100% Cotton vs. Cotton Blend T-Shirts

By Josh Clark

In the search for the perfect t-shirt for everyday wear or a custom one for a special event, knowing the differences between materials like 100% cotton and cotton blends will ensure you enjoy comfort all day long. Both options have benefits and drawbacks, and which one you enjoy really comes down to preference. Here are the facts you need to know.


Why choose 100% cotton t-shirts?

Cotton is used in most apparel, from our denim jeans to our favorite tee. Cotton is a fluffy, white vegetable fiber grown in the lower United States and abroad in areas like India and China. This material we know and love is highly absorbent, breathable, and soft—perfect for relaxing in all day. It is easy to screen print on as well.

Are cotton tees durable?

While not as long-lasting or colorfast, and with a vulnerability to shrinkage, cotton has been developed to stay longer in our wardrobes. The new solution is combed and ringspun cotton. This involves a process of combing out the fibers for impurities, then twisting the strands on a ring over and over. It results in yarn that is thin and durable, and guess what, even softer!

The quality garments produced from this process have a luxurious hand and a lightweight feel. Combed and ringspun t-shirts have become standard for fitted, fashion tee manufacturers like District Threads and Next Level, and they can be found in just about every casual clothing brand.

The type of cotton matters

The combing and ring-spinning processes can be done to any type of cotton. There are basically two types of cotton: standard-length cotton and extra-long staple (ELS) cotton. ELS cotton is superior because the cotton staples are longer and less prone to breakage.

Examples of ELS cotton are Pima cotton, Egyptian cotton, and Peruvian cotton. These high-grade cottons are already stronger and softer than the conventional kind and will keep their quality longer.  A t-shirt made from any of these high-quality cottons is a worthy investment.

Do cotton tees shrink?

As for possible shrinkage, most modern manufacturers preshrink their tees before they go on the market. Cotton does also tend to wrinkle, but a quick use of the iron or just simply hanging up the tee right out of the dryer helps to ward off wrinkles. It’s safe to say 100% cotton tees are a great choice for anyone who enjoys comfort, but what about cotton blended ones?

The advantage of cotton blends

Cotton blends take the benefits of synthetic polyester, also known as “poly,” for a boost of durability. Not only will you be able to wear these blended tees longer than 100% cotton ones, but the color is more vibrant and the wrinkles are nonexistent. The hand is silkier, and there is a bit more sheen to these garments. They feel lighter weight and have moisture-wicking properties to help you stay cool and dry.

The use of cotton blends in sportswear, safety wear, and fashion tees

Cotton blend t-shirts are great for summer wear and sportswear, and are popular picks for industries that require safety apparel. The percentage of polyester brings out the florescent green or orange colors that help keep workers visible on a busy roadway.

Another use of the cotton blend is in neon and vintage style t-shirts. These fashion-forward tees are all about the color that polyester can bring out. Sororities and fraternities, groups and camps often find the cool heather or hot hued tees are just what they need to show spirit.

You can find other versatile blends like tri-blend fabrics that add silky and cool rayon into the mix or cotton/spandex ones that are form-fitting. For a dedicated athlete or runner, a 100% polyester mesh t-shirt can be the perfect solution to cool you down. While more care has to go into printing these blended or all-polyester options due to their vulnerability to heat, our printers have the industry expertise to decorate any item.

The debate: cotton vs. cotton blends

What you decide to go with really depends on what you will use the t-shirt for and your overall preference for the fabrics, so there is no clear winner. It’s worth trying out the different types to see what meets your style!

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