When I first started getting into the whole apparel industry, I found it overwhelming at how many different types of materials or blends of materials there are. I wasn't sure what to make my t-shirts from. Should it be cotton? Polyester? A 50/50 blend of each? Which type of cotton? What about Rayon? These are just a few questions I asked myself, but now that I know the answers, I'd like to explain the difference between all these different materials.
Let's start off with regular 100% cotton. Cotton is the most popular choice for shirt fabrics. This is because it is soft, breathable, durable, and affordable. People claim that cotton feels the best on skin. It is also usually the heavier than a cotton/poly blend. Many people are hesitant towards cotton because they are afraid of their t-shirt shrinking but the truth is, many cotton t-shirts are already pre-shrunk before they're sold. Meaning that the manufacturer has already put them through machines to tighten the fibers and shrink the shirt. Therefore, most of the shrinking has already happened and it won't shrink much more after that (unless it is a poorly made t-shirt). Click here to learn how to tell a good quality t-shirt from a bad one.
Some fabrics are sueded. "Sueded" itself isn't a fabric, a cotton t-shirt can be sueded, rather its the process of brushing, sanding, or chemically treating a garment to make it have a suede/fuzzy feel to it. Sueded garments are almost always the softest (we boast softness in our clothes), and we offer them on our shop labelled as "Luxe" garments.
Supima cotton is considered to be the best cotton out there, along with Egyptian cotton. Supima cotton is grown in the USA and it represents about 1% of the world's cotton supply. It's better than oter cottons because it is made from extra long fibers. Simply put, the longer the fibers the better the quality. Usually, regular cotton's fiber length is about 2.5 centimeters whereas supima is about 3.75 centimeters. Supima cotton is resistant to pilling, colour fading, stretching, and is extremely soft. Some say that supima cotton shirts get softer with every wash. If you own a supima cotton t-shirt just know that you own a top of the line t-shirt.
According to Supima.com, pima cotton is just another term for "better" cotton, but it does not necessarily mean that it was made from an extra long staple fiber. Nonetheless, pima cotton is still a high quality cotton.
Like Supima cotton, Egyptian cotton is known as one of the best types of cotton out there. Egyptian cotton is hand picked, which puts less stress on fibers, resulting in a softer t-shirt. The fibers are long, which indicates higher quality. Because of the long fibers, the cotton is more resistant to stress, making it last longer. Egyptian cotton absorbs liquids better. This is a good thing because it means that designs on an Egyptian cotton shirt will be brighter and will last very long. It is also more breathable than regular cotton.
Organic cotton doesn't negatively affect the environment and will give your brand a positive eco-friendly message. It is grown without the use of fertilizers or pesticides and it usually costs more than regular cotton since it is harder to grow. In terms of softness, it's about the same as regular cotton. It all depends on how much effort is put into the production process.
Ring Spun Cotton:
Ring spun cotton is exactly how it sounds, it is cotton that goes through a spinning process that softens and straightens each fiber. Ring spun cotton t-shirts are softer and more durable than regular cotton t-shirts, but also cost more. There are better quality ring spuns than others. For example, "30 singles spun" is better than "18 singles spun" cotton. The higher the number, the better the quality. 30 singles spun is high end and 18 singles spun is on the cheaper end. All of the t-shirts that we offer are premium, ring spun cotton. We offer a 32 singles-spun t-shirt here and a 40 singles-spun shirt here.
Polyester is a man-made synthetic material. It has a few benefits and drawbacks. Polyester t-shirts don't shrink. They wick moisture away from the body, are breathable, and are wrinkle free. They also are easy to dry, very durable, and generally come in at a cheaper price point. The drawbacks are that polyester t-shirts may not be as soft or comfortable as cotton t-shirts and they may get pilly faster. Polyester is often used for athletic wear. However, it can also be used as a regular t-shirt.
You will often times find t-shirts are a combination of two or three different materials. These are usually cotton/polyester blends or a cotton/polyester/rayon blend (also known as a tri-blend. Blending fabrics gives you the best qualities of each fabric. You will have the softness and comfort of cotton, the durability of polyester, and the addition of rayon will give it a slimmer look. Also, blends have a signature "heathered" type look to them where it's not just one flat colour to the shirt. We offer some cotton/polyester blends here.
Often times, you will find t-shirts that are 95% cotton and 5% elastane. Or even 90% cotton and 10% elastane. The elastane is added because it adds extra durability and stretch to the t-shirt. It also helps your t-shirt go back to its original shape after being stretched.