Underwear: Bresciani Sea Island vs Zimmerli Sea Island

Caveat Emptor Comparison Series: UNDERWEAR

Bresciani Sea Island vs Zimmerli Sea Island

By Alexander S. Kabbaz, Custom Clothier & Haberdasher
There are important differences between the two firms' choices of Sea Island fabric. Zimmerli uses a "brushed finish" which can be likened to a flannel. This fuzzy, matte finish is created by abrading the fabric with wire brushes. While brushing gives a softer feel out-of-the-box, it also does permanent damage to the integrity of the cloth. Deterioration becomes evident after laundering in issues such as premature degradation and inordinate shrinkage. Bresciani's selection, on which the usual Sea Island softness doesn't come to the fore until after laundering, is a more appropriate flat jersey knit with a smooth, lustrous surface. The detrimental consequences of brushing are not suffered by the flat jersey which exhibits remarkable longevity and a shrinkage rate under 2%. Post-laundering, the Bresciani flat jersey knit attains a discernably softer hand than Zimmerli's brushed cloth.
The size differences seem simple at the outset. Bresciani runs 1/2 size smaller than Zimmerli. Generally, if you are at the top end of Large in Zimmerli, you would order X-Large in Bresciani and so forth.

Bresciani Sea Island Underwear vs Zimmerli Sea Island Underwear

The after-laundering size ramifications are more complex. Bresciani will stay within the normal boundaries of 1%-2% shrinkage in all directions. Zimmerli will not. The Zimmerli Sea Island experiences extraordinary shrinkage in the lengthwise direction. While this may not be extremely significant in briefs or boxers, it is overwhelimgly important for undershirts where length is an overarching factor. In our tests of a size Large, Zimmerli's originally 28" long undershirt shrank 15% to a finished length of 24". For most this would mean that the undershirt would come untucked. Length considerations aside, the circumferential dimensions of both firms' fabrics remain consistent.

Bresciani Sea Island Underwear
Advantages Disadvantages
  • Significantly greater fabric longevity
  • Notably softer feel than the brushed finish after-laundering
  • Shrinkage is within normal limits
  • Flat finish jersey cause less "static-cling"
  • Does not feel as soft right out-of-the-box
  • Sizing must be determined from the Italian chart
Zimmerli Sea Island Underwear
Advantages Disadvantages
  • Brushed finish fabric is softer feeling out-of-the-box
  • Sizing is on the Swiss scale
  • Currently two more available styles than Bresciani
  • Extreme lengthwise shrinkage
  • Brushed finish significantly shortens garment life
  • Brushed finish clings to over garments causing the appearance of "static-cling"

Sea Island Underwear
This article was authored based upon in-house testing of dozens of each firm's garments as well as the the opinions and comments of many clients who have worn both Zimmerli and Bresciani Sea Island underwear.
Thank you for reading. Please don't hesitate to contact the author with questions or comments.
Copyright © 2019 Alexander Kabbaz. All rights reserved.