Extra-long staple cotton (ELS cotton) is a cotton with fibres longer than 1,375 in. (34,925 mm). There are several varieties of ELS cotton: Sea Island, Egyptian, Pima / Supima. Fabrics made of ELS cotton are finer, smoother and feel nicer than ones made of cotton with shorter fibres. Besides, they are strong and durable. The only drawback of ELS cotton is its relatively high price.
The finest and the most expensive ELS cotton is Sea Island (fibre length – up to 50-55 mm). Learn more about it here. Another famous variety of extra long staple cotton is Egyptian cotton; here is an article about it. American Pima (and Supima) cotton is also quite common on the market; it’s not as fine as Sea Island or Egyptian Giza 45 (the best varieties of ELS cotton), but it deserves attention – at least because it’s more moderately priced. There are also several other varieties of extra long staple cotton – for example, Barakat cotton from Sudan (fibre length is up to 36 mm) and LUXSIC (grown in the American Southwest).
Please note that not all Egyptian cotton varieties feature extra (!) long fibres. There’re long staple varieties – for example, Giza 86 (its fibre length is up to 30-32 mm). They’re cheaper, but fabrics made of these varieties are not as fine and nice as fabrics made of extra long staple cotton. Moreover, fabrics with high yarn numbers (for instance, 200’s) made of Giza 86 can deteriorate quickly.