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Thread-Count Wars

First sheets, now shirts.

A generation ago, most American men were perfectly content in buttoned-down oxford cloth. Now, "thread count" has entered the male sartorial lexicon. As in, "My thread count is higher than yours."

In 2001, Thomas Pink, a unit of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, introduced shirts made of 170-count cotton, yours for $195. This holiday season, Charles Tyrwhitt Shirts, Pink's slightly-off-price rival, brought forth a 180-count line, priced at $160. (Bonus: free sterling silver collar stiffeners, made in England, a $50 value.)

Who needs a 180-count shirt, much less silver stiffeners? Well, no one, of course. But "part of our job is to make a man feel good when he gets up in the morning," says Nicholas Wheeler, Tyrwhitt's president and cofounder. A great shirt helps a guy "feel comfortable and confident in himself. This could be the one shirt he wears to board meetings."

Our take: These shirts do feel good. $160-good? That's debatable. But we'd wear them to all our board meetings. (In an informal, labels-hidden survey, Fast Company staffers barely preferred the Tyrwhitt 180's finer weave to the Pink 170's silkier feel.)

A version of this article appeared in the January 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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