Sea Island is a very rare cotton variety grown in the Caribbean Islands (West Indies). The share of Sea Island cotton in total cotton production is about 0,0004%. It has extra long fibres (45-50 mm), and it’s very expensive. However, some people think that high prices can be justified by extremely nice feel. Fabrics made of Sea Island cotton are very comfortable, soft and silky; they have nice appearance and great resistance to wear. In fact, the only disadvantage is that extraordinary price.
Bresciani briefs made of Sea Island cotton (spun by Spoerry 1866).
Please note: some brands offer garments made of so-called ‘Sea Island Quality’ cotton. Sometimes it resembles the genuine Sea Island, but sometimes it’s much cheaper cotton. Genuine Sea Island cotton is certified by WISICA (West Indian Sea Island Cotton Association) and carries a hologram. Another brand certified by WISICA is LUXSIC; this cotton is grown in American Southwest and also has extra long fibres, but it’s cheaper than Sea Island.
Sea Island cotton hologram (colours may differ!)
Besides, some producers blend Sea Island with less expensive cotton and call it ‘Sea Island’. Moreover, some brands use term ‘Sea Island’ (not ‘Sea Island Quality’!) for cotton which is in fact not Sea Island. John Smedley is a bright example. They use extra long staple cotton from anywhere (but it should meet their strict standards, of course), sometimes genuine Sea Island and sometimes LUXSIC cotton – and marked it ‘John Smedley’s Sea Island Cotton’. It doesn’t mean that they make inferior products, but it looks a bit tricky (in my opinion).
John Smedley sweater made of ‘John Smedley’s Sea Island cotton’.
- Some mills which offer fabrics made of Sea Island cotton: Alumo, Albini (David & John Anderson).
- Some brands which offer products made of Sea Island cotton: Anderson & Sheppard, Bresciani, Brooks Brothers (several shirts and boxers in their Golden Fleece range), Budd, Cesare Attolini, Emma Willis, Hanro, Marcoliani, Pantherella, Paul Stuart, Sunspel, Turnbull & Asser (very few shirts which are sold for 345 GBP), Zimmerli. Please note: I cannot guarantee that all these brands use only 100% Sea Island cotton for their ‘Sea Island’ garments.
- Some brands which offer products made of ‘Sea Island Quality’ cotton: Hilditch & Key, Turnbull & Asser (these shirts are sold for 255 GBP).
The closest competitor of genuine Sea Island cotton is Giza 45 (the best variety of Egyptian cotton with slightly shorter fibres). Unfortunately, nowadays Giza 45 is produced in very small volumes, that’s why fabrics made of this cotton are available at very high prices. Giza 93 is a new variety of Egyptian cotton which can become the substitute for Giza 45.
If you want to learn more about Sea Island cotton and its history, read this article written by Alexander Kabbaz.