In the classic comedy Coming to America, one of Eddie Murphy’s characters, Saul, displayed his affinity for fine fabric, in particular, velvet.
Velvet can be made from silk or wool, and its “hand” (aka, the feel of a particular fabric) is soft but dense.
While knowing whether a piece of cloth is velvet or lion fur is not difficult (sorry, Saul), distinguishing one suit fabric to from another is not so easy.
The real question, in more practical terms, is what type of fabric should you select for your suits?
Before that question is answered, here's a bit of knowledge to help:
Most men have a familiarity with the common suit description of “Supers”, e.g., Super 100s, Super 120s, Super 150s, etc. (Note: “Super” is a certification only used in U.S.).
These designations are based upon the thread diameter, which is measured in “microns.”
The smaller the diameter of the thread in microns, the finer the fabric will end up and therefore the hand of the fabric will be softer. (Note: Threads per inch or “thread count” is a measurement for cotton, i.e. shirting or bed sheets, and not wool.)
For reference, here’s a table for suiting categories to micron diameter:
Super 120s - 17.5
Super 140s - 16.5
Super 150s - 16
Super 180s - 14.5 [Best cashmere]
Super 200s - 13.5
Super 220s - 12.5
Super 250s - 11While the fabric thread diameter is an important factor in its feel, the “finishing” can change the hand of the fabric dramatically. For example, Frescos are woven and finished in a way that makes them “dry” to the touch, and therefore not fine/soft.
The feel of fabric is most relevant in personal preference and ultimate use.
So now back to the question, which suit fabric should one buy?
If you wear suits often (3-5 days per week) you should opt for fabric that is on the lower end of the "Supers" spectrum (100s-120s) because they will wear better and last longer.
If, however, you have a full suit wardrobe (more than 6), you can add suits of finer fabric to the mix. That’s because you’ll have more time for each suit to “recover" before it is worn again.
Wool has a great ability to take care of itself if you let it hang long enough between wears.
For tuxedos and formal wear, however, you can opt for finer fabric (Super 150s) because you’ll wear them infrequently.
If you are coming to America to bring your son, the Prince, back, we suggest, well . . . lion fur.