Choosing a comfortable shirt is an important part of making a great finished product. Finding the right blend of fabric, style and fit can be challenging and rewarding. Of course everyone has their own personal preference of quality and comfort. Fortunately for you, we’re shirt snobs – known for our soft and comfortable custom shirts. We’re always looking for new fabrics, shirt styles and brands that we want to promote to you.
We have comfy shirts in different fits for all-sized humans. Different shirt fits are also available in different sizes for men, women, juniors, youth and toddlers. Different audiences and different body shapes benefit from different types of fits. Since there’s not one fit that’s perfect for everyone, many clients choose two or more fits for their designs. If you’re still not sure about the fit, feel or color of a particular style, feel free to place a blank sample order.
The cheapest options by the big brands are basic, boxy fits. Boxy t-shirts tend to be men’s styles with thicker, carded cotton, good work shirts for doing manual labor. Boxy tees are wide and rectangular, designed to fit anyone. However, wearing a shirt that’s shaped like a cardboard box, isn’t ideal for many body shapes.
Unisex shirts are most common amongst our clients because they work for the widest variety of shapes and sizes. Women can fit into men’s t-shirts whereas most men cannot fit into women’s t-shirts, thus the term unisex was born to sell more shirts. A unisex shirt is generally the same as a fashion-fit men’s t-shirt, the only difference is marketing.
Fashion fit, slim fit, or Euro fit t-shirts generally all mean the same thing: the shirts have a narrower body shape with tighter sleeves, usually ideal for active body types, women and younger adults. Men’s fashion fit t-shirts (often labeled unisex) are suggested for retail clients that are re-selling their shirts.
Unisex and men’s fashion fit t-shirts come in various fabrics and fits, but there is one main area to consider when it comes to unisex shirts: side seams! T-shirts with side seams have better structure and a more consistent fit because they are tailored to the body. Tubular tees are cheaper to make because they require less cutting and sewing. However, with less cutting and sewing comes less accuracy and lower quality. If cost is more important than quality, go with styles that have side seams! The difference is worth it.
Women’s shirts are designed for a woman’s body, but there are different fits for different folks. Women’s shirts generally have shorter sleeves and run smaller than men’s or unisex shirt sizing. How much smaller? Unfortunately, there’s no industry standard to apparel sizing, so the answer is relative to the brand and the specific fit of each style. Different women’s fitted shirts are designed to fit in different ways and women’s fashion styles are constantly evolving. Current trends lean towards looser fitting t-shirts for streetwear brands, but finding the right t-shirt should be about comfort and confidence – not the latest fad.
Women’s fashion fit t-shirts are designed for a tighter fit in the ribs and a wider fit around the hips. Women’s fashion fit t-shirts are created in a variety of necklines, but crewnecks are the most common.
Women’s relaxed fit t-shirts have had popularity in recent years. Sized for a woman’s body, a relaxed fit t-shirt is a looser fitting shirt. Sometimes referred to a boyfriend shirt, this style has a little more room to relax in.
Slouchy or flowy fits are typically very soft and comfortable fabrics with nicer shirt styles. Flowy fits are designed to hang away from or drape the body. Many flowy styles have larger or wider necklines including v-necks, scoop necks, u-necks and slouchy necks.
Finding the right feel for your shirt fabric is as important as the right fit. Different fabrics have different weights and feels and some fabrics are synonymous with particular shirt styles. Below is a little overview of the most common fabrics in our industry. You can also check out the Ultimate Fabric Video from Bella + Canvas for their take on their fabrics.
This is the basic and cheapest option. Carded cotton is a thicker yarn typically used for basic and heavyweight t-shirts with boxy fits.
Combed + Ringspun cotton is a smoother, finer weaved yarn that results in a softer and lighter fabric, as well as a smoother printing surface. Ringspun cotton is the most popular fabric because it is soft, comfortable, affordable and prints great with most water-based, plastisol, and specialty inks. Most ringspun cotton shirts are fashion-fitted and available in men’s and women’s styles.
Fabric mills make a variety of apparel fabric blends and poly cotton blends (50/50 to 60/40) are the most common. When polyester is woven together with ringspun cotton, the fabric softness increases. Poly + cotton blends are noticeably softer than cotton equivalents with a very minimal price difference. Polyester adds a wrinkle-resistant and moisture-wicking element to your shirt. Poly + ringspun cotton blends are also typically fitted for active individuals.
Triblend fabric is the softest of standard t-shirt fabric. It consists of a combination of polyester, ringspun cotton, and rayon. Triblend fabrics are a mix of the best parts of each fabric. They are thin, durable, breathable, wrinkle-resistant and moisture-wicking. These fabrics are incredibly comfortable and often considered a vintage, heather style. The downsides of triblend fabrics are the additional cost and the fact that they aren’t recommended for printing with water-based inks.
Polyester is a synthetic, plastics-based material and often referred to as performance fabric. Polyester is a very strong fabric with various finished and blends well with other fabrics. It is wrinkle-resistant, often moisture-wicking and a favorite fabric of sportswear products. However, it is not as breathable or comfortable as cotton or the blends listed above.
We work with a variety of quality eco-friendly fabrics for those of you that are looking for nature’s friendliest fabrics. Organic cotton is the most popular eco-friendly fabric and ideal for printing with eco-friendly water-based inks. One of our best brands for eco-friendly shirts also happens to be American-made. We have a whole page on eco-friendly shirt options, please check it out for more info.
There are an abundance of specialty fabric blends out there. Here’s a handful of higher-quality specialty fabrics.
Pima cotton is cotton that has extra long staple fibers and thus woven into a softer and more durable fiber than conventional or ringspun cotton.
Burnout fabric is a higher-priced and very thin fabric. It is typically a poly + ringspun cotton blend where the fabric undergoes a chemical process to dissolve part of the fibers and create a semi-transparent pattern in the fabric. Burnouts are so thin that printing them means a significant amount of ink prints through the shirt onto the print board, thus more labor and more cost goes into printing burnout fabrics.
Poly-viscose fabric is a blend of polyester and viscose that is usually very lightweight, wrinkle-resistant and much more comfortable than conventional polyester. This material is incredibly soft and silky and is most commonly used for high-end shirt styles and retail stores.
Slub cotton is an irregular cotton fabric defined by lumps or thick spots in the yarn from improper spinning. Until recent years, slub cotton was considered a mistake. These days, it often sells for 2-3 times the cost of conventional cotton.
Fabric weight varies considerably with different fabric types, but there are some options for different shirt styles. Fabric weights are measured by the ounces per square yard of fabric, not by the total weight of the fabric. Choosing the right fabric weight should depend on the audience and the intended use.
Heavyweight t-shirts are most durable and most common for workwear and generally only come in basic fits with carded cotton. 6.1 – 7.1 oz.
At roughly 5.0 – 5.5 oz, standard weight, standard weight fabrics are generally basic fitted shirts. Standard weight fabrics are most commonly made with carded cotton and include the cheapest shirts from the largest brands.
Lightweight fabrics are generally softer, more comfortable and most breathable. They are also most popular with the majority of clothing labels, retail stores, bands and organizations that are reselling their garments. At weights between 4 – 4.5 oz, most ringspun cotton and fashion fit poly-cotton blends are softer, lightweight fabrics.
Higher end fabrics tend to be both softer and thinner, creating a super lightweight fabric for the softest finished product. Most triblends and poly-viscose blends are under or 3.3 – 3.9 oz, making for a very soft and comfortable fabric.
Apparel makers offer a variety of shirt styles available for men and women. We’ll focus on the t-shirt options here, but check our blog for other shirt styles including the best sweatshirt options. T-shirts were initially created as undergarments, but are now a staple of fashion across cultures. Each manufacturer makes different shirt styles in different fabrics, weights and fits. The following options are the most common t-shirt styles.
Crewneck t-shirts are the most common t-shirt style, identified by the round neckline.
V-neck t-shirts are a favorite amongst women and somewhat common for men, identified by a v-shaped neckline.
Scoop neck t-shirts are primarily made for women. A scoop neckline is identified by a larger and looser fitting, oval-shaped neckline.
Raglan shirts are most common in ¾ sleeve shirts and other sporty styles. A raglan style is identified by the diagonal seam from the armpit to the edge of the collar.