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Whether you are typing at your desk, working in the yard, dancing at a concert, or building your brand, the T-shirt you buy should fit the occasion. But how do you know what kind of T-shirt will best suit your needs? This guide walks you through the primary factors and the industry lingo so that you can make an expert selection for every occasion.

Understanding T-Shirt Materials


Primary Factors: Durability and Comfort

Durability: You want a T-shirt that will stand the test of time, especially if you are participating in manual labor or sports. A durable T-shirt withstands rough wearing environments and holds its shape and feel after washes. If you are going to buy a T-shirt, you need it to last.
Comfort: T-shirts that are rough to the touch with tags that scratch and seams that itch end up in the trash or the back of the closet, never to be worn again. You want a T-shirt that makes you feel good everytime you wear it. Those two factors come down to materials. Let’s take a look at the most common T-shirt materials and how they contribute to our primary factors.

The Common Materials:


  • Softness: Cotton is known for its soft and comfortable feel against the skin.
  • Breathability: Cotton is ideal for warmer environments since allows air to freely move through the garment.
  • Absorbency: Cotton absorbs moisture well, making it suitable for manual labor or sports.

Note: When looking for good cotton fabrics, you’ll often see “ring-spun” as a selling point. But what does that actually mean? Ring-Spun Cotton goes through a special treating process that results in a much softer, cleaner material. An added benefit is the durability this adds to the fabric. You also might see “combed” as a selling point. Combed Cotton also goes through extra treating and cleaning processes and that life and durability to the fabirc.


  • Durability: Polyester is resilient and holds up under stress, stretching, and movement.
  • Wrinkle Resistance: Polyester is resistant to wrinkling, making it suitable for office wear.
  • Quick Drying: Polyester doesn’t absorb water which is ideal for sweaty or moisture-heavy activities and environment.

Cotton-Polyester Blend

  • Combining Benefits: Looking at the components of Cotton and Polyester, an ideal T-shirt would have the comfort of Cotton, but the durability of the Polyester. When looking at a T-shirt’s fabric specifications, recognize the ratio of these to materials and see what qualities the manufacturer is trying to maximize.
  • Here are some of the common qualities of a Cotton-Polyester Blend:
    • Wrinkle Resistance: Unlike 100% cotton, a blended fabric doesn’t hold onto wrinkles.
    • Breathable and Quick Drying: Blends are great for activity in that the cotton allows air to move through the fabric while the polyester wicks moisture.
    • Durability: Unlike 100% cotton, a blended fabric will hold up better under strain and washing while retaining a soft, comfortable feel.

Decoding T-Shirt Terminology


Nothing detours the buying process like the confusion of industry terms. Two terms stand out as needing clarification: “singles” and “stitches.” Understanding what these indicate will allow you to purchase exactly what you need.


  • Definition: Single refers to the thickness of the yarn used in a T-shirt. When you see a higher single count, the fabric is made of a higher amount of thinner strands of yarn. When you see a lower single count, the fabric is made of a lower amount of thicker strands. What does this mean practically?
    • Higher Singles = Softer and Smoother Fabric.
    • Lower Singles = Heavier and More Durable Fabric.


  • Stitch Density: When you hear “stitch density,” this refers to the number of stitches per square inch on a garment. Higher stitch density indicates better quality and durability.
  • Double-Needle Stitching: This term refers to the way the seams are constructed. Double-needing adds strength to the seams, preventing unraveling.

We have move definitions and education on our Comprehensive Glossary for Screen Printing, Heat Press Transfers, Embroidery, and Promotional Items page.

Tailoring Your T-Shirt for Different Projects



Office Work:

  • Solid Colors or Subtle Patterns: Maintains a professional appearance.
  • Wrinkle-Resistant Material: Polyester blends or treated cotton for a polished look.

Fashion Brands:

  • Quality Materials: Emphasize the brand’s commitment to quality.
  • Unique Designs: Stand out with original artwork or logo placements.


  • Comfort: Opt for soft and breathable materials for prolonged wear and peak danceability.
  • Eye-Catching Graphics: Reflect the energy of the event with bold designs.

Manual Labor:

  • Durability: Choose a strong fabric blend to withstand wear and tear.
  • Comfort: Prioritize comfort for ease of movement.


  • Moisture-Wicking Fabric: Keeps the body dry during physical activities.
  • Stretch: Opt for fabrics with a stretch component for maximum movement.


Office Work:

  • Classic Fit: Provides structure and a clean look.
  • Tailored but Not Tight: Allows for comfort during long office hours without seeming loose or casual.

Fashion Brands:

  • Varied Fits: Consider different fits for a diverse customer base.
  • On-Trend Styles: Explore the cuts and designs that will put you on the leading edge.


  • Loose or Regular Fit: Prioritize comfort for extended wear.
  • Breathable Fabrics: Essential for crowded and energetic environments.

Manual Labor:

  • Relaxed Fit: Allows for ease of movement.
  • Reinforced Seams: Look for Double-Needling or other strong seam construction, ensuring durability during physical labor.


  • Athletic Fit: Contours to the body without restricting movement.
  • Stretch Fabric: Facilitates flexibility during sports activities.

Recommendations: Choosing the Best T-Shirt


Putting everything together, below is a quick guide for every occasion. Please reach out to Heart and Hook Apparel, a local screen printing company, for more information or a detailed discussion on all your T-shirt needs!

1. Office Work:

  • Material: Cotton-polyester blend or treated cotton for a polished look.
  • Design: Solid colors or subtle patterns.
  • Fit: Classic fit or tailored but not tight for comfort during long hours.

2. Fashion Brands:

  • Material: Emphasize quality with a soft cotton or blend.
  • Design: Unique and eye-catching designs.
  • Fit: Offer varied fits to cater to different preferences.

3. Concerts:

  • Material: Soft and breathable cotton or blends.
  • Design: Bold and eye-catching graphics.
  • Fit: Loose or regular fit for extended wear.

4. Manual Labor:

  • Material: Durable cotton-polyester blends.
  • Design: Prioritize comfort and functionality.
  • Fit: Relaxed fit for ease of movement.

5. Sports:

  • Material: Opt for polyester, for moisture-wicking and stretch.
  • Design: Athletic and sporty aesthetics.
  • Fit: Athletic fit for optimal movement.

Recommendations: The Best T-Shirts for Your Budget


Top Tier: ASCOLOUR 5001

A perfectly soft, highly durable T-shirt with a comfortable weight and side seams. 100% Combed Cotton, double-needled hems, and preshrunk to minimize the possibility of shrinking in the wash.

Second Tier: BELLA+CANVAS 3001

A very comfortable T-shirt with a light weight and side seams. 100% Airlume Ring Spun and Combed Cotton.

Second Tier: Next Level 3600

A very soft T-shirt with a light weight and side seams. 100% Ring Spun and Combed Cotton.

Third Tier: Gildan 8000

A soft T-shirt with a light weight. A 50/50 Cotton-Polyester Blend with moisture wicking properties.


Selecting the perfect T-shirt for different projects involves a careful consideration of materials, design, and fit. By understanding the nuances of cotton, polyester, blends, and specific features like ring spun cotton, singles, and stitches, you can make informed choices tailored to your needs. Whether you’re dressing for the office, creating a fashion brand, attending a concert, engaging in manual labor, or participating in sports, the right T-shirt can elevate your experience, providing comfort, style, and durability. Armed with this comprehensive guide, you’re ready to make choices that not only suit the occasion but also reflect your personal style and preferences.