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What's in a shirt?

August 20, 2019 6 minute read time 3 Comments

There’s nothing like that snugly feeling of pulling on your favorite T-shirt. It’s more than just a piece of fabric sewn together with a neat design. Whether there’s a sentimental value attached to it, it fits you extra flatteringly or wearing it feels like being hugged by a blanket of puppies, there are a million reasons to love a shirt. But for you to want to wear a shirt, the bottom line is that it has to be comfortable. No one wants to walk around wearing something that feels like a burlap sack that was bedazzled in burs.

Burlap
Comfort can mean different things to different people. For some actually feeling the weight of a shirt can be a comfort but to others that same feeling would feel like walking around in a cocoon of sorts. Shirts have many qualities and variations so it can be difficult to decide exactly what you like about your favorite one. There are a few main points to consider when getting your next shirt. Some of the most basic qualities to consider are the shirt’s material, thickness, and fit. If you’ve determined your preference for these, it will undoubtedly help you make a better shirt choice in the future. Hopefully with this information, you’ll be able to make sure all of your future shirts feel like your favorite shirt.
dog in shirt

Materials

Knowing the material of a shirt can be an important factor in determining your ideal T-shirt. The most popular materials that T-shirts are made from have a wide range from the traditional to the more modern. 
Cotton is breathable, durable, comfy and has been the industry standard for the modern era in the textile industry. It’s one downside is that it’s super absorbent and can cling and clump when wet. Although it might seem like the perfect summer shirt, it quickly loses its cool if you start sweating a bunch, which we tend to do in summer.
cotton
Another popular material is Polyester, a synthetic petroleum based fiber that was originally advertised as a miracle material. While it is miraculous, the first adopters and advocates of the material proclaimed that it could stay fresh looking, and wrinkle free for 68 days. There has never been a definitive study to back this up so it’s most likely a snappy line some marketer came up with. While Polyester is exceptionally durable and quick drying it doesn’t breathe the same way a more natural material does so it can feel a bit humid and claustrophobic at times.
polyester
Another material gaining in popularity is rayon. While it’s considered a synthetically processed material, it mimics natural fibers. Rayon and its variants are soft, breathable and help wick away moisture from the skin. Designs printed on this material also tend to visually pop because of its absorbency. Inks will appear deep, bright and radiant. Modal, a derivative of rayon is actually semi-synthetic, as it is made from beech trees. This semi synthetic quality gives it a softer feel more akin to cotton. However, it has a bit more strength so it pills and shrink less than cotton.
rayon

All of these materials make excellent shirts but the textile industry has recently innovated a new type of shirt for the modern era. Making a product greater than the sum of its parts the textile industry has developed the tri-blend T-shirt. Tri-blends, a relatively new type of shirt, have captured all of the best qualities of the previously mentioned fabrics. They typically combine 50% polyester, 25% ring spun cotton, and 25% Rayon. 

triblend shirt

While tri-blend solve many of the issues that arise with other fabrics, one downside they have is that they aren’t solid colored. Since by nature, they’re a blend of different materials, their coloring is more dappled that gives them a more textured look (it doesn’t affect the feel at all, they’re still smooth and soft.) Tri-blends are naturally lightweight but sturdy due to the polyester, which also reduces wrinkling. The inclusion of cotton and rayon solve polyester’s lack of breathability making tri-blends the perfect summer shirt. Tri-blends are typically light, breezy and thin but with a sturdy structure that holds up to wear and pilling.

Fabric Thickness

Another important factor when considering the quality of a T-shirt is the thickness of the material that it’s made of. It’d be easy to assume that a shirt’s weight is literally how much a shirt itself weighs, however, shirt weight more often refers to ounces per square yard of material. This helps standardize the measurements across sizes and styles of clothing that gives the buyer a more precise knowledge of the material the shirt is made out of. 
Scale

A light-weight t-shirt is generally around 3.5 ounces while heavy shirts can reach over 6 ounces. These different weights have their pros and cons and it’s best to decide for yourself what you’re looking for in a shirt when considering your preferred shirt weight.


A lot of people subconsciously associate heavier weight with higher quality and higher price. While there are plenty of products where this line of reasoning works, the textile industry doesn’t strictly adhere to this standard. For example, a puffy light down jacket or a thinner fleece jacket could provide more warmth and be more comfortable than a lower quality but significantly heavier coat. 
Additionally, a higher weight might correlate to a higher price but not necessarily a higher quality. It’s not something that’s immediately obvious when considering an individual T-shirt, but when you’re manufacturing and shipping thousands of shirts at a time, the extra weight adds up in shipping costs quickly, which then gets reflected in the final price.


Generally, when it comes to T-shirts, fabric thickness and weight is more of a personal preference than anything. Usually those living in hotter climates enjoy lightweight and more breathable shirts, while those living in colder environments are more interested in a thicker, heavier shirt.


Heavier shirts (about 6 ounces per square yard) are naturally more durable and longer lasting. The thicker material also holds its shape which can be good or bad depending on your preference. If you enjoy a more angular and smooth look for your shirts, this might be the ticket. However if you want a material that has a bit of drape and contour, a thinner shirt might be better. Another consideration is that thicker material is less breathable and tends to par-boil whoever’s wearing it in hot weather. These shirts aren’t ideal for wearing in the peak of summer but they’re generally a good bet for colder weather. Some people might prefer wearing a heavier weight. Feeling the weight of the shirt can be a familiar comfort and just feels right for some.


At the other end of the spectrum, lightweight shirts (usually around 3.5 ounces) are much more breathable and ideal for hotter weather. The fabrics tend to be thinner and therefore more fragile, but synthetic materials and blends tend to punch above their weight in terms of durability. Lightweight shirts are breathable, enjoyable to wear and generally have better drape than thicker materials. Drape allows for a more contoured look for the wearer and provides a more cozy feeling than rigid heavyweight shirts.


For those of us inspired by Goldilocks who want their shirts to be juuuuuuust right, thankfully there’s a middle ground. Shirts that weigh between 4.5 - 5 ounces generally strike a nice balance between lightweight and heavyweight shirts. This weight is perfect for those who are looking for a breathable shirt that still has some structure and durability to it. We’re based out of Northern California and we’re plenty familiar with a nice balance of weather. This weight is perfect for most weather we experience here which is why we love this middle ground.

California Shirt

Inkopious Shirts

Inkopious’s long sleeve, unisex crew neck and modern v neck shirts are all from the incredible companyAllmade. These shirts are all made from Allmade’s unique tri-blend fabric, and have a weight of 4.7 ounces. Allmade is an environmentally conscious company and each their incredibly soft shirts saves 6 plastic bottles from ending up in a landfill. They even have anenvironmental impact calculator on their site that helps illustrate the impact they make compared to other shirts! Not only that but the rayon included in their tri-blends is a special variant called Modal which is derived from beech trees for a more natural feel that emulates the softness of cotton while maintaining all of the benefits of rayon.
allmade logo
There are a lot of choices out there when it comes to shirts. These are just some of the variables that come into play when deciding but they are important ones. Hopefully this information helps you when getting your next shirt. We hope that all your future shirts feel like your favorite shirt!
rowdy inkopious

3 Responses

Marilyn Boeri Mears
Marilyn Boeri Mears

November 09, 2019

Hemp. Hemp heals the soil, uses FAR less water to grow, and can be easily produced in the USA. Growing commercial hemp contributes greatly to healing the planet. I have several hemp shirts and they are soft and durable and so breathable. SUPPORT AMERICAN HEMP FARMERS! HEAL THE EARTH!

Pam Tillman
Pam Tillman

November 09, 2019

Nice article. Really like the new color choices.

Jacquie G
Jacquie G

November 09, 2019

I bought the stars and stripes German Shepherd tank top several months ago and it fits great. I wear it to work out and it goes through many washings and has not shrunk and has stayed soft and comfortable as ever! Well done!

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