When it comes to custom merch, t-shirts are amongst some of the most broadly appealing kinds available. Whether you want to apply your brand style or create brand new designs, t-shirts are one of the most popular kinds of merch available. However, that doesn’t mean that customers are willing to buy just about anything.
Most people in the world own a t-shirt. Most people actually own and wear multiple. They’re comfortable; they’re versatile, and rarely do they cost enough to break the bank. You might even have a favorite t-shirt or two that you keep going back to. Yet rarely do we think about the quality of the t-shirts that we own.
With a competitive online market, quality has become more important than ever. That’s why we’re going to take a closer look at what, exactly, makes a good t-shirt with our t-shirt quality guide. We’re going to explore different types of t-shirts, different fabrics, and how exactly you qualify the quality of your t-shirts.
The different types of t-shirts
T-shirts come in a variety of different styles. When creating a new t-shirt to serve as merch, it’s wise to think about those styles and what kind of people or dress styles they best suit. Whether formal, casual or something else entirely, there are different t-shirts to suit every kind of occasion.
Let’s break down the different types of t-shirts by looking at the different components: neck type, sleeve length, and fits. Let’s explore some of the neckline options below:
- Crew neck: The “default” t-shirt neckline, and the most common style of t-shirt for both men and women alike. This is a standard round neckline that suits as the base of the neck, suited to a more casual style.
- V-neck: Another style that’s popular for both men and women, offering a somewhat more defined look. For men, this style is more common in smart-casual settings, while women tend to wear v-neck style t-shirts with necklaces and pendants.
- Deep v-neck: This style is more common amongst women’s t-shirts, often for the purpose of accentuating the figure. There are many different depths of v-neck, both bolder and more conservative, as fits your preference.
- Scoop neck: Somewhat similar to a crew neckline, but it’s significantly deeper, making more a circular cut. A deeper scoop neckline is often preferred by men, especially those looking to show off a bit more of their physique.
With the different necklines, you also have to consider different sleeve lengths, whether to add any breast pockets and other elements of style, such as whether it’s designed to be a tighter or looser fit.
As such, you should always consider your market and your audience when choosing a style of t-shirt. If it’s a line for professional women, then a bateau neck may be more suited, while a crew neck is the most common choice for a t-shirt that’s designed to be worn in more casual settings.
Choosing the right t-shirt fabrics
When it comes to quality, more than the design, it’s the make of the t-shirt that’s going to play the real defining role. As with style, which fabric is the best is very subjective. But, there are notable advantages and disadvantages to many of the different materials on the market.
When looking at different fabric options, you need to consider how comfortable they are, how easy they are to wash, how your choice of fabric affects the price of each t-shirt, and how breathable the fabric is.
Below, we’ll look at some of the defining characteristics of the most common t-shirt materials out there:
- Cotton: One of the most widely found fabrics, a completely natural and soft material that’s known for its comfort and affordability. Cotton offers good breathability, too, meaning that it’s easier to stay comfortable while wearing it in warmer weather. There are different types of cotton, too, often differing by thread count and how the strands are woven together. As such, the softness, longevity, and other qualities of cotton can vary greatly.
- Polyester: Perhaps the second most common material used in t-shirts nowadays. This synthetic fiber is designed to be very breathable and resilient. As such, it dries quickly, it’s not prone to shrinking in the wash like cotton can, and it doesn’t wrinkle very quickly. Polyester is largely considered less comfortable than cotton, so it’s not used for casual wear as often, but is perhaps better suited for sportswear, for instance.
- Poly/cotton: A blend of polyester and cotton, usually made up of 50/50 of each, but sometimes there is slightly more polyester. Often considered “the best of both worlds,” it’s more comfortable than straight-up polyester, but less likely to shrink in the wash than cotton. Furthermore, it’s often less expensive than pure cotton, meaning a better deal, even if it’s not quite as soft.
- Linen: Another natural material, one that’s even lighter and more breathable than cotton, so it’s largely used in apparel that’s designed for summer and hotter climates. However, linen is not used quite as widely as cotton for a few reasons. It’s somewhat rougher, first, meaning that it’s not as comfortable on the skin. It also tends to wrinkle easily.
- Rayon: A synthetic blend of cotton and fibers from various plants, such as trees. It is designed to be silk-like in texture and look. It’s well suited for outdoor gear due to its lightweight nature, though not considered as uncomfortable as pure polyester. However, it’s not as resilient as polyester, either, and more likely to wrinkle with use.
- Tri-blend: Though not exclusively, this term is used to refer to fabrics that are a blend of cotton, rayon, and polyester. Like a poly-cotton blend, it’s designed to utilize the best attributes of each one. It can have cotton’s softness, polyester’s resilience, and rayon’s lightness, for instance. However, the qualities of a tri-blend are known to vary greatly depending on the balance of the materials used in it.
The above are only examples of what you might expect from each material. As mentioned, different types of cotton might bring different properties with them, while tri-blends can change depending on the balance of the three different materials inside them. It’s important to do more research into the specifics of the fabric and to test it out for yourself to figure out whether it would be well-suited for your market.
Your preference will most likely depend on how your t-shirts are expected to be worn. For casual, everyday wear, a poly/cotton blend might be the most cost-effective and suitable choice, while summer wear might make better use of linen.
How to evaluate t-shirt quality
We’ve looked at how different materials and different styles might better suit the expectations of your audience, depending on who you’re selling to and what the general purpose of the garment is supposed to be. But this is a t-shirt quality guide, which means we need to help you divine whether your own t-shirts are high-quality or not.
As mentioned, we may not actively think about the quality of our t-shirt all that often. However, it’s very much one of those things you notice when it’s no longer there. Below, let’s look at some of the signs of high-quality, and some of the symptoms of a t-shirt you might not want to sell.
- Quality of fabric is priority number one
As mentioned, different fabrics can suit different types of t-shirt and wearer differently. Taking the time to find and invest in the best fabrics that make sense for your budget is your first priority. For instance, you might want to make sure that any cotton has a certification assuring that it was produced domestically, and overseas products may not always have quality control methods as thorough.
The freshness of fabrics can matter a lot, too. Some fabrics, like poly/cotton blends, can become misshapen over time. This doesn’t mean that cotton always means good quality. You just have to make sure that the fabric isn’t past its expiration date when it starts to degrade and make sure that it has gone through some quality assurance.
2. Make sure it has neat and well-placed seams
In most cases, t-shirts are supposed to feel comfortable and secure in place, rather than too bold. As such, the seams should all fall in place and not be too attention catching. Puckering might be something of a style these days, but a lot of people think it makes the seams look like they would come undone with a tug, so be mindful of how you use it.
How your seams stay in position is crucial, too. For instance, the shoulder seams should not slide down the arm or forward towards the collarbone when the t-shirt is put on. Make sure that the seams stay straight. Otherwise, the t-shirt can feel uncomfortable for the wearer.
3. Test the construction
The seams are one example of how well constructed a t-shirt is. It might be the most important aspect of how they are made, but you need to look at the other signifiers of quality construction as well. Simply touching the fabric is one of the best ways to test that. It should feel firm but soft to the touch at the same time, rather than overly stiff or plastic-like.
Another quality test is to simply grab a handful of the fabric and crunch it up in your hand for a short moment before releasing it. The more wrinkles it has, the lower the quality is likely to be. If it has no wrinkles at all, that may also mean that it’s synthetic. Not that this is a bad or good thing, it’s just something that you need to know.
4. Give it a wash or three
Some materials, like some types of cotton, are expected to shrink a little after the first wash. However, you should give any t-shirt you plan on selling a test wash (or two or three) to see just how well it handles it. If it shrinks much more than cotton is usually expected to, that’s not going to be very practical for your customers.
Similarly, you should look at the edges and seams. If they start to fray after just a couple of washes, then it’s not likely to be too long before the whole thing starts falling apart.
5. Look for consistency in color and design
You should test out the t-shirt, both wearing it and washing it as normal for a couple of weeks, or wearing and washing more often for a shorter period of time. Look to see how consistent its aesthetic is.
Is the design starting to look wavy? Is the printing starting to peel or fade? How well does the color stick around? It’s important to test not just the longevity of the fabric, but of the design on the t-shirt as well, as its the most aesthetically obvious sign of poor quality.
Before you start selling anything, make sure you read this t-shirt quality guide
Anytime you’re looking to sell t-shirts, and you want to know just what is expected of your market, the t-shirt quality guide above can answer your questions and point you in the right direction. Many online businesses and fashion brands are selling their own custom designs. To ensure you stand out, you have to invest in the quality of your t-shirts.
We hope that the t-shirt quality guide above teaches you all you need to know about how to choose the right fabric and type of t-shirt, and how you can ensure that you’re getting the standard of garment you want to sell. If you fail to notice signs of poor quality in your own designed t-shirts, you can rest assured that your customers will likely let you know about it before too long.