One of the most common questions we get is “How do I pick the right t-shirt for my project?” And, with so many options available to you in today’s market, it’s not an easy question to answer.
Kong groups shirts into 4 basic tiers based upon the type of materials used, the brand name, the point of manufacture, and how well we have found the shirts to print and last over time. We typically recommend going with the best shirt your budget affords, as people like to wear shirts that fit well, are soft, and will last for a long time.
When determining what shirt is right for your project, material is the first essential element to consider. Cotton is, by far, the most common material used to make garments, and manufacturers use a variety of terms to let you know what type of cotton they are using. 100% Preshrunk Cotton and 100% Ringspun Cotton are the two most common types used. Manufacturers also use synthetic fibers including Polyester, Rayon and Spandex in garments as well. Sometimes these fibers will be blended with the natural cotton to yield a different type of shirt.
Preshrunk or “Open Cotton” shirts are the least expensive option you can choose for your project. The typical weights for a t-shirt in this category are 5.0 – 6.5 ounces and would be considered “Heavyweight”. Because this type of cotton is just one step above raw cotton, it cannot be woven as fine or as soft. Most common brands/models for this type of shirt would be Gildan 2000 and 5000, Hanes Tagless and Beefy T, Jerzees 29.
Ringspun Cotton shirts are lighter weight and have stronger fibers because they are made with a higher grade of cotton. Sometimes called combed ringspun cotton, this way of making a shirt creates a tighter weave and softer feel. Common brands we regularly use in this category include Next Level 3600, Bella+Canvas 3001 and American Apparel 2001’s (American Made). These brands are considered fashion forward in cut and feel and typically offer men’s/unisex and ladies companion styles in the same color selection.
Polyester is great at keeping us cool and is often marketed as a moisture wicking fabric or High Performance Shirt. There lots of terms manufacturers use to brand this fiber – for instance, Cool-max or Clima-cool – but they are generally made from 100% poly or a mixture of it and other synthetics.
When considering the tee that’s best for you, one great shirt option combines a high quality ringspun cotton with polyester. Many common blend ratios are 50/50, 60/40 and 65/35. Blending the two fabrics increases strength, decreases weight, and adds to softness. Although not a moisture wicking shirt, these blends do reduce sweating and show fewer stains. Common brands we print in this category would be the American Apparel BB401 (50/50), the Next Level Cotton/Poly 6200 (65/35) or CVC 6210 (60/40), and the Bella+Canvas 3650 (52/4).
Still another approach is the much beloved Tri-blend – a shirt using ringspun cotton, polyester and rayon. American Apparel’s version is the TR401, which they call the Track Tee. The Bella+Canvas 3413 and Next Level 6010 are also great options for Tri-blend shirts.
All of the above shirts, namely ringspun cotton, Polyester and Cotton/Poly blends will commonly come in Crew Necks & V-Necks and in Men’s & Women’s Styles. Some brands offer tank tops, racerbacks, deep V necks, scoop necks and youth styles as well.
Brand, fit and style options are often a matter of personal preference. However one thing is certain, there is no shortage of options to choose from when selecting shirts for your screen-printed project. Our staff is happy to advise you on what shirt will best fit your project and your budget. We also welcome you to come to our studio to see and feel the difference for yourself.