How to Choose the Best T-Shirt Fabric: A Glossary of Materials

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

Core 10 Women's Soft Pima Cotton Knot Front Cropped Yoga T-Shirt


Want to make a custom T-shirt? Perhaps you want to learn which fabric will be most comfortable when shopping for your next outfit. Or maybe you wish to know about the quality of various T-shirt materials. Getting familiar with different T-shirt fabrics can help you pick the best T-shirts in terms of fit, comfort, and quality. Read on for our extensive glossary of cloth types.

Choosing the Best Fabric

When choosing the material for a T-shirt, it helps if you know about the various fabric types. Each type provides a different fit, comfort level, and quality. These are all elements you should consider when picking a T-shirt, depending on the purpose of wearing it. Other factors you should think about include the following:

  • Weather: You'll want to take into account the temperature, season, and general climate where you live when deciding on the material of your T-shirt. You don't want to be too cold or too warm.
  • Cost: Since each fabric comes with a different price point, choosing a T-shirt that meets your budgetary needs is something else to think about.
  • Durability: Some materials last longer than others, and some serve specific purposes—like athletic or work wear. Consider the durability of the T-shirt and its fabric and if it meets your needs.

Below we break down the benefits of each fabric—and their downfalls.

Types of T-Shirt Fabrics


Also known as devoré, this fabric is treated with a chemical process that leaves sheer patches for an edgy look.

  • Pros: It can provide an edgy look with patterned looks and, typically, quality prints.
  • Cons: It's treated with chemicals and can be costly.

Combed Cotton

Fine brushes eliminate short strands and straighten fibers, making the fabric stronger, softer, and smoother.

  • Pros: This fabric is strong, smooth, and softer since impurities and short threads have been removed. It's also durable.
  • Cons: Generally, it is more expensive than traditional cotton.


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

  • Pros: It's soft, flexible, comfortable, absorbent, and breathable.
  • Cons: It's made from a synthetic blend and is prone to piling.


Made from fine fibers from the flax plant, this textured weave dries quickly, making it cool to wear. However, it wrinkles easily.

  • Pros: It's a strong, durable, absorbent fabric that is soft and comfortable.
  • Cons: It easily wrinkles.


A type of rayon fabric made from beech trees, it has a beautiful drape and a slinky feel. It resists shrinking but can be prone to pilling.

  • Pros: It is soft, strong, comfortable, and moisture-absorbing, making it ideal for athletic wear.
  • Cons: It is prone to piling and shouldn't be put in the dryer.

Organic Cotton

This cotton is grown with minimal fertilizers and pesticides and is usually softer and more expensive than treated cotton.

  • Pros: It's a soft, chemical-free fabric and is more durable since it's handpicked.
  • Cons: It can be expensive.

Pigment Dyed

A coloring process where clothing is colored after it has been cut and sewn, coating the outside of the fibers instead of chemically changing the fibers in the fabric. This creates a faded, worn-in look.

  • Pros: Typically, shrinkage is not a concern due to the wash-and-dry process of pigment dying.
  • Cons: It can quickly fade.

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% American-grown Pima cotton. Both resist pilling, fading, and stretching and get softer with wear.

  • Pros: High-quality soft cotton that resists piling, fading, and stretching.
  • Cons: It is expensive.


A synthetic fabric that maintains its shape well and resists shrinking and wrinkles. It's not breathable.

  • Pros: It resists shrinking and wrinkling and is durable and versatile.
  • Cons: This fabric is not very breathable or comfortable. It also poses environmental concerns.


A smooth, semi-synthetic fiber made from natural materials and chemicals. 

  • Pros: It is soft, shiny, and silky.
  • Cons: It can easily wrinkle and is not very breathable.


A knitted fabric with a ridged pattern, creating a thick, structured garment with a lot of give.

  • Pros: It's durable, easy to clean, and doesn't wrinkle.
  • Cons: It can be tricky to sew with and should not be put in the dryer.


Made with yarn, fibers in the fabric are twisted to create an irregular weave with a rough-hewn texture.

  • Pros: It's soft and stretchy.
  • Cons: It can be prone to shrinkage.
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