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Fabric Focus: Ramses Poplin

As we delve into the origins of our bestselling fabrics, this month we explore the regal roots of Poplin and how it made its way to menswear


Thomas Pink's Ramses Poplin Formal Shirt

Poplin is a fabric with grand origins. Records date back to 14th-century France and the town of Avignon, once home to a papal residence (from the Italian, papale). Early poplins were woven from silk and wool and used to make rich, winter clothing for equally well-off customers. The subsequent centuries saw a shift to cotton, so much so that poplin fabrics became commonplace; by the mid-19th century they came to be seen as a bit, well, common. When poplin dresses appear in Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women, published in 1868, they are a source of disappointment for characters whose finances won’t stretch to silk.

Fashions come and go, of course. Just a few years later, in the 1870s, the first designs for men’s dress shirts began to be registered, both in Britain and America. Featuring a weave similar to poplin, they gradually began to restore poplin’s position in the luxury-goods market.

The perfect poplin is created by a meticulous balancing act. Thomas Pink achieves this by perfectly balancing the vertical ‘warp’ threads with horizontal ‘weft’ threads. When working on the loom, our expert Italian weavers call on generations of experience and technical know-how. This ensures the vertical and horizontal threads intersect in such a way as to create a knit which, when dyed, can achieve an exceptional depth of colour (Thomas Pink’s suppliers use natural dyes to be kinder to the environment).

This commitment to colour applies across the Thomas Pink collection, whether you opt for the bold tones that first established our name, more muted hues, or even a striking white shirt. Rich and consistent, a Thomas Pink shirt puts the ‘pop’ into poplin.

As the name suggests, our Ramses Poplin shirts use only the finest Egyptian cotton, long favoured by tailors for its softness and durability. Known as a ‘long-staple’ cotton, it’s a variety which, thanks to longer fibres, won’t pill or deteriorate in the way short-fibre varieties tend to. Woven for a crisp finish, when it comes to a Thomas Pink poplin you’ll find that appearances can be deceptive. Sharp lines may be a feature of our poplins but the fabric is also extremely soft against the skin and remains so even after years of wear.

In the late 19th century, British mills began to experiment with variants of the classic poplin warp and weft. The results were new types of cloth, some named after well-known universities. ‘Harvard’ and ‘Yale’ fabrics have been lost to history but others endure. ‘Oxford’, for example, is an ever-present in many tailors’ swatch books, so too ‘Cambridge’, although to a lesser extent. It’s worth noting that many tailors, Thomas Pink among them, also use such naming conventions to denote styles, or stripes and patterns.

The popularity of poplin has endured for good reason. Combine it with Thomas Pink’s exceptional construction and you have a rare shirt indeed. On average, a Thomas Pink shirt takes several times longer to create than the industry standard. Our trademark collar moulds to your neck, while a signature gusset holds the shirt securely. Mother of pearl buttons are then whipped and lock-stitched in place, while a split yoke and offset side seams provide our superior fit.

Blue Thomas Pink Ramses Poplin Shirt

Blue Double Cuff Thomas Pink Ramses Poplin Shirt

White Double Cuff Thomas Pink Ramses Poplin Shirt

White Thomas Pink Ramses Poplin Shirt