In micromechanics of quasi-static deformation of granular materials, relationships are investigated between the macro-scale, continuum-mechanical characteristics, and the micro-scale characteristics at the particle and interparticle contact level. An important micromechanical quantity is the fabric tensor that reflects the distribution of contact orientations. It also contains information on the coordination number, i.e. the average number of contacts per particle. Here, the focus is on characteristics of the critical state in the two-dimensional case. Critical state soil mechanics is reviewed from the micromechanical viewpoint. Two-dimensional discrete element method (DEM) simulations have been performed with discs from a fairly narrow particle-size distribution. Various values for the interparticle friction coefficient and for the confining pressure have been considered to investigate the effect of these quantities on critical state characteristics (shear strength, packing fraction, coordination number and fabric anisotropy). Results from these DEM simulations show that a limiting fabric state exists at the critical state, which is geometrical in origin. The contact network tessellates the assembly into loops that are formed by contacts. For each loop, a symmetrical loop tensor is defined, based on its contact normals. This loop tensor reflects the shape of the loop. An orientation is associated with each loop, based on its loop tensor. At the critical state, the frequencies with which loops with different number of sides occur depend on the coordination number. At the critical state, these loops have, on average, the following universal characteristics, i.e. independent of the coordination number: (1) loops with the same number of sides and orientation have identical anisotropy of the loop tensor, (2) the anisotropy of the loop tensor depends linearly on the number of sides of the loop, (3) the distribution of loop orientations is identical, (4) Lewis’s law for the loop areas, which is a linear relation between the number of sides of loops and their area, is satisfied (not exclusively at the critical state) and (5) the areas of the loops do not depend on their orientation.