A cotton t-shirt is as classic as it gets. We get our first one as little kids, and this comfy garment follows us through life. Best summer outfit? T-shirt and shorts! The best thing to wear under an itchy sweater! A cotton tee! While various new materials, such as polyester or acrylic, were invented thanks to modern technology, cotton is still our go-to in most cases.
But is cotton actually the best t-shirt fabric? Let’s look into it!
What is cotton?
Cotton is a natural and organic textile that does not contain any synthetic fibers or compounds. Cotton fabric is made from the fibers surrounding the seeds of cotton plants – you know, those fluffy white things we see in pictures – and its natural color is white or yellowish. Since the beginning of cotton cultivation, it’s been a favorite for its lightness, softness, and breathability. If made well, it’s durable and quite resistant to pilling and tearing.
The earliest known cotton fibers in textiles are from the Mehrgarh and Rakhigarhi sites in India around 5000 BC. The civilization flourished thanks to cotton cultivation and was known for its fabrics.
In the Americas, cotton cultivation was widespread around 4200 BC.
However, cotton didn’t get to Europe until the late Middle Ages. Fun fact, initially Europeans believed that cotton grew on mysterious trees in India and that it was a type of wool produced by sheep that grew on trees.
How it’s made
So how do the cotton fluff turn into our favorite t-shirts? After the cotton is harvested, its fibers get cleaned from dirt and seeds. This is done with a tool called cotton gin and the process of ginning. After that, the fibers are compressed into bales.
The bales are then brought to the spinning plant, separated by quality, and put through a carding machine, straightening them. They are then combed, bleached, and brought to the spinning machines that turn them into yarn!
The yarn now needs to be weaved with basic weaving or a more complex twill weaving method.
Types of cotton
Not all cotton is equal. You know it because some tees last you years, and others end up like rags after a couple of months. The most common types of cotton are regular, combed, organic, and Pima cotton. Regular cotton is the cheapest and least soft. The combed cotton undergoes different treatments and is more delicate and smoother. Organic cotton has the smallest environmental impact, is more durable, softer, and yes, more expensive.
Lastly, Pima cotton is of the highest quality, and therefore, if you’re looking for the softest and long-lasting tees, we recommend opting for this. Prepare for a higher price point, though!
Why is cotton great?
Cotton is beloved by many because it has some incredible qualities! High-quality cotton is comfortable, durable, and easy to wash. It’s also moisture moisture-absorbent and breathable. Cotton is one of the best choices for a t-shirt – you will stay cool and dry because the air can circulate freely throughout the fabric.
The cons of cotton
Yes, cotton t-shirts are amazing, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
Firstly, cotton wrinkles easily, which can be a downside if you hate ironing or travel a lot. To avoid massive wrinkles, always opt for high-quality cotton.
Secondly, cotton is less stretchy than certain materials. It’s also not great for workouts as it’s moisture absorbing and not moisture-wicking.
Lastly, since cotton is moisture absorbent when wearing specific colors, sweat stains are unavoidable.
So, is cotton the best t-shirt fabric? The answer is yes if you’re looking for something breathable, comfortable and durable. You might want to have a few other types of tees for working out, hiking, and when you need more stretch. Cotton-poly blends are an excellent stretchy option. Learn how to choose the best t-shirt material here with the Fresh Clean Tees guide.