With nearly thousands of styles of T-shirts to choose from, you’ve got to have some guidelines. Understanding the difference in cotton fabrics used for all-cotton tees is a good starting point.

First, look at the description of cotton content.

100% cotton

  • Most T-shirts described simply as “100% cotton” are made from a less expensive, less refined open-end cotton, offering good value for a basic tee.


  • Ringspun cottons are smoother and stronger. They’ve been through a spinning process that softens and straightens each fiber.

Combed Ringspun

  • Another step up in quality is combed ringspun cotton, which is even more refined. After the cotton fibers have been spun, they’re combed to remove any impurities or imperfect strands.

Once you determine the type of the cotton, check on the weight of the fabric.

T-shirt Weights

  • T-shirt weights range from the very light (3.0 oz.) to standard (4.5 oz. to 5.3 oz.) to heavy (over 6 oz.).

Weight matters for a number of reasons.

  • The garment’s end-use can help determine which weight is best. A heavier weight is likely a better choice for a building contractor who is wearing the shirt frequently and washing regularly.
  • A lighter weight is typically preferred by women as a more fashionable choice. It will have a cleaner fit.
  • Climate might influence which weight will be more comfortable; the warmer the region or season, the lighter the garment’s weight should be.

Look at the weave.

You’ll see 18-single, 30-single and 40-single yarns.

  • The more cotton threads per yarn, the tighter the weave. A 40-single, 100% combed ringspun cotton tee is therefore extremely soft with a tighter, smoother weave than a T-shirt made of an 18-single, open-end cotton.

One final note:

  • Check whether the cotton has been preshrunk. Most 100% cotton tees on the market will be, but confirming this feature avoids any disappointment in how the garment holds its size in the wash.


A common question among those searching for the ideal t-shirt is whether or not the garment will shrink when washed. As you may have noticed, there are many cotton t-shirts on the market today that are “pre-shrunk.” But, what does that actually mean?

  • Today, most cotton t-shirts are pre-shrunk VS traditional 100% cotton t-shirts that will inevitably shrink when washed and dried. Luckily, among many technological advancements made recently, t-shirt manufacturers have the ability to “pre-shrink” the material used to make their t-shirts, thus avoiding unwanted shrinkage.

The term pre-shrunk mostly speaks for itself, but it’s important to be aware a couple important factors.

  • Pre-shrunk doesn’t necessarily mean that t-shirt manufacturers wash every single garment. Instead, it refers to the garment having been put through a machine that pushes, or compacts, the fibers tightly together. This process condenses the fabric by removing the space between the stitches as a way of replicating the shrinking process. In doing this, the garment now has been “pre-shrunk” and will shrink less when put through the traditional washing and drying process.
  • Having a pre-shrunk shirt doesn’t mean the shirt won’t shrink further. This means that even though pre-shrunk garments have been manufactured in a way to prevent shrinkage, you’ll still likely experience some shrinkage. Mind you, most fabric will shrink on average 3-7 percent so you won’t typically notice, but there will almost always be some additional (minimal) shrinkage to be aware of.

Bottom line…

  • Pre-shrunk implies that most of the shrinkage has been removed from the garment, but do not be misled and assume that no additional shrinking will occur.
  • On top of that, always wash in cold and hang dry if you want to eliminate unwanted shrinkage- minimal or not!