The right material is hugely important to making a t-shirt that isn’t only comfortable to wear but is also washable and shows printed designs well. But what is the best material for a t-shirt, which offers a premium in comfort and durability? It’s a great question and there are various fabrics to choose from which each have their own unique properties that suit different purposes. Some materials are better suited to casual wear while others work better for work clothing, due to the materials durability. For screen printing, it’s worth thinking about the needs of the person wearing the fabric before making your choice.
Let’s have a look at some of the most popular materials used for making clothing and t-shirts, as well as the pros and cons for each.
Cotton is the most commonly used material for making t-shirts and many other clothing items – many would consider it the best. Cotton is a natural fibre that is commonly used for t-shirts as it’s very soft, affordable and breathable, so it’s perfect for casual wear. Organic cotton has risen in popularity in recent years, and is grown solely using natural pesticides with no synthetic fertilisers, hence being a lot more environmentally friendly. There are variations of cotton, from combed cotton to ring-spun cotton, which affect how an item of clothing feels. However, the downside to cotton is that it can shrink after the first warm wash. This can be especially problematic if the t-shirt was already a bit of a tight fit to begin with!
Linen is made from the flax plant and has a rougher texture than cotton, so it’s not as commonly used for t-shirts but better suited to jackets or light outerwear. Compared to cotton, linen is known for its relatively high durability, which makes it a popular choice for clothing and other textiles that need to withstand frequent wear and tear. Additionally, the hollow fibers of linen make it a breathable fabric that allows for greater airflow over the body, which can help keep the wearer cool and comfortable in warm weather. One of the main drawbacks of linen is that it does tend to wrinkle easily, which can make it difficult to maintain it’s smooth appearance – it’s very lightweight and dries fast though.
Polyester is another popular material for t-shirts. This man-made synthetic fibre is often considered the best material for sports t-shirts and clothing due to its breathable and quick-drying properties. Polyester is also known for being highly durable, which makes it an excellent choice for clothing that needs to withstand frequent wear and washing. However, it’s not as comfortable as cotton or linen for day-to-day usage, so it’s better suited to athletic wear.
Lycra is another fabric that’s associated with sportswear as it’s stretchy and flexible, so it’s often added to other fabrics to provide more stretch and make them easier to move in. Lycra is often blended with other materials like cotton or polyester to provide more stretch and improve the overall comfort of the garment. Some people find lycra to be quite tight and restrictive when not used for sportswear purposes, which is one drawback against more traditional materials for t-shirts and clothing.
Rayon is a fabric made up of a blend of cotton, trees and woody plants. Rayon is a man-made material that’s often used as a more affordable silk alternative. It’s incredibly smooth and soft and is a great choice for athletic wear as it’s lightweight, but it doesn’t last as well as some other fabrics. It can also wrinkle easily, which can be frustrating for those who want to maintain a polished appearance. Rayon does also require more specialist care when washing and maintaining the garment, hence why other materials tend to be more popular – even for sports t-shirts and clothing.
This blended material is typically a 50/50 mix of cotton and polyester, but the ratios can vary depending on the manufacturer. Poly/Cotton blends are incredibly popular for their super-soft qualities and the affordability compared to cotton. This fabric also holds its shape well and is breathable. Poly/cotton blends are commonly used for t-shirts, casual wear, and even bed sheets due to their durability and ease of care. They tend to be less prone to wrinkling and shrinking compared to 100% cotton materials.
Tri-Blend fabrics are usually made from cotton, polyester and rayon mixes, meaning that they tend to take on the best qualities of each fabric. They’re lightweight like rayon but have all the softness that cotton provides. They’re a great balance of durability, comfort and style for t-shirts. Tri-Blend fabrics can be a bit more expensive than some other fabrics due to the higher quality materials used in the blend.