One should always remember this little, yet very important, fact - Shetlands were rooed for hundreds of years . . . in spring or early summer. They were NOT shorn twice a year (as a long fleece would warrant). Which sheep were shorn twice a year? Blackfaces.
So, it boggles my mind when people say things like, "What do you do with your ram fleeces, throw them away?", "What do you do with the coarse ram fleeces?", or "I'm going to use this ram who has such a 'big' fleece (meaning strongly double coated and coarse) because he is so 'masculine looking' with all that wool."
I guess I'll be blunt. If your ram fleeces are coarse, why, oh why are you using that ram for breeding??? Never!! Use!! Coarse!! Rams!!!!
Your rams are half your flock - genetically speaking. You should be able to pick out and use a ram with a fleece you would like to WEAR on your body to use on your flock. I've made several things from my rams, including a handspun cardigan! It is very warm and soft. This breed has been BRED for fine wool for centuries, not coarse. If a sheep looks like it is covered in britch wool, which is what double coated, straight fleeced sheep in the Shetland breed are really sporting - britch wool over their entire body - it is going to be coarse. There is no way around it. One can call it soft all the day long, but if the 'hair' is well over 30 microns, you are not fooling anyone in the wool world.
Oh, unless of course, you are breeding for something other than the 1927 Shetland breed standard! Then it is perfectly acceptable. Please though, let's come up with a name for said sheep as well as a standard. It is highly confusing when talking with people when you say 'soft, fine fleece' and you are envisioning a 12"+ staple with a 50 micron average outer hair coat (normal double outer coat is 40-60 microns) vs someone who is envisioning a 4" staple with 25 micron average with a SF of 23/24. These two fleeces don't belong under the same breed heading . . . period. The performance of the end product, the wool, is for two totally different purposes and is prepared totally different. The closest 'breeds' I can come up with, without using the word or picture of 'Shetland', would be like comparing the resulting wool of a Navajo-Churro/Icelandic with a Merino/Finn. There is no comparison between those! The NC/Icelandic fleeces are for rugs and thick lopi yarns (and fulled wadmal fits as well) or, if you want to do tedious separation, a sometimes fine undercoat yarn and a very coarse hair yarn. The Merino/Finn wool is for clothing yarns; soft, fine, knitted clothing to be specific.
It would behoove us all to start calling our sheep properly. A 'Shetland' meets the 1927 breed standard (as clarified by Appendix A). Sheep that are outside the clarified breed standard would be better fitted to another name and description to better market those sheep and their wool. The spinners of this world would certainly appreciate it! It cannot contain the words primitive or ancient either (as Shetlands are known as far back as the 12th century for the fineness of their wool).
FFSSA has come up with a fleece grading chart for spinners and knitters based on available information from around the world for Shetland wool. We will be putting together a more visual chart one of these days (so that one will be able to 'see' representative locks with the corresponding grades). Grades 1-3 fall in the range of 2-5/6". Grades 4 and 5 are not given a fleece length, although britch wool should not exceed 7".
Please note: Really, I totally get why some breeders perpetuate extreme length of fleece. They don't spin, or knit for one and simply have no clue as to what the 'wool' on their sheep is really like. Or, they are simply unwilling to follow what the standard calls for and are under false impressions of the words extra fine (some say it means 'wonderful' and has nothing to do with low microns?), or soft (meaning soft hair outer coat), or wavy (which they take to mean about 1 or 2 crimps/inch when it means 'crimpy'), or 'longish' (which some think it means 'very long', when it means longer than Merino at the time - 2" - and shorter than the long wools - 6+"). . Many misconceptions have been lurking in the US regarding Shetlands and their wool since they were first brought to NA. I was even under that impression when I first started - you know, that 3 fleece types myth (and it is a very bad myth at that as it is totally made up as well as completely inaccurate!). Then I started doing my homework and researched WHAT Shetlands were supposed to be and WHY the claim to fame of fine, soft wool. Then I started knitting with my handspun Shetland wool. . . and then I KNEW the difference both in knowledge and experience.
So, my inclination was and is to breed sheep that fit the standard. Every breeder is free to breed whatever they please. But if you aren't breeding to the standard, what and why are you breeding??