Bet on the Nile
The Italian shirt fabric makers Albini Group, which incorporates the famous Thomas Mason shirting brand — founded in Leeds, England, in 1796, with production and archives (sadly) shifting to Bergamo, Italy in 1992 — claim that the silky handle of their shirting fabric made with Giza 87 cotton 'does not in any way degrade over time'. With repeated washing, the 'softness [of the Giza cotton] increases' and the 'original brightness is absolutely maintained'.
Giza cotton is certainly the fabric du jour, with Giza cotton something or others being unleashed with gusto this summer. What is so special about Giza cotton? And what the hell is that '87' in aid of?
Giza clearly tells us that the cotton comes from Egypt. In fact, Albini has its own cotton fields along the Nile delta, with the perfect sunny and humid conditions for growing the best cotton. The classification of cotton is based on colour, strength and length, with some of the finest quality cotton being Egyptian-grown. The best cotton is exceptionally bright with an unblemished whiteness. The longer the cotton fibres the finer the thread and the higher the thread count, which gives added strength, softness and lustre.
Giza 87 belongs to the extra-long staple group of exceptional cottons with a high uniformity of 87%. The uniformity means less manipulation of the fibres so that its natural properties are retained. Albini's Giza 87 cotton is cleaned by hand in Egypt, then passed over with a camera to zoom in on any impurities that are blown out with a jet of air. The result is a raw material so 'white, bright and silky' that Albini uses it specifically to make the brilliant white shirting fabric for their Thomas Mason Goldline collection, which they introduced in 1996.
Also in their Goldline collection is shirting made from Giza 45. Now Giza 45 is simply the very best Egyptian cotton, quite possibly the capo de tutti capi of all cotton grown in the world. (Sea Island cotton gives it a run for its money.) Giza 45 is extra-long, highly uniform, super thin and super strong. Produced in small batches, Giza 45 makes some of the very best shirting material.
Any shirtmaker worth their pinking shears will have Goldline swatches from Albini to choose from. If you are looking for something ready to wear, then Hackett's Mayfair collection of shirts (top picture) are made from Thomas Mason Giza 87 cotton.
If you want something more casual for your summer wanderings, Fedeli (1934) of Monza, Italy, do a selection of classic polo shirts and long-sleeve shirts in Giza 45 cotton, such as the one below.