Pima vs Supima cotton. What's the difference?

Pima vs Supima cotton. What's the difference?


Some of the most common questions we get: How is Pima cotton different from Supima cotton? Is Supima cotton superior to Pima cotton? Does Supima cotton mean it's cotton that's grown in the United States? Which products should I look for Supima cotton in vs regular Pima cotton? What the heck is Supima cotton and Pima cotton anyway?

We have answers!

What is Supima cotton?

Quite simply, Supima cotton is a branded name for Pima cotton (see our post "What is Pima cotton?" for an in depth explainer on what Pima cotton is).

Supima is a registered trademark used by cotton growers in the US. Supima developed stringent standards that ensure their cotton is 100% extra-long staple.

To put this in familiar terms, Pima cotton is the highest quality facial tissue you can find. Supima is that same tissue, but with the name Kleenex on the box.

So is Supima cotton better than Pima cotton?

The short answer is no. The longer answer is it depends. While Pima cotton overall is the highest quality cotton in the world, the Pima cotton grown in Peru and the Southwest US is the best of the best. Truth be told, Peruvian Pima cotton often edges out Supima cotton in quality. While the fibers are nearly identical, in Peru, the Pima cotton is harvested by hand, not by machine as in the US. The machines used sometimes slightly degrade the quality & strength of the cotton fibers. 

All in all, Supima cotton or Peruvian Pima cotton will yield very high quality cotton clothing. Pima cotton that's not from Peru or the US is often a couple notches lower in quality. Again our Pima cotton post explains this in more detail.

supima cotton

Does Supima cotton mean it's cotton that's grown in the US?

Yes. The consortium that created the trademark name of Supima is comprised of US cotton growers. All Supima cotton is grown in the US. But of course all cotton grown in the US is not Supima cotton.

OK, so Supima cotton and Peruvian Pima cotton are nearly the same. What is the benefit of buying clothing made from them?

Pima cotton (and by extension Supima cotton) are known as extra-long staple (ELS) cottons. It's crazy to think about but because Pima cotton fibers are about ½" longer than regular cotton fibers, it yields incredibly superior performance in clothing.

  1. Softer. The first thing you’ll notice about Pima is its silky, smooth, touch to the hand. Extra long fibers yield fabric with fewer loose ends. Those loose ends rear their heads in the form of scratchiness and pilling. After you've owned pima cotton shirts for awhile, you'll be an expert in noticing the difference.

  2. Stronger. While softest isn't always associated with strength, Pima cotton is about 30% stronger too – measured in tensile strength (4.28 N/tex vs 3.11 N/tex to be technical). Pima cotton fabrics are less likely to tear, fray, pill, or shrink over time.

  3. Longer lasting. Being 30% stronger has a multiplier effect on clothing. Meaning clothing made from Pima cotton should last well more than 30% longer than clothing made from regular cotton. If you follow care instructions (no hot water or hot dry), Pima cotton clothing can endure. beautifully for several years.

  4. Color absorption. The lustrous fibers of Pima will hold color over multiple washings much longer than typical cotton. This colorfastness allows brands to use less harsh dyes to achieve their colors.
supima cotton vs cotton clothing

 The bottom line is that Supima cotton and Pima cotton are excellent choices if you're looking for high quality 100% cotton clothing. The only caveat being...if you're buying Pima cotton, your best choice by far is Peruvian Pima cotton.

Robert Behnke 

Robert Behnke
Co-Founder & President


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