You’re not necessarily paying for the label. See what else goes into more expensive versions.

By Rachel Shelasky
Plush Studios/Getty Images

Better fabric: Tees made of Pima cotton, the crème de la crème, start at around $45. Finer fabrics, such as silk, rayon, and linen, also raise the cost. “With under-$20 styles, silicone and softeners are often used to disguise lesser-grade yarns,” says Lissa Zwahlen, the design director for Alternative Apparel. They feel good at first but can start to pill, shrink, and stiffen after five washes.

Expert construction: You won’t see any loose threads or sloppy seams. The edges will be professionally finished.

Flattering fit: High-end designers focus on how the garment fits at the shoulders, waist, and neckline, so it tends to be less boxy than a cheaper style. Quality shirts may have one seam down the back rather than two along the sides; this makes them fit the body’s contours but requires a larger piece of fabric, which costs more.

Higher production cost: Anything made in Europe or the United States will be pricier, due to the higher cost of labor compared with Asia. Also, small boutique lines tend to charge more, since they pay a premium to manufacture fewer shirts as opposed to buying in bulk.