Style Advice
Sea Island Cotton: The Connoisseur’s Choice
By Aleks Cvetkovic
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We all deserve a little bit of luxury from time to time. I told myself that while scoffing my third salt beef bagel in the space of a week, just a few days ago. Work’s been stressful of late and I’m a notorious comfort eater.

Stupidity aside, hopefully you see my point. Every now and then going the extra mile to obtain something truly exceptional, or pay that little bit more for something you really want; that’s going to make you feel truly satisfied, is a no-brainer. In the world of Thomas Mason, this is where Sea Island cotton comes in. 

Thomas Mason is no stranger to rare and precious fibres. Several of the qualities the house uses like Giza 87 or Supima cotton are extremely tricky to get hold off, but Sea Island cotton tops the bill when it comes to exceptional shirting fabrics. Sea Island cotton takes its name from the West Indies, where its grown mainly on Jamaica and Barbados in tiny quantities. A good year might see a harvest of around 150 bales of Sea Island cotton worldwide. This is a drop in the ocean, compared with cotton’s current global yield of around 110 million bales per annum. With stats like these, you can start to see why it’s so precious.

Thanks to its fully controlled supply chain, Thomas Mason has access to the very best quality of Sea Island cotton in the world, and has relationships in place with growers to ensure they can obtain a regular supply. In a nutshell, this means that Thomas Mason’s Sea Island fabric collection produces the kind of shirts that really have to be felt to be believed. They’re smooth and full to the touch, and remarkably cool to wear. The Thomas Mason team like to say that shirts in their Sea Island collection “feel fresh like a Jamaican or Bajan breeze”, next to the skin.

This, along with its rarity, means you’re best-off investing in truly timeless Sea Island cotton shirts. Thomas Mason offer Sea Island fabrics in a range of elegant subtle plains, stripes and fine checks, but nothing too seasonal or playful. A soft white Sea Island cotton shirt with a classic collar and double-cuffs is a beautiful thing for formalwear, (or with a pleated front for Black Tie) as is a Sea Island shirt in powder blue or a fine mid-blue stripe. Myself, I own just one Sea Island cotton shirt in cream with a sharp pointed collar to take a neat four-in-hand knotted tie. Against a midnight blue or chocolate brown flannel suit with a simple olive striped tie, it’s a truly beautiful thing to behold.

Sea Island cotton also washes and wears impressively over time, and has a good degree of natural crease resistance thanks to the length and strength of the fibre, which gives it excellent longevity. The Thomas Mason tell me that like a fine wine, Sea Island shirts only get better with age. The house produces Sea Island fabrics in a few different yarn counts to suit individual tastes, but the classic 120/2 quality is the best-seller, and feels silky next to the skin.

If you’ve yet to experience Sea Island cotton from Thomas Mason, perhaps it’s time you treated yourself? There’s nothing else quite like it, after all.

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