Why it Matters
There are a ton of shirt brands and styles out there and choosing the right one can become a bit overwhelming. Just when you narrow down something you like, you stumble upon a new company releasing the “softest, 100% organic, recycled, fashion forward, affordable” shirt and now your brain is spinning in circles because you definitely want the absolute best merchandise to show off your brand but your budget is tight. Before you begin to cut corners with your merch, pump the breaks and re-think that decision for a second. Your merch could potentially make up 50% of your profits, and in some cases 80%+ which is insane! Your shirts could literally carry you through the year. Those numbers and that information comes from 15 years worth of being around it constantly and seeing the difference one choice can make over time.
When it comes to your brand, don’t settle. I know decisions are hard but really think about what you want to portray when someone sees one of your designs printed on a shirt for the first time, or picks up the shirt with your design on it and feels the fabric. First impressions could be – this shirt feels like sand paper and I will never wear it OR the print is too heavy and fees like someone glued a colorful rock to the front of the shirt OR EVEN this shirt is too thin and I would never look good in this. You know your audience, so use that information in your decision-making.
Some customers are very specific with not wanting the shirts that feel like “sand paper” like the example we mentioned previously. The term for that is carded open end fabric, where the fibers are loosely bound together and is somewhat cutting corners in turning the cotton into yarn. It’s all over the place and wears heavier and less breathable. This type works for small budgets, giveaways, or one-off events. Then you have the ring-spun cotton with tightly wound fibers, which is much softer, durable, and feels great to wear. This type of shirt prints beautifully because the tight fibers allow the ink to sit on top and the result is a much nicer, brighter print. This would also fall in line with the type of inks used as well…..but that is another blog post for another day.
The Fabric Types you should know
Here are the top shirt fabric types you should know about when making a choice for your apparel:
Ring spun cotton is smoother and longer than open-end yarn. The term “ring spun” means that the yarn goes through a spinning process that’s designed to thoroughly soften and straighten each fiber. The result is softer, more refined fibers.
Carded open-end is a cheaper way of turning cotton into yarn. In this method, fibers are bound by a wrapped fiber that runs perpendicular to the bundle, whereas In ring-spun cotton, all of the fibers are aligned in the same direction. The result of carded open end is a bulkier, rougher knit.
Burn-out: This term refers to fabric that is treated with a chemical process that leaves sheer patches for an edgier or distressed look.
Organic cotton: Organic Cotton is grown without the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Usually it is softer and more expensive
Polyester: Maintains its shape well and resists shrinking and wrinkles. It’s not considered a breathable fabric.
Rayon: A breathable man-made fiber made out of trees, cotton, and woody plants. Has a silky feel, yet wrinkles. It is also referred to as viscose.
When designing and producing customized apparel and merch, quality and durability are important considerations. The ins and outs of custom apparel production can be a bit overwhelming to a newcomer but our team is happy to answer any additional questions you may have about shirt fabrics when placing your order, especially considering that different print types may interact uniquely with particular fabric types. Just let us know what you’re envisioning and we’ll help to make it happen!