Like most adults, you probably own a whole dresser drawer or closet shelf full of t-shirts. T-shirts make the perfect outfit for all occasions, like cheering on your favorite team or hanging out at the neighborhood BBQ. But picking the best t-shirt for you may seem confusing when you have to choose from many different types of t-shirts!
Popular styles of t-shirts include variations in the neckline like crewneck, v-neck, henley-style, and boyfriend collar options. T-shirt sleeves also come in various cuts like half-sleeve, cap sleeve, and Raglan sleeve. T-shirts can also contain different types and weights of material.
In this article, you will learn about the 27 most popular styles of t-shirts. You will discover what type of fabric makes a good-quality tee. Finally, you will find tips on choosing the perfect t-shirt for you!
What is a T-Shirt?
A t-shirt is a kind of shirt that has no collar and contains a soft knit fabric. Originally, t-shirts served as undershirts for men to wear beneath a button-down shirt. This explains why the most popular type of t-shirt remains a short-sleeved, crew-necked shirt.
The name “T-shirt” may have emerged simply because the shape of the shirt, with its rectangular body and square sleeves, looked like the letter T! You can also refer to a T-shirt as a tee, tee shirt, or t-shirt. But the most commonly accepted spelling for the world’s most popular shirt style is T-shirt.
As we know them today, T-shirts took off in 1913 when the US Navy allotted this type of undershirt to all crewmen. But for several decades, the comfy, stretchy style of the shirt remained nothing more than an undergarment.
Like many fashion crazes, the t-shirt owes its global fame to Hollywood. In 1950, a famous actor named Marlon Brando wore a t-shirt with no shirt over it in a movie called A Streetcar Named Desire. He even sports the famous tee on the movie poster!
With the ice broken, another famous actor named Jame Dean traded on the shock value of wearing a t-shirt in public in the movie Rebel Without a Cause. These stars made wearing a t-shirt on its own both a sign of freedom and rebellion and a popular choice.
After this surge in popularity, the tee could have faded away like so many fashion trends. But a key textile development helped keep it front and center. In the 1960s and 70s, the development of synthetic fabric for the general public reached huge new heights. Fabrics like polyester, created as part of the war effort during WWII, quickly began to take over the clothing industry because they cost so much less to produce than cotton.
T-shirts made out of stretchy polyester jersey knit helped keep this style of shirt selling. Another big innovation, the idea of adding printed slogans to a tee, also played a large role in maintaining the t-shirt’s popularity.
While all the other influences on the t-shirt, like James Dean, certainly played an important role, you could argue that the punk movement of the 1970s set the seal on the perpetual popularity of the tee. This is because the punk rock movement, with its passion for rock music and opposition to the Vietnam War, used t-shirts with printed slogans as a medium to convey the feelings of an angry young generation.
From then on, the tee became one of the best ways to express personal beliefs, allegiances, and feelings!
Today, graphic tees feature pretty much every language spoken around the world, as well as every kind of statement imaginable, from grumpy cats to feminist slogans to political affiliations.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the t-shirt is the most popular type of garment in the world today. These days, you can find the iconic shirt in many different style variations, including features like different sleeves, necklines, and fabric weights.
27 Types of T-Shirts
Different types of t-shirts include tees with neckline variations, like V-neck, scoop neck, and crewneck. T-shirts also feature a variety of sleeve styles and fabric types, and the printing method used varies a lot for graphic tees.
The neckline on a t-shirt is the shape of the cut-out for the head. The most traditional type of t-shirt neckline is the classic circular crewneck, but today, many neckline styles have gained wide popularity.
A crewneck neckline features a smaller, circular outline around the neck with ribbed edging. This classic style remains popular today and is the type of neckline you often see on t-shirts. It gets its name from the fact that rowing teams ( or “crews”) used to wear this neckline style on their rowing shirts.
V-shaped necklines have a rounded back but a V-shaped front of the neckline. The depth of the V can vary a lot, especially in women’s tees. A deeper V creates an edgier, sexier style for women’s tees.
For men, wearing a V-neck rather than a crewneck tee can indicate a slightly dressier style. Pairing a V-neck t-shirt with a cardigan or jacket can create an appropriate outfit for some workplaces, for example.
You don’t see the polo collar t-shirt as often because it blurs the lines between an actual polo shirt and a more casual t-shirt by adding a small, slightly folded-over collar onto a tee. This shirt style will still use regular jersey knit t-shirt fabric, though, making it look more like a tee than a slightly dressier polo shirt.
A yoke neckline means that the top section of the shirt is made out of a separate piece of fabric attached to the shirt’s body with a curved seam. Yoke necklines often have a scoop or rounded opening and may also feature special decorations like embroidery.
Boyfriend CollarNo products found.
A boyfriend collar on a t-shirt does not have a collar! Instead, it has a wider, looser neckline and a baggier shape, meant to look like a woman borrowing her boyfriend’s t-shirt. While the shape of the shirt resembles the cut of a men’s tee, the fabric usually features a soft, flexible knit like a tri-blend material.
A scoop neck has a deeply rounded shape like the letter U. It takes the idea of a crewneck with its rounded neckline and deepens the curve, drawing the eye more noticeably to the neckline. You see this neckline almost exclusively on fitted women’s tees.
A t-shirt with a Henley collar has no collar, but it does have a placket with or without buttons at the front of a round crewneck neckline. You could argue that this style of shirt is more of a Henley shirt than a t-shirt, but it still features the classic jersey knit of a tee. It also typically has short sleeves, rather than a Henley’s traditional long sleeves and waffle fabric.
A turtleneck t-shirt has a closely fitting neckline that comes up around the throat, usually just to a height of half an inch or an inch. Unlike a traditional turtleneck shirt, it does not usually have a very tall turtleneck meant to fold back over on itself. It also typically features either short or three-quarter-length sleeves rather than long ones.
A ringer-style tee has a classic crewneck style, but the ribbed fabric around the neckline and the cuffs of the sleeves uses a contrasting color to the rest of the shirt. This look first appeared in the 1960s and has a vintage vibe today. You can wear a ringer style tee, much as you would a polo shirt, to look a little bit classier than an average plain tee.
T-shirts originally only offered one style of short sleeve, but today, you can find several types of tees that have variations in the type of sleeve.
A half-sleeve is the traditional short-sleeve style originally featured on all t-shirts. Many half sleeves use a set-in style, meaning that a rounded seam stitches the sleeve to the shirt all the way around. Half-sleeves also typically feature a folded-under hem with a line of double stitching around it.
Cap sleeves look like half circles attached to the shoulder of the shirt. These delicate, small sleeves look great on fitted women’s-cut tees. Another variation of this style is a very short sleeve extending only an inch or two from the shoulder, also most commonly seen on women’s tees.
Long-sleeve t-shirts have full-length sleeves either in a set-in or raglan style. Otherwise, the shirt looks very much like a regular tee. You can get long sleeve men’s, women’s, or unisex tees.
T-shirts with three-quarter-length sleeves have sleeves that end between the elbow and the wrist. These shirts usually feature a fitted women’s cut and may have other decorative elements like a scoop neckline. You do find some informal, more boxy-looking shirts with three-quarter sleeves, but more often, this sleeve style indicates a slightly fancier style of t-shirt.
A raglan sleeve t-shirt has sleeves that attach to the shirt uniquely to provide extra mobility. Instead of sewing a circle around the top of a sleeve to attach it to the shoulder, raglan sleeves connect all the way to the neckline with a diagonal seam. This style became popular when baseball players used it in their uniforms.
Another important difference between certain types of t-shirts is the kind of fabric used in the shirt. This can vary by the type of material or by the weight of the material. Though T-shirts can contain different types of material, they always feature a soft knit fabric formed by knitting loops of fine threads together into a stretchy and flexible material.
In the early days, all t-shirts contained cotton fabric. It made the perfect undershirt because it felt soft, had great breathability, and quickly absorbed sweat and moisture. Today, you can get tees made out of many different types of cotton. These include ultra-soft kinds of cotton, like combed cotton, or more sustainable forms of cotton, like organic cotton.
If you want to go high-end, you can even buy tees made of luxury cotton, such as Pima or Supima cotton, which uses a special breed of cotton fiber with long staples.
Polyester t-shirts may not feel as soft as cotton tees, but they contain a durable and affordable synthetic fabric. Polyester tees have pros and cons since they do not usually feel quite as comfortable as cotton tees and cannot work with many popular printing methods. But they cost much less than many clothing brands that incorporate at least a percentage of polyester fibers into their shirts.
A t-shirt made with tri-blend fabric has an extra soft and silky feel. It uses cloth containing three different fibers: polyester, cotton, and rayon. The proportions of each type of fabric can vary.
T-shirt fabric uses a weight metric of how many ounces a square yard of the material weighs. Common t-shirt fabric weights range from just over 3 oz for super lightweight tees to extremely heavyweight tees at about 7 oz. Another way to think about this is that a lower weight means a thinner fabric, while a heavier weight indicates a thicker, warmer fabric.
Some types of t-shirts also have unique stylistic features, like a different cut.
Longline t-shirts have an extra length, much like a shirtdress, but in t-shirt fabric. Technically, any tee with a longer than standard length also falls into this category, as do all the shirts cut extra large in the current trend for oversized garments.
One common stylistic difference you see on many tees is the addition of a pocket on the left side of the breast. Men’s tees sometimes feature a large, actually usable pocket, but women’s tees often have a small decorative pocket in the same place.
A baseball tee is a type of raglan-cut t-shirt that has sleeves in a contrasting color to the body of the shirt. This roomy, flexible cut of t-shirt became popular because of the type of uniforms baseball players wear. Baseball-style and raglan tees often cost slightly more than t-shits with regular set-in sleeves.
A singlet is a kind of sleeveless t-shirt with deeply scooped-out armholes, often used for running or other active sports. Technically, you could argue that this sleeveless number falls into a tank top category rather than a shirt category. However, it did originate as a t-shirt and still uses t-shirt fabric today.
A muscle cut or athletic cut t-shirt has extra space in the shoulders and chest and a more narrow waist. You can also find muscle tees with a sleeveless style meant to show off the arms.
Graphic t-shirts feature a printed design such as lettering, a photo, or a design. Unlike a regular t-shirt that may contain different patterns or colors woven into the fabric, this style has a design added to the surface of the cloth using a printing method.
The direct-to-fabric or direct-to-garment printing methods remain one of the most popular commercial ways to create graphic t-shirt designs. This technique uses large specialty printers to translate a digital image directly into a design on the fabric because the entire bolt of material or t-shirt can roll right through the printer!
One of the best-quality ways to create a graphic tee is to use screen printing. This textile art produces an image by pushing ink through a stencil on a mesh screen. It uses a uniquely thick and soft type of ink that forms a raised design on the shirt’s surface.
Another popular way to add a design to a t-shirt is to apply heat transfer vinyl or HTV. The designer cuts out lettering or an image from vinyl sheets and then uses a heat press to activate the adhesive on the back of the vinyl. This also produces a design with a slightly raised texture, though it may feel a bit stiff to the touch.
Sublimation printing uses a special chemical process to bond dye inside the fibers of polyester t-shirts. This newer method of creating graphic t-shirts has recently achieved massive popularity, as it costs less than other models of printing and can create very soft and durable designs as well.
What is the Highest Quality T-Shirt Material?
T-shirts containing 100% cotton are usually the highest quality, as they feel softer and more breathable than tees made from synthetic cloth.
Other important elements of quality for a t-shirt can include:
- Whether or not the shirt contains pre-shrunk fabric. Cotton can shrink a lot when it gets wet or experiences high heat, so buying pre-shrunk means you do not have to worry about ruining your tee every time you wash it.
- Other factors, like the spinning and combing process used to create cotton, can also impact the quality of the shirt. Specialty types of cotton, like ringspun cotton, will feel silkier.
- Of course, you can also go all out and buy a premium, luxury t-shirt made out of Pima cotton.
- The weight of the fabric can give a -shirt higher or lower quality. Super lightweight fabric often has a cheap feel and can wear out quickly.
- The type of stitching used to hold the material together also matters. Cheaper t-shirts sometimes use single lines of stitching, while more durable shirts use double stitching.
What are Thick T-Shirts Called?
Thick t-shirts are usually called heavyweight tees. These shirts use fabric weighing at least 6 oz per square yard, meaning that the soft jersey knit will feel substantial in your hand. The weight of the fabric can mean increased thickness, but it can also mean a denser knit that packs more threads into a smaller space.
Heavyweight tees have lots of advantages. They feel soft and warm but still have great breathability. They make an excellent everyday wardrobe staple during chilly months of the year.
Another advantage of a heavier-weight t-shirt, whether it contains cotton, polyester, or a tri-blend fabric, is that it will often hold up better than lightweight fabric. The thicker fabric has better durability and will not fray or tear as quickly.
On the other hand, you might not want to wear a heavier tee out jogging or during the summer!
What Type of T-Shirt is Most Popular?
By far, the most popular t-shirt style of all time remains the classic crewneck with short sleeves. You can find this style with all kinds of variations. For instance, you can get a crewneck tee in a women’s or men’s cut, an athletic or slim fit.
Of course, you can also find plenty of crewneck tees featuring graphics, ranging from trendy plant memes in 2022 to traditional lettering or sports team logos.
Black crewneck tees, with or without graphics, tend to sell better than any other color around the world these days as well.
What Brand of T-Shirt is Best?
It is difficult to say what brand of t-shirt is best because many brands sell high-quality t-shirts. This is not surprising since nearly every clothing line in the world manufactures some type of t-shirt!
A few of the most popular brands include Levis, Gildan, Calvin Klein, Nike, and Hanes. You can also find many newer, popular brands promoted affordably on Amazon, such as the Bella+Canvas brand.
On top of the many prominent popular brands of t-shirts available, you can find considerable variation in the type and quality of tees offered, even by just one brand! For example, Gildan sells many different styles of tees. Three of the most popular types use different fabrics, including Ultra cotton, a special athletic fabric called Dryblend, and heavyweight cotton.
Gildan DryBlend T-Shirt
The G8000, or DryBlend tee, is one of Gildan’s most durable and useful styles. It features a 50/50 blend of cotton and polyester fibers in the fabric. This gives it both softness and extra strength, plus great moisture wicking for active wear.
Gilden Heavy Cotton T-shirtGildan’s G5000, or heavyweight cotton style, has a luxurious softness and weight to its texture. The extra weight of the fabric makes the shirts longer-lasting, more rip and damage resistant. These shirts contain 100% cotton.
Gildan Ultra Cotton T-shirt
Gildan’s classic, popular G2000 model, features regular mid-weight cotton knit in a soft and flexible material. This shirt has a loose, comfy fit and a tearaway label for convenience. They use set-in sleeves and double stitching as well for added quality.
How Should a T-Shirt Fit You?
When t-shirts come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, it may seem tough to figure out how a t-shirt should fit you. Check out these handy tips to quickly master styling your favorite tee!
- First, most t-shirts in a standard length should reach below your belt. For men, aim for halfway down the fly. For women, look for a tee that reaches slightly down your hips so that you can raise your arms without the hem of the shirt sneaking above the waistband of your pants.
- Second, you need to choose the right size! A t-shirt is too small for you if you see bunching in the armpits or wrinkles along the side seams. While there is a time and place for an oversized t-shirt, you can also look sloppy if you wear a shirt that hangs off you.
- Another key element of fit is the shoulders. For both men and women, look to make sure that the seam that runs across the top of your shoulder ends right at the end of your shoulder. (The exception to this being a few special types of tees, like raglan tees, that do not have this seam).
- Finally, half-length sleeves should fit the contour of the upper arm without more than an inch of extra space in the width of the sleeve.
T-shirts come in many types with variations in the kind of neckline, type of sleeves, kind and weight of the fabric, and even in the type of graphic design. Out of all these, the original t-shirt with its simple crewneck remains the most popular choice for both men and women globally. But the great thing about t-shirts is that you can always find a style that suits you.
Types of fabric printing used for different styles of t-shirts include screen printing, DTG, vinyl, and sublimation printing. Different popular fabric types used in t-shirts include cotton, polyester, and tri-blend material. You can also find variations in the weight of the fabric used for tees, giving you even more types like lightweight or heavyweight t-shirts.