You probably own a favorite t-shirt that you have washed a million times till it feels as soft as butter. You might not even remember what the t-shirt felt like when it was new, but these days, you can buy brand new t-shirts that feel just as comfy! If you’re looking for the ideal t-shirt, you’re probably wondering: what is the softest t-shirt material?
The softest t-shirt material is tri-blend fabric. This material blends three kinds of fibers to create a texture that feels light and silky against the skin. The most common blend of fibers in a tri-blend fabric is 50% polyester, 25% cotton, and 25% rayon.
Let’s take a look at the qualities of the softest t-shirt fabrics, and consider which t-shirt material is best for you.
What is the Softest T-Shirt Material?
Tri-blend fabrics steal the show as the most available and affordable option for a soft t-shirt. Part of the affordability stems from the fact that tri-blend fabric usually incorporates at least one synthetic fiber, which knocks down the price compared to a natural fabric.
Of course, the incredible softness of this blended material is what makes it popular!
Various kinds of cotton also offer a luxurious, soft shirt, though this luxury often comes with a large price tag. High-end t-shirts are often made of pima and supima cotton. Fabrics like Egyptian and Sea Island Cotton also merit a mention for their exclusivity, priciness, and ultimate softness.
So, what makes tri-blend fabric so soft? Every fabric has strengths and weaknesses on its own, but blending them can create a material that celebrates all of the strengths and minimizes the weaknesses of the three individual fibers. The tri-blend weave of polyester, cotton, and rayon creates a soft, supple fabric that has become wildly popular in the t-shirt world.
Today many brands that sell t-shirts use tri-blend fabric. You can purchase a tri-blend t-shirt at Walmart or on Amazon.com, but you can also find unique graphic tees with a slightly higher price tag for sale on Etsy and from big-name brands like American Apparel, Under Armor, and Hanes.
Most mass-produced tri-blend t-shirts use a blend of cotton, polyester, and rayon. The polyester fibers in the blend provide a cheap, durable base for the blend, while cotton boosts comfort appeal, and rayon adds the light, silky element of the texture.
“Triblend” in the garment industry usually means fabric made with a ratio of 50% polyester, 25 % cotton, and 25% rayon. You can always read the product description to double-check the composition of the fabric.
Some specialty shirts take the idea of a tri-blend fabric farther and think outside the box, using different fibers altogether. For example, the Two Blind Brothers sell clothing that is all about the texture and feel of each fabric. They sell a dress shirt made out of a tri-blend fabric comprised of 66% bamboo, 28% cotton, and 6% spandex; they consider this the softest fabric of all time!
Pima and Supima Cotton T-Shirts
Pima cotton also ranks highly in the competition for softest t-shirt fabric. This cotton sports a longer fiber than the average cotton, which allows for a higher thread count and creates a softer texture in the material. For purposes of comparison, you might be interested to know that pima cotton and Egyptian cotton both qualify as something called “extra-long-staple cotton.”
Supima cotton has even longer fibers than pima fabric, which makes it even more soft and silky. On top of that, supima fabric is only manufactured in the U.S. and comes with quality guarantees. (Of course, this also means that supima fabric costs even more than pima fabric!)
Only the United States, Australia, and Peru grow this high-end cotton, which is named after the Pima Indians who helped develop it in the early 1900s. Only a tiny percentage of the cotton grown every year is pima or supima, which adds to its high price tag.
Though you can certainly find reasonably priced pima cotton products, these shirts can also range anywhere from $200-$800 depending on the brand and seller. Brands like L.L. Bean, Calvin Klein, Gucci, and Lacoste all sell products made with pima cotton.
Pima cotton is a renewable (though rare) resource; anything made from natural fibers has the advantage of being a sustainable choice. Pima cotton also boasts incredible softness and the breathable quality that makes cotton so popular.
The two big downsides to purchasing a pima cotton t-shirt are the price tag and the fact that cotton is an absorbent fabric that does not dry quickly.
Polyester and Cotton Blend
Both 100% cotton and 100% polyester lack the super-soft qualities of tri-blend and pima cotton fabric; no one argues that these fabrics provide ultimate comfort! That said, 100% cotton and 100% polyester remain a popular material for t-shirts because of their affordability and durability.
When you think about varying levels of softness, 100% cotton has a familiar slightly thick, slightly thready feel to it–while certainly far softer than something like canvas or burlap, 100% cotton falls far short of the sleek, smooth texture of fabrics like rayon or cashmere. Because of this, some manufacturers treat 100% cotton t-shirts with special chemicals to give them a well-worn feel.
A 50/50 blend of cotton and polyester, which merges the breathability of cotton with the tensile strength of polyester, also makes a strong showing on the t-shirt market. This fabric often referred to simply as 50/50, holds color and printed designs quite well, which makes it a favorite in the t-shirt world.
The only difference between 50/50 and a tri-blend is that 50/50 lacks the soft silkiness of the rayon that merges into a tri-blend.
Alternative Soft T-Shirt Fabric Options
Cotton variants and polyester blends rule the t-shirt market, but several newer fabrics are worth a mention for their unique qualities and growing popularity as well.
Believe it or not, bamboo fabrics are soft, supple, and breathable. Known for its moisture-wicking abilities, this fabric has seen increasing popularity in athletic wear since it handles moisture so much better than cotton and is also U.V. resistant and antibacterial.
Bamboo fabric is made by crushing and soaking the fibers inside bamboo and then spinning them into yarn for weaving. Some people rank bamboo fabric as highly as Egyptian cotton for its softness!
Modal fabric, like tri-blend material, has taken the garment industry by storm in recent years. Often used in underwear because of its lightweight and stretchy nature, modal also appears in many popular fabric blends used in t-shirts.
Modal is a kind of rayon made from the insides of beech trees. It sounds crazy to say that a fabric made from wood is famous for its softness, but there you are! The complex manufacturing process of modal does make it more costly than cotton.
Hemp comes with many benefits: greater tensile strength and durability than cotton, affordability, and environmentally friendly production (hemp required far less water than cotton during its growth process).
However, hemp fabric does hold odors, and it remains more expensive than cotton at this time due to limited production.
What is the Softest T-Shirt for Printing?
While 100% cotton tees remain a popular choice for screen printing, many companies today offer a selection of tri-blend shirts for custom printing (or to purchase in solid colors if you have a heat press at home and intend to do your own printing!). Bella + Canvas, Hanes, and Next Level, for example, all offer solid-color tri-blend tees that come highly recommended for printing.
Because of its tight weave and ability to absorb dyes, 100% cotton remains a favorite for high-quality, opaque print designs. However, the demand for more comfortable fabric has tri-blends edging in on the graphic tee market.
Some sellers claim that designs printed on tri-blends present just as well as designs printed on 100% cotton, while others admit that printing on the looser weave of a tri-blend creates a softer, more vintage-style design.
For those artistic souls who prefer to design and print t-shirts at home, you can safely use a heat press on tri-blend fabric. You’ll want to use a heat transfer that works at low temperatures–unlike 100% cotton, the synthetic fibers in tri-blends are sensitive to heat.
What T-Shirt is Perfect for You?
T-shirts are possibly the most versatile garment in the world. They serve as a blank canvas for graphics promoting your hobbies, allegiances, and beliefs; they keep you warm or cool as undergarments; and they come in a variety of styles to suit every body type.
If you want to select your t-shirts based specifically on the softness of the material, though, you may find this comparison helpful.
|Tri-Blend||Very soft, light, and silky||Low||Not as well as cotton|
|Pima Cotton||Very smooth and soft||High||Yes|
|50/50||A bit stretchy but not super soft||Lower than cotton||Yes|
|100% Cotton||Thicker and more thready than pima cotton||Lower than pima cotton, but more expensive than synthetics||Prints very well|
Besides pricing and softness, you probably want to consider when and where you plan to wear your t-shirt. For example, moisture-wicking fabrics do better in athletic wear than 100% cotton. If you want a sleek, stylish look, tri-blends make great fitted tees for dressier occasions.
Temperature also impacts the comfort of your t-shirt. Some materials work better to keep you hot or cool; polyester, bamboo, and rayon work quite well as cooling fabrics on a hot day (and they all have moisture-wicking abilities to keep you from swimming in sweat!).
Shirts made of wool, nylon, and hemp do a great job keeping you warm. It’s generally not a good idea to wear cotton as a base layer in cold temperatures since it absorbs moisture and can become clammy and chilly in the cold.
If sustainability concerns you, consider looking into some of the popular newer natural fabrics, like bamboo and hemp.
And if the cost is no barrier, you can go on a quest for the ultimate, absolute softness in the fabric world by exploring rare, costly fabrics like Egyptian cotton and naadam cashmere.
Finally, you also want to consider how the t-shirt fits you. T-shirts come in several cuts, from loose and boxy to the tight cling of a muscle t-shirt. Consider how tightly you want your t-shirt to shape your body before purchasing a particular style.
You can use the shoulder seams of a t-shirt to determine if it is the right size. If the shoulder seams rest partway down your upper arm, the shirt is too big, while if the seams drag up over your collar bones, the shirt is too small. Ideally, the seams should rest right at the point where your shoulder meets your upper arm.
Best Softest T-Shirts
How do you find this perfect shirt? Well, these days, most likely you turn to Amazon.com! Here are a few of the highest-rated soft t-shirts available now.
Softest T-Shirts for Men
American Apparel Tri-Blend T-ShirtThese solid-color crewneck tees come in various colors and a range of sizes, from small-XX large.
They are cut loose for comfort and to fit any number of body types.
This affordable 2-pack of tees comes with excellent ratings. Users applaud the softness and amazingly smooth texture of the fabric.
ONNO Men’s Bamboo T-ShirtLooking for a t-shirt with high ethical standards? ONNO Bamboo T-Shirt features a sustainable fabric made from bamboo, hemp, and pima cotton fibers.
Users say that these shirts have a silky texture and breathe incredibly well. They do require gentle care, and they come with a bit of a price tag.
But if you want to feel good about your choices while also literally feeling good in this soft t-shirt, give ethical bamboo a try!
Softest T-Shirts for Women
Ann Arbor Funny Sci-fi Space T-Shirt TopLooking for a soft, vintage-style t-shirt with funny screen print graphics? Ann Arbor sells a wide range, including this cute v-neck with a nerdy Star Wars graphic.
The fabric features the typical polyester, cotton, and rayon mix of a super-soft tri-blend.
For those who care about such things, this shirt is American-made and comes with a wealth of reviews that describe the fabric as “soft and comfortable.”
Beluring Women T Shirt Short/Long SleeveBeluring solid tees offer a slightly fitted style with side seams that curve in just a bit at the waist.
They feature a unique triblend fabric made from polyester, cotton, and spandex for extra stretchiness. The shirt comes in a rainbow of 29 different colors that provides options for any wardrobe style.
Hopefully, you now have a much better idea of all the options you can choose from in the t-shirt world! What is your favorite, most comfortable t-shirt brand? Leave a comment below to let us know!