What is the best material for a polo shirt?

This is a question we get asked often from customers seeking to purchase logo embroidered polo shirts. It is a simple question and as with many simple questions, the answer is not very simple.

The two most common fabric materials used in the manufacture of polo shirts are cotton and polyester-or some combination of the two. Those two materials make up a vast majority of logo polo shirts sold in the United States today. There are some niche materials like bamboo and recycled plastic, but the number of shirts made with those materials is very small.

Cotton and polyester each offer advantages and disadvantages. Let’s explore some of those and see if we can shed some light on the answer to this question.

Cotton Polo Shirt

Cotton is a great, all natural material that has been used to make clothing for hundreds of years.  It is a tried and true material from which to make a polo shirt.  Cotton is soft and comfortable, durable and it drapes well on the body.What gives cotton an advantage is also creates a disadvantage.

Cotton is a natural fiber so it will shrink after repeated launderings.  And cotton fibers dyed with dark colors like black and navy will also fade over time.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, polyester got a bad name for itself that is only now starting to change.  Its reputation was for a stiff and scratchy material that was not very comfortable.  That was the polyester of decades ago, that is not the polyester material of today.

Polyester Polo Shirt

Today, polyester offers a number of distinct advantages for its use.   Polyester fibers, unlike cotton, do not shrink at all.  In addition, it holds the dark colors better than cotton and will not fade.

Logo polo shirts made of polyester also tend to be less expensive.

The biggest advantage for polyester however is the moisture wicking abilities of the fabric. Polyester fibers can be constructed and treated in a way that lifts moisture away from your skin to the top of the material where it can dry rapidly. Cotton cannot do this. (see Do rapid dry shirts really work?).

The disadvantages to polyester are that it can snag and it still fights the perception that some have of it being a stiff and scratchy material.

So as you can see, there is really no clear cut answer to the question of what is the best material for a polo shirt. It all depends on your needs, your use of the shirt and personal preferences. If you take those things into consideration when making your purchase, you really cannot make a bad decision.

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