Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

Ohio State University Extension Information

Consumer and Textile Sciences

1787 Neil Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43210-1295


Norma A. Pitts,
Extension Specialist, Clothing

Joyce A. Smith,
Extension Specialist, Clothing

figure afigure b
Figure A.Figure B.

T-shirts are versatile wardrobe items. Today they are used as undergarments but also as fashionable outerwear for all members of the family. Quality and price of garments vary greatly. What are the characteristics of a quality Tshirt? What do you look for when comparing T-shirts to get the best buy?

Fabric Construction

Select a T-shirt that will keep its shape and not be shorter and wider after laundering. The structure of the knit is the determining factor. Look for shirts with firm, even, close knitting. Examine the knit structure closely. The tiny loops should be plump and round, not stretched and pulled into long thin shapes. If they are stretched, once the garment is laundered, the loops return to their normal round shape and the garment becomes shorter and wider.

Look for round loops (Figure A). Avoid T-shirts with stretched loops (Figure B). Remember, the rounder the loops, the better chance that the knit will retain its shape through many wash loads.

Garment Cut

figure 3

The garment should be cut with the grain. The vertical loops will be at right angles to the lower edge rather than distorted. The side seams will be in correct position rather than twisted to the front or back. If the garment is cut improperly, it will remain twisted and out of shape after washing.

Often, T-shirt bodies without side seams are cut from circular knit tubes. Check for evenness of "grain" and a smooth rather than twisted garment body. Look at how the sleeves are cut. They should be of sufficient size and ease to not bind the wearer nor appear twisted in the armhole.

Fiber Content

Check the hang tag or other package and label information. T-shirts are available in 100 percent cotton, 50 percent cotton and 50 percent polyester or other blend levels of cotton and polyester or other synthetic fibers, such as 60 percent cotton and 40 percent polyester. Cotton provides absorbency and comfort. The addition of synthetics, especially polyester, can add stability and reduce shrinkage. Polyester fibers contribute wrinkle resistance and allow garments to dry more quickly than all cotton garments. Care requirements may differ depending on the fiber content.

Shrink Resistance and Special Finishes

T-shirts should be shrink resistant to one or two percent to maintain proper size. All-cotton T-shirts, even high quality ones, if unfinished, may shrink as much as five percent which is more than a size change. So buy a larger size to compensate for such shrinkage. Blended T-shirts tend to shrink less.

New finishes and processing treatments for knits are creating products that will not shrink, or shrink only minimally. Read information given on labels or packaging to note shrink resistance and guarantees. These processes mean you can buy T-shirts according to your size and fit rather than buying a larger size to allow for shrinkage.

Care Requirements


Most T-shirts have a sewn-in care label. Refer to the directions to determine the required garment care. Some Tshirts can be machine washed in hot or warm water and tumble dried; others may require more special care such as machine washing in cold water and line drying or lying flat to dry. Shirts in rich, deep colors usually require washing separately in cool water. Decorative tees with transfer prints generally specify special care, such as turning the T-shirt wrong side out before laundering. Remember, to maintain garment appearance, you must follow care recommendations. Consider the care you are willing to give before buying the garment.

Garment Construction

Examine T-shirts for overall smooth, even stitching with no drawing of seams. Top-stitching should be flat and straight without broken stitches. Neckband and sleeve edge finishes should be even and smooth. Hems should not show, or else be top-stitched as part of the garment design. Back, shoulder and neck seams should be reinforced with tape to help retain shape. Seams should be serged (overcast) or zig-zagged to lie flat yet have give.


The neckband should be a firm enough knit to stretch over the head, then return to shape. A firm knit ribbing is often used. A nylon blend ribbing gives extra reinforcement.

Style/Decorative Effects

Color, style features, or other detailing of T-shirts influence your choice. You may want a classic crew-neck Tshirt in a particular color, or one with fashion/style details. Some T-shirts have "V", boat or cross-over necklines. Embroidery, cut-work, contrasting binding or trim, and pockets or cuffs may be added detailing. Transfer or print pictures and lettering add novel looks. What type do you want?

Look for smooth construction and application of trim or other garment detailing. Make sure the decorations are durable. Check to see if the decorative effects require special care.

Size and Fit

The garment style and fullness of cut influence size. Sizing and amount of cam provided will vary greatly among brands. For example, a size large in one brand of garment may be smaller by four or five inches in the body and skimpier in the sleeve/armhole sections than another brand of garment. Choose a T-shirt with sufficient width across the shoulders and enough sleeve room. It is best to try on the garment. Remember, if the label on 100 percent cotton T-shirts does not guarantee shrink resistance, buy a larger size.

Compare Before You Buy!

Reference: Buying T-shirts, Michigan State University Extension Bulletin, E-398.

All educational programs conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, age, disability or Vietnam-era veteran status.

Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Adm. and Director, OSU Extension.

TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-6181

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