Pima cotton is a type of extra-long staple cotton; the other well-known extra-long staple cotton is Egyptian cotton. Extra-long staple cotton means that each of the individual fibers that make up the fluffy cotton bud are at least one and three-eighths inches in length. Longer cotton fibers will result in a finished woven product that is softer, stronger, and longer-lasting than one made of short staple cotton. The cotton fibers of Pima cotton are 50% longer than those of standard cotton.
Pima cotton originated in Peru, but earned its name from the Pima tribe of American Indians who pioneered the cultivation of this superior strain of cotton in the south-west United States. Today, Pima is grown in Peru, Australia, and the United States. Pima cotton will only grow in mild, warm, and dry climates, so US farming is isolated to California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Only about 3% of the cotton grown in the United States is Pima cotton, making it rare and far more expensive than standard cotton.
But what exactly makes Pima cotton superior? The answer lies in both the length and the strength of the fibers. Through the spinning and weaving processes that turn raw cotton crops into finished material, a longer fiber length means that fewer fiber ends are exposed on the surface. The result is a silkier, smoother material that resists pilling and holds its shape and luster much longer. Pima is also the strongest of all cottons, making fabrics that are durable and long-lasting.