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Pima cotton, also called extra long staple (ELS), is a type of cotton grown primarily in Peru, the southwestern United States and Australia. It is considered to be one of the superior blends of cotton and is extremely durable and absorbent. This type of cotton is named after the Pima, a group of American Indians who first cultivated the plant in the U.S., but the cotton's origins are its cultivation in Peru. Unlike the more common upland cotton, which is of the species Gossypium hirsutum, pima cotton is of the Gossypium barbadense species.
Similar to Egyptian Cotton
This type of cotton bears some similarity to many forms of Egyptian cotton, which is frequently used in towels and sheets. Egyptian cotton has a much more extensive weave than other types of cotton. Towels made from Egyptian cotton are particularly desirable because they are very soft and help absorb water quickly. Growers in the southwestern U.S., where the climate is somewhat similar to that of Egypt, began growing a type of cotton that was a mix of Egyptian and other types of cotton. Pima cotton is a little shorter than Egyptian cotton but still yields a thread that can be woven multiple times into a piece of fabric to create a dense, soft fabric.
Cultivation of Pima cotton became especially popular in the early 20th century. Pima cotton has long threads, similar to Egyptian cotton, which make it a desirable choice for many products. It is used in towels, sheets and clothing.
Uses in Clothing
Pima cotton in clothing is most often used in shirts for both men and women. Woven sweaters made with this type of cotton also are quite popular. They are light to wear yet provide superior warmth.
Men's socks can be made with pima cotton, but the socks often include some elastic to keep the socks from slipping down the leg. Men often prefer these socks above others because of their softness and density. Additionally, they tend not to wear out quickly.
Advantages and Disadvantages
One of the advantages of pima cotton is that the thickness of the cloth it weaves creates a very durable fabric. Marketers of this cotton claim that their products can last as much as 50 percent longer than fabrics made from other forms of cotton. One of the disadvantages of this type of cotton is that its greater absorbency means that stains are more readily formed. Some retailers who use pima in clothing coat the cloth with a stain guard to prevent this from happening.