily and permits an extremely high thread count.

These diagonal ribs are caused by the weave of the fabric, whereby the weft threads (the horizontal threads) pass over one, and then under two, threads.

The result is a fabric that carries a faint ‘sheen’ in the light, is extremely soft and easy to iron. 

Herringbone Twill 

Herringbone twill is great fun to look at; indeed, it can be quite mesmerising – especially in bold colours.

But not all herringbone patterns give a dizzying effect; some are quite latent and difficult to detect.

Herringbone is woven in the same fashion as standard twill, but alternating the direction in order to achieve a ‘zig-zag’ pattern.

Herringbone fabric is very soft to touch and shares many of the same physical properties as standard twill fabric.


Poplin uses fine cotton to weave a smooth, light fabric that is best suited to warmer weather.

It is strong and durable, with a high degree of resistance to shrinkage and stretching. 

One variant of the Poplin weave is ‘End on End Poplin’, which shares all these properties but is characterised by the use of a lighter coloured weft thread, which leads to a two-tone appearance when viewed up-close (and a lighter appearance from further away).


Oxford fabric is woven from a slightly heavier yarn, and is therefore a bit tougher and more rugged than Twills and Poplin fabrics, while remaining soft enough for every day wear.  

The difference is thickness between the threads in the warp (the vertical threads) and the threads in the weft (which are thinner). 

The Oxford fabric, perhaps unsurprisingly, originates from sports. Accordingly, it has traditionally been associated with more casual wear, such as button-down patterned shirts.

One major benefit of this is that it is fashionably to wear your Oxford shirt slightly wrinkled straight out of the dryer.

Royal Oxford 

Made in the same way as the classic Oxford, but using a finer yarn to weave a softer, smoother fabric. 

The fineness of the weave also lends to a more vibrant colouration in the fabric than the usual Oxford fabric. And carries a distinctive shine.

Pinpoint Oxford 

The Pinpoint Oxford is the most durable of the Oxford fabrics.

Pinpoint Oxford fabric does not wrinkle as much as other cotton weaves, reducing your need to iron. This fabric is more formal than the usual Oxford fabric.











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