December 15, 2022 6 min read

Whether you're outfitting your favorite kiddos or buying 1000 tees for your company, shopping for clothing can be overwhelming--simply put, you have a lot of options.

Do you, for example, go with the big brands from the big box stores? Do you take a chance on little known companies, and if so, will your tees stay colorfast, be durable enough to last the entire season, and work well as a canvas for your oh-so-important logo? 

One place to start is with materials--do you need something super soft, like 100% ringspun cotton, or something more sporty, like 100% polyester? Sometimes the brand doesn't matter as much as the material--a cheap poly hoodie might work better for you than an expensive, well-known-branded 100% cotton hoodie. It all depends on the function you're going for.

With this in mind, consider the differences between common fabrics before making your next purchase!

First up . . .

Cotton vs Polyester: 

Polyester and cotton are some of the most common fabrics you see in tees, tank tops, polos, and hoodies, but they have some significant differences. You may know that polyester is a synthetic fabric made from chemical (usually from oil) while cotton is a natural fabric derived from the fibers of the cotton plant. The largeest difference between these two fabrics comes down to their feel and breathability. Cotton is well-known for being soft, breathable, and comfy, while polyester is more durable and less breathable. Polyester is also more resistant to wrinkling and shrinking than cotton, which makes it one of the best choices for sportswear It's also a great choice if you really need something to retain its shape. Really, the choice between polyester and cotton most likely depends on your personal preferences and the specific needs of your project--think poly for sporty clothing, and cotton for casual, everyday wear. 

Cotton vs Rayon: 

You've heard of Rayon, but did you know that it's also a manufactured fabric made from cellulose fibers? Just like with cotton and polyester, the key biggest difference between cotton and rayon comes down to touch and breathability. Cotton, again, is soft--sometimes so soft, you can barely feel it--and breathable. It's pretty much always comfortable to wear in nearly any context, while rayon, on the other hand, is more delicate and somewhat less breathable. Rayon is also more absorbent than cotton, which makes it a fantastic choice for clothing that needs to wick moisture away from the skin. Just like with poly and poly blends, think sporty clothing. 


Spandex is well known for being another manufactured fiber, and perhaps the fiber best known for its elasticity. Simply put, spandex can stretch to many times its original length. It's also commonly used in clothing to provide a snug, comfortable fit (like bike shorts or leggings), and to allow for a wide range of movement. You'll often see spandex blended with other fabrics, such as cotton or polyester, to add a slight stretchy quality. Again, some of the most common offerings that contain spandex include leggings, yoga pants, swimsuits, and athletic wear.

Ringspun cotton:

Many think of ringspun cotton as the holy grail of the cotton world's offereings--it's a type of cotton yarn that is made from longer, finer fibers than regular cotton yarn. In terms of process, the fibers are first combed to remove any impurities and then spun into yarn using a process called ring spinning, which creates a super strong, incredibly smooth yarn with a slightly twisted texture. For many ringspun cotton is the "holy grail" of cotton because of its soft hand--it's the softest cotton most manufactures sell, and like the synthetic fibers, it also retains its shape more easily and effectively. You'll see ringspun in high-quality tees and hoodies, the kind companies sell for $50 or more. In fact, instead of looking for brandname, just look for ringspun and you'll know you're getting a high-quality product.  


Nylon is another synthetic polymer, one that was first developed in the 1930s. You'll see nylon in the production of many everyday items, like toothbrushes, fishing line, and carpeting (nylon carpet is often considered top-of-the line for its ability to resist stains).

Nylon is often blended with other materials, such as cotton or polyester, to create fabrics with unique properties and characteristics. Since it's synthetic, it's known for its strength, durability, and resistance to wear and tear. Once again, think of athletic clothing, but also think of jackets and coats and workwear. 


Denim is a super sturdy cotton twill fabric that is typically blue in color, just like your favorite jeans! And that's where you'll see denim most often, as well in bags, dresses, and skirts. Denim's classic blue color is created by a dyeing process called indigo dyeing, where the denim is repeatedly dipped in a vat of indigo dye. It's a versatile fabric that can be dressed up or down, making it a staple in many people's wardrobes--we bet you have a pair of denim jeans in your closet right now!


Twill is a textile weave that creates a diagonal pattern on the surface of the fabric. It's formed by weaving the threads of the fabric in a diagonal pattern, which forms a distinct diagonal ribbing on the surface of the fabric. Twill fabrics are commonly used in the production of clothing, upholstery, and other textiles. Some of the most common examples of twill include denim, chino, and gabardine. The diagonal pattern of the twill weave makes it a versatile material that can be used for many different applications. 


Do you have a favorite hoodie? If so, you know how much we love fleece for its soft warmth. Fleece, like many of the other fabrics, is synthetic, and you'll see it commonly used in jackets, sweaters, hats, and blankets--anything designed to keep you warm during chilly fall nights or snowy winter days. Fleece is also known for its ability to trap air, and for its moisture-wicking properties, which help to keep the body dry. It's generally lightweight and easy to care for, so it's a popular choice for camping gear, outdoor clothing, and warmups. 


Oxford isn't just a type of comma or a college in England. It's also a type of cloth you'll typically see in formalwear. Because it's a sturdy, woven fabric with a basketweave texture that is made from cotton or a cotton blend, you'll see Oxford fabric being used in dress shirts worn with suits and tuxedos. The fabric does have a connection to England--it's named after Oxford University, where it was first used to make the uniforms for rowing teams. Of course, it's is known for its durability, wrinkle-resistant properties, and soft, comfortable feel. Oxford's basketweave texture gives it a slightly more casual appearance than other formal fabrics, such as silk or satin.


Silk is a world-renowned fiber that's become synonymous with luxury. Produced by certain insects, such as silkworms, silk has a luster, and is soft and warm. You'll see it in the fanciest shirts, bedsheets, pillowcases, and ties. It's perfect for evening or formalwear, as well as underwear and other delicates. Finally, silk is one of the world's oldest fabrics--think the Silk Road from your history classes.  


One of the last fabrics, acrylic, is a synthetic fiber made from a polymer called polyacrylonitrile. It's similar to wool in how it looks and feels, but it's much cheaper and much more versatile. Acrylic is known for its softness, warmth, and durability, which makes it a great choice things like sweaters, hats, scarves, and blankets, as well as carpets and upholstery. Acrylic resists shrinkage, fading, and wrinkling, so it's super easy to care for and maintain. And it's cheap to produce! 

French Terry:

Our last fabric, French terry, is made from cotton or a cotton blend. It's similar to regular terry cloth, but it has a smoother surface and a slightly lighter weight. French terry fabric is known for its soft hand and its ability to absorb, which make it a fantastic choice for sporty tees. It is often used to make sweatpants, hoodies, and other athletic and leisure wear. The fabric is named after the French town of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.

Hope this helps! Of course, once you've decided on the materials, your next big decision is where you're going to buy your wholesale apparel from. For all your bulk apparel needs, consider wholesalers that offer direct-to-public goods, especially if they offer a wide range of fabrics for you to choose from. 

Happy printing!

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