As with everything in this world, your standard, basic t-shirt continues to evolve. Amy did a great job of breaking down the basics of t-shirts awhile back in her three part series (Custom T-shirts Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). Things have changed since then, and it seems like a good time to recap some of those changes.
How you determine the weight of a t-shirt has not changed. It is still the weight of one square yard of material that is used to make the t-shirt. That was discussed in Custom T-shirts Part 1. What has changed is the ranges of weight that t-shirts are being made with now. There used to be two basic weights. You had a 5.3/5.5 oz. option or a 6.0/6.1 oz. Now the options range from 3.0 oz. to a 6.1 oz. The industry has really shifted from “bigger/heavier is better” to more of a “fashion is king” point-of-view. Today’s fashionable t-shirt trends are more about lightweight and slimmer cut shirts. Because of that, the weights of the shirts have come down. Even the staple diet shirts like the Fruit of the Loom 3930R that once were 5.5 oz. is now a 5.0 oz. You will not find a fashion cut shirt that is over 5 oz. The Next Level Fitted Men’s Crew, Men’s District Very Important Tee, and the Bella Ladies T-shirts are some examples of the new lighter weight fashion fit shirts.
It is also interesting to note that weight of a particular style is based off the average weight of the different colors that shirt comes in. There might be some shirts in a particular style that weigh more because it takes more dye to create that color, and the reverse is also possible.
With t-shirts becoming lighter weight, some people may assume that t-shirts are a lesser quality or might not last as long. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of the new shirts are also incorporating better fabrics. Most of the old basic shirts were made with 18 singles yarn. The new styles now are made with 30+ singles yarn. Singles refers to pieces of sting that go into each yarn. The more singles the tighter and smoother the weave is in the yarn. Ringspun cotton used to be only used in a couple different styles of shirt. The Beefy T is a good example. This type of cotton is goes through a spinning process that makes the cotton stronger, straighter, and softer. Ringspun cotton is now used in many of the newer t-shirts that are coming out. Combed cotton is also becoming more popular in today’s t-shirts. Combed cotton means the fibers have ben combed through to remove any impurities. These newer styles of shirts are lighter and stronger than the t-shirts that were made just a couple years back.
Manufacturers haven’t forgotten about the standard shirts. The traditional favorites like the Gildan 2000, Gildan 5000, and the Fruit of the Loom 3930R are being updated every year with new colors. The two newer treads are heathers and bright colors. Heathers are created when white or black shades are mixed with a color to create a new more muted color. This gives the shirts a more vintage or warn look. Bright colored shirts are also very popular now. There are a lot of neon and safety colors that are becoming popular.
One thing that still really hasn’t caught on are eco shirts. You would think that in this day and age of hybrid cars, electric cars, wind power, and solar energy that there would be more eco options for t-shirts. They are out there, but there are not ton of options. The Anvil Organic T-shirt is one of the few options. Money is still a key factor as to why this hasn’t caught on more. Growing cotton organically cost more money, and thus the shirts are more expensive. The price may come down at some point, and then it could possibly become more popular.
In the past couple years, performance t-shirts have really become popular. These t-shirts are normally made of 100% polyester. Since polyester is not absorbent like cotton is, the goal of these shirts is to take the moisture of your skin, and pass it through to the outside of the shirt where it can be evaporated easier. These types of shirts use to be used mainly for sporting events. Now they are starting to be used in a lot more applications. They are being used for uniforms because their washablity and durability. Some performances t-shirts are also being used as giveaways because the prices have started come down. One hundred percent polyester t-shirts have also led to the more innovation in printing techniques. You can now get shirts with “all over” printing. These types of shirts are sublimated, and can only be done on 100% polyester fabrics. The imprint is printed on special type of paper. The paper is set on top of the t-shirt, and then put into a heat press. In the heat press the imprint is transferred the shirt. This gives a very unique imprint that is very difficult to achieve with standard screen printing.
Custom printed t-shirts have come a long way over the years. You would think that something as simple as a t-shirt could not change or evolve as much as it has, but a quick look back in time tells a different story. T-shirts will no doubt continue to evolve and change right along with trends and the fashion industry.