Remember that numerical specifications drastically influence our choices: even if they’re meaningless and contradict our personal experience?

The same goes for thread count, it seems: Textiles expert Mark Scheuer calls it a “marketing ploy” and tells you to forget about it when purchasing, while Linenplace says it is a metric we should consider–just not the most important one–offering ‘the truth about thread count’ (via Kottke):

In a quality product, the incremental comfort value of increasing thread count over 300 is very little. A 300 thread count can feel far superior to a 1000 thread count. Thread count has become a simple metric used by marketing people to capture interest and impress with high numbers. The problem with mass produced high thread count sheets is that to keep the price down, important elements of quality must be sacrificed, meaning in the end the customer gets a product with an impressive thread count but that probably feels no better (or even worse) than something with a lower thread count.

Toronto-based Au Lit Fine Linens goes one further, suggesting that while thread count is important, where the cotton is grown (its quality) and where and how it is woven is what matters most.

Egyptian cotton is acknowledged to be the finest cotton in the world, just as the Italians are renowned for their long-standing tradition of weaving. The softness of your sheets depends more on the quality of the fiber, which is why a 220 thread-count sheet can feel softer than a 500 thread-count sheet that uses an inferior grade of cotton or a twisted thread. (The lower thread-count sheet using Egyptian cotton and woven in Italy will also last longer than a higher thread-count sheet woven from inferior cotton.)

The crux: ignore thread count, buy 100% Egyptian cotton woven in Italy.