Extra-Long-Staple Cotton: A Peruvian Dream
Accounting for less than ten percent of all cotton grown around the world each year, extra-long staple cotton is a prized commodity. Peruvian extra-long staple cotton is held in the highest esteem and comprises between one and three percent of all cotton harvested annually. Grown atop remote, high-altitude plateaus along the coast of Peru, our cotton is exposed to unique microclimates. These plateaus are nestled at the base of the Peruvian stretch of the Andes mountain range.
Rising salt water in the air meets descending freshwater from untouched mountain springs. Updrafts and downdrafts move fresh and humid coastal air evenly across expansive plains. The microclimates are so refined they can differ from farm to farm and even field to field. Generations of experienced cotton farmers have honed their skills and helped refine the quality of the cotton plant fiber over centuries. The result of this persistent practice is a cotton fiber unmatched in quality, anywhere in the world.
To be considered an extra-long staple varietal, cotton must have fibers that naturally grow longer than 1 ⅜ inches. Ubiquitous cotton species, such as Upland cotton, only grow to ¾ of an inch in length at most. In Peru, the cotton fiber is separated from the plant entirely by hand. Fibers are delicately removed from the cotton flower by cutting and unwinding the fibers in small groups. Many American farmers use machines that cut the fibers indiscriminately, resulting in even shorter fiber lengths. Once the cotton fibers have been freed, they are dumped into carding machines. Since electricity in the high-altitude regions of Peru is scarce, these machines are operated by hand. This allows for greater control and usually is gentler, helping to preserve some of the natural softness of the cotton. The carding process aligns the individual cotton fibers, making it easier to spin. The fibers are spun by hand and then hand-dipped into natural dyes. This practice follows centuries of tradition.
The longer the cotton staple, the softer, stronger, and longer the finished product will last. A longer staple length means that the yarn can be wound tighter, allowing it to better withstand usage and washing. Peruvian Pima Cotton routinely has a staple length in excess of two inches; among the longest in the world. Overtime, small filaments will separate from the body of the yarn, giving the shirt a visibly and physically softening the shirt. These small filaments develop the much beloved patina our polos are known for. Try one of our long-staple Pima Cotton products for yourself!
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