T-Shirt Varieties…So Many Choices!

So, I was handed a magazine today to read a particular story. The model on the front cover caught my eye, since he had such nice eyes himself, then inside he was modeling several different types of shirts and I thought, with all these options… hey, wait! I think I have my next blog!

There are so many t-shirts out there, how do you find the right one? I know everyone has asked this question at least once if you work in any of the t-shirt printing industries.

Decades ago, there was only one – it was white and meant for wearing underneath other clothing as a, let’s say… undergarment. There wasn’t much of a decision to be made on which shirt to buy, but when Hanes introduced its t-shirts to the imprintable sportswear industry in 1970, that all began to change.

In 2012, a leading supplier offers 461 different shirts… for all shapes and sizes. So, how do you choose the right one? Well, I’m going to try to help with that!

Plain: Don’t be fooled by that word. Even the plain t-shirts have options. Yes, you heard me right. Options! And they seem to be endless.

Lighter weight fabric, ring spun cotton, pre-shrunk, slimmer cuts, tagless and better fits have all helped these “plain” t-shirts evolve into something magnificent. Plain t-shirts will work for things such as screen printing, heat transfer and direct-to-garment printing jobs.
You can take a blank transfer paper, like our JetPro SofStretch for lights, a regular inkjet printer and a heat press – then buy a few plain t’s and you’ve put yourself into business.

Poly: Right now polyester t-shirts are BIG! Sales have grown 100% plus year after year. They are major competition for the “plain” t-shirts. Blended poly/cotton garments have surpassed 100% cotton as the largest part of the t-shirt market (poor little guys). It has a nice retro look and a very soft feel, not to mention that they make a great fashion statement.

Sublimation printing has become so popular over the years, that’s been a big part of the growing need for polyester t-shirts.

If you’re into the sublimation market right now, 100% polyester is what you need, but you can also do some 60/40 poly/cotton blends. Just keep in mind you will get more of a faded vintage-looking shirt when using a blend.

Burnout t’s are incredibly popular right now. Most of those come in a 60/40 blend and you will see those t’s being fully sublimated everywhere you turn!

Fashion: These are very trendy and innovative t-shirts with new varieties being added every year. Most of these styles are a cotton/poly blend and also include the very popular, already mentioned burnout t’s. You will also see these t’s being offered in the trendy style shirt with dolman sleeves…worn by women. The fit is forgiving and the silhouette is very distinctive.

Pattern: Solid colors, of course will always be the best sellers, but patterned shirts are so much more fun! With patterned shirts, your creative imaginations can run wild. From stripes to camo prints, polka dots and tie-dye, you can find just about everything… and in every type fabric. Ringspun cotton has become a popular choice for your patterned t’s, as well as the good ole’ stand by, 100% cotton.

Now you won’t be able to apply a sublimation image to these types of shirts, due to the colors but you can use heat transfer vinyl, like our Easyweed Heat transfer vinyl or use your DTG machine or screenprinting equipment. You an even use a regular heat transfer paper as part your decoration if you choose.

Now we get into the less popular honorable mentions. I mean, I can’t leave anything out.

Neckline t’s: think buttons and v-necks. Neckline options can be subtly altered or dramatically revealing.

Eco t’s: With everyone wanting or trying to go green, these shirts come in handy. In the early days of eco shirts, they were coarse feeling and lacked fit. But now, you will see some of the best fitting shirts on the market are eco. Check the tag – I bet you’ll see the word bamboo (and oh so super soft)!

Color Blocking: Other names for these shirts can be raglan or ringer t’s. When it comes to this style, I think baseball shirts. But don’t think for a second that’s all it’s for. This color blocking genius can be deployed just about everywhere. All of these shirts can be used for screenprinting, direct-to-garment printing, heat transfer vinyl applications and can even be used with select heat transfer papers.

Now, onto the type of tshirt that I get asked most about, only because people want to know the best application for this type of garment.

Tanks: You may have also heard these called muscle shirts which happens to be my favorite term. These were designed to show off… well muscles of course and who wouldn’t like that?! (And yes, for those of you wanting to know, the model I became so obsessed with was showing off one of these himself – in gray).

They come in 100% cotton and just about every type blend you can imagine. Back in the 50’s, this shirt was called the “A-shirt” and that came from its shape. There’s also a women’s version we’ve all fallen in love with. It’s called a cap sleeve tank… that’s when a sleeve is not really a sleeve (get it?).

Tanks come in a heavy ribbed, baby ribbed, and there’s a few other options out there but they really just mean a couple things. Heavy ribbed is a thick ribbing where you can see raised areas of the fabric along with little ridges. It’s easily felt by touching. The tanks are harder to decorate, due to the ribbing, and the actual stretching of the material when you wear it. If you plan on applying a garment decoration to this material – please, please make sure it’s a stretchable one. If it’s not, you will see cracking or peeling at edges (depending on what method you used) and you may even see a little anyway if it’s stretched too much.

Baby ribbed works a little better than heavy ribbed. A baby ribbed tank has the same ridges but they sit closer together, making it a little easier to apply the decoration. You do need to use a stretchable material to keep the best fit, but you will have better luck for sure!

So, there you have it  – for variety’s sake, choose the right T!