Many people wonder what a “single” in reference to cotton is? 10S, 16S, etc.
The “S” for Singles refers to the thread weight that is used. The higher the thread weight number, the finer and softer feel of the fabric. When a higher thread weight number is used, the thread is finer and a tighter weave can be achieved. This gives the product using a higher thread weight number a softer, finer feel.
Therefore, a 16S towel would be softer than a 10S towel.
10S towels feel more “coarse” than 16S towels and are usually found in economy towels. Other factors come into play, like the weight of the woven product, as well as the size.
Typically, a higher singles count is a bit more in cost, as well.
Another factor in the “hand” (feel) of fabrics is OE (open end) vs Ring Spun.
OE is the standard baseline method of spinning yarn. Ring spun is an additional process, that makes products much softer with finer yarn.
Expect higher end premium towels to be finer, ring spun yarns, 16S or higher — of course, at a premium price.