A Glossary of T-Shirt Fabrics

Don’t know your Pima from your polyester? Check this glossary.

  • Rachel Shelasky

Burn-out: Fabric treated with a chemical process that leaves sheer patches for an edgy look.

Combed cotton: Fine brushes are used to eliminate short strands and straighten fibers, making the fabric stronger, softer, and smoother.

Jersey: A stretchy knit typically made from cotton or a synthetic blend, it’s very flexible and comfy.

Linen: Made from the flax plant, the textured weave dries quickly, making it cool to wear. However, it wrinkles easily.

Modal: A form of rayon made from plant fibers, it has a beautiful drape and a slinky feel. It resists shrinking but can be prone to pilling, so avoid the dryer.

Organic cotton: Cotton grown with minimal fertilizers and pesticides. Usually softer and more expensive than treated cotton.

Pigment dyed: A coloring process that coats the outside of the fibers, it can create a faded, worn-in look.

Pima, Supima: The highest-quality cotton. Pima is the generic form of extra-long-fiber cotton grown in the United States, Australia, and South America. Supima is the trademarked name for 100 percent American-grown Pima cotton. Both resist pilling, fading, and stretching and get softer with wear.

Polyester: Maintains its shape well and resists shrinking and wrinkles. Not breathable.

Rayon: A breathable man-made fiber made out of trees, cotton, and woody plants. Has a silky hand, yet wrinkles. Also called viscose.

Rib knit: A ridged pattern that creates a thick, structured garment with a lot of give.

Slub: Fibers are twisted to create an irregular weave with a rough-hewn texture.