A guide to high-twist bunches – 2019
This is a summary and analysis of the high-twist wools available from different mills and merchants.
As with the linen one we did last year, the aim is to set out most of the range so that bespoke customers know if their tailor is missing something; and then to explain how the various bunches differ - so they know whether they care.
Along the way, we explain some interesting things about how high-twists vary by weight, yarn and finish, and the different oddities like mock leno, stitched hopsacks and twist flannel.
High-twists are fantastic for trousers and suits to be worn in hot weather (a bit too sharp for a jacket on its own), and as a result most mills offer them.
It’s worth remembering, therefore, that one high-twist doesn’t necessarily differ much from another: the mills are not trying to compete on the cloth itself; they just have a high-twist bunch in order to present a full range.
If nothing below stands out for you as separating the different bunches - and you can’t feel or sense a difference when you see them in person - then I recommend picking on personal experience. Either yours, or someone you know.
Below the different high twists are set out as ‘qualities’.
A quality is a cloth that only varies in colour and pattern. So a bunch might contain one quality (like Spring Ram) or several (like Finmeresco) with differences not just in colour and pattern, but also weight, weave or something else.
We have organised the qualities by starting with the ‘core’ high-twists, in mid-weights, then setting out the lighter and heavier options, and finally summarising the other little variations.
So, first the core high-twists. These are all plain-weave 100% worsted wools, with a weight between 10oz and 13oz.
These are the qualities and bunches I would always suggest that readers look at first, and commission first if they have never had a high twist before - whether for a suit or for trousers.
Merchant: Huddersfield Fine Worsteds
Bunch: Fresco III,
Weight: 9/10oz / 280/310g
The classic, Fresco is so well-known that it has almost become generic, with other high twist wools often referred to as ‘fresco’.
It also seems to make up an ever-greater share of the HFW range, with the brand new Fresco Select bunch introducing further colours and patterns.
I generally find Fresco to be among the scratchier of the core high twists (see Ambrosi example here), but that also usually means better performance (breathability and crease resistance). It is also softer now than it has been historically.
Finmeresco 4- and 3-ply
Merchant: Smith Woollens
Weight: 13oz / 360-390g for 4-ply, 9-11oz / 280-310g for 3 ply
The Smith’s equivalent of Fresco, Finmeresco is notable for being in 3- and 4-ply options, rather than the standard 2-ply for high-twists of this weight. The extra ply makes the cloth feel a little thicker, but aids performance.
The Finmeresco bunch has five different qualities in it, two of which we have included here. The 4-ply is solidly a core weight, while the 3-ply bridges core and lightweight.
It also doesn’t have a big colour range, sticking with darker, more conservative colours - but has lots of options there, such as the seven blues shown above.
Merchant: Holland & Sherry
Weight: 9/10oz / 280/310g
Holland & Sherry’s version is a 2-ply high-twist, and both a touch lighter and smoother than most of the others in this category.
Personally I’ve used it more than any other core high-twist (see Dalcuore suit here), and the range of colours is particularly broad (as with much of the Holland & Sherry range). Only Fresco has the same breadth.
The same quality also appears as a sister bunch called Extreme, which adds an even greater range of colours and patterns, many of them unusual.
Weight: 12oz / 370g
The Ascot bunch from Drapers has both 4-ply and a 2-ply options, with the 2-ply considerably lighter at 8oz/250g.
Although I’ve tried both, I’d particularly recommend the 4-ply, which I had made into a charcoal suit by Sartoria Ciardi. It’s a touch heavier, but for trousers in particular it’s a weight most people can wear all summer.
Spring Ram 2-ply
Bunch: Spring Ram
Weight: 12/13oz / 355/375g
The Spring Ram bunch is a relatively new one in this category. It’s a touch heavier than the others and feels even more substantial than the weight would suggest.
It’s a small bunch and so the range of colours (all plain) is small, but the main selling point is environmental: it uses British cheviot and crossbreed wool, which enables every process from the fleece to the cloth to be done within a 25-mile radius of the mill.
There is also a 3-ply quality that weighs in at 16-17oz, which makes it the heaviest on this list. One for the purists, prepared to put up with the weight for a painfully sharp crease.
Merchant: Fox Brothers
Bunch: Fox Air
Weight: 10/11oz / 285/315g
Fox Air is also fairly new, introduced by Fox Brothers as part of a broadening of its range and inspired by a 1936-38 quality created for humid climates.
The key attraction for me is the colours of the patterns. The harsh colours you often see in other bunches are replaced with soft blues and greys, muted browns and greens. More casual and less corporate.
I particularly like the brown and green for trousers, and had a cream-striped blue made into a suit by Kathryn Sargent (see post here). I found the cloth creased a tiny bit more than other high twists, but I’d still use it again by virtue of the colours.
Tropicalair High Twist
Weight: 10.5oz / 300g
The high-twist option from Dugdale Brothers was originally created in the 1960s for the Hong Kong and Singapore market, in response to requests for something ‘linen-like’ in wool.
I haven’t used the quality myself, but it is supposed to be woven slower than most high-twist cloths today - in a method more similar to the original weaving in the 1960s. Although the bunch is big and there are several checks and stripes, the colours are all quite dark and formal.
Weight: 11oz / 310g
The least-known in this area is probably the Explorer quality from Standeven, which uses a slightly coarser merino than some of the others, in a panama plain weave. It has an especially dry, crisp handle, almost like mohair.
The bunch also includes a lightweight quality at 8.5oz / 240g, which is particularly soft, and a Super 120s quality that is one of the few here to use a finer-micron wool. There are three Solaro-like options at the back.
If we now go into the variations, the most obvious to look at is lighter weights - as these will be of particular interest to those living in especially hot or humid countries.
The options from the different bunches here are:
Fresco Light (9oz / 280g)
- This uses a finer wool than the standard fresco, helping with the lightness.
Finmeresco 3-ply (9-11oz / 280-310g)
- Mentioned above, in the Finmeresco bunch. Has the same good range of similar colours.
Cape Horn/Summer Ascot (8oz / 260g)
- These are Holland & Sherry’s lighter weight high-twist bunches, with Summer Ascot expanding the colour and pattern range of Cape Horn, as Extreme does with Crispaire.
Eco Traveller (7.5oz / 230g)
- Another from Holland & Sherry, with less finish and a focus on minimising water use as a key selling point.
Ascot 2-ply (8oz / 250g)
- The heavier version of Ascot, as mentioned above. I have a suit from Sartoria Cornacchia in it that I have yet toe feature.
Explorer (8.5oz / 240g)
- The lighter option from Standeven, again as mentioned above.
Tonik Wool (9.5oz / 295g)
- A rare entry here from Dormeuil. The key attraction is that Dormeuil try to replicate as much of the dry, crisp feeling of their famous Tonik cloth but in 100% wool, so without the mohair. The quality also uses Patagonian wool, which is supposed to be more sustainable.
Heavy high twists
All suiting materials used to be much heavier than modern ones, of course, with more emphasis on strength and longevity.
Anyone looking for that more vintage feel might want to look at the heavier high twists - or indeed someone that wants the same look, but to wear in cooler temperatures.
The major options here are:
Fresco 3-ply (14/15oz / 435/470g),
- Still within the Fresco III bunch. Twists together a single and 2-ply yarn of the same yarn quality found in the 2-Ply Fresco
Spring Ram 3-ply (16/17oz / 460-480g)
- As mentioned above, this is the heaviest of the high-twist options, and has a nice heft to it too
One of the more confusing things about high-twists is the various qualities that are mixed into bunches, or high-twists that have different uses than the ones we’re used to (suits or trousers).
- High-twist wool is often used to make a jacketing, just in a more open and often looser weave to make it more suited to a jacket. These include stitched hopsack, mesh and mock leno (above). The Fresco III bunch has a mock-leno quality in it, as does Finmeresco and Tropicalair
- These are not high-twist wools, but are often lumped into this category by virtue of their plain weave and crisp finish. They should be treated like a normal suiting. Finmeresco’s Plain Weave quality is an example, as are Golden Fox and Harrison’s Frontier bunch.
Sleek high twists
- Lightweight suitings that are made with a high-twist wool in order to keep some body, but without the dry finish we expect of a normal high twist. These include the Dragonfly and Snowy River bunches from Holland & Sherry, and Capri from Scabal
- Using mohair in with the wool to give even more of a sharp line. Treat as a mohair - which you might like or not. Includes Fresco Mohair and several bunches from Standeven such as Cape Town and Carnival
- High twists usually have a flat, dry finish. Twist Travel Flannel from Dugdale’s is unusual in heavily milling the cloth to give it a fuzzy texture. However, I wouldn’t say it feels like flannel really. Just a softer finish on a high-twist - and perhaps a touch more casual as a result.