T-Shirt Vocabulary: Decoding the Descriptions

A t-shirt is a t-shirt, right?  Well, yes and no.  Years ago that was true.  But today there are subtle differences between t-shirts that make them very different.  Different in how they feel, how they look, how they hold up to day-to-day wearing and laundering and how well they embroider with your logo.

Here, we will help define popular terms used in t-shirt descriptions and offer explanations to better clarify the murky technical talk.

From the cotton used, the make-up of the yarn and the density of the knit, these construction details give clues to the characteristics of the shirt.

Material Make-up

Nearly all t-shirts are constructed of two materials, cotton and polyester.  For years, the 100% cotton t-shirt dominated the marketplace for t-shirts.  Cotton is a great material for a t-shirt.  It is a natural fiber, it’s soft, it drapes well on the body and it is durable.

But there are advantages to polyester t-shirts or even cotton/poly blended shirts.  Polyester material is more color-fast so colors won’t fade over time like they will with 100% cotton.  In addition, polyester reduces any shrinkage that may occur.


In many descriptions, this is usually the first number you read.  It represents the weight of a square yard of the material.  Most popular t-shirt material is a 6.1 oz. material.  But lighter weight materials are becoming very popular in the marketing today.  It is not uncommon to see a 5.5 or even a 5.0 oz. material used to make a t-shirt.

One common mistake customers make is reading too much into this number.  We as Americans have been trained to think a heavier material is a better, longer lasting, higher quality material.  That is not always true.  It represents the weight of the material and little more.

In the case of t-shirts, the measure of ounces can also represent the softness of the material.  In general, the lighter the weight, the softer it is likely to be.


The term “singles” is essentially a measure of a yarn’s thickness. In this case, the number works conversely to determine the yarn’s “hand” or feel or softness.  In very simple terms, the higher the singles number, the softer the feel of the t-shirt.

Many of the most common t-shirts sold on the market today have 18 singles.  But there are some fashion t-shirts that are 30 singles, which means they are very soft.

It is no longer true that “a t-shirt is just a t-shirt”.  They have grown beyond the rebel days of the 1950’s into a fashion staple today.

Here are some of our favorites, click on the picture for your information.

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