The Ultimate T-Shirt Debate: 100% Cotton vs. 50% Cotton 50% Poly vs. 100% Poly

A T-shirt is just a T-shirt. Or is it? After all the years we’ve spent in the promotional product business, we know a thing or two about the simple tee. If you’re looking to create or design custom swag for your brand, a T-shirt is the perfect place to start.

However, not all tees are created equal. Some shrink, some don’t. Some hold color better than others. They fit your body in different ways and wear differently over time. The type of shirt you choose should depend on who you want to eventually wear them.

There are three major types of T-shirts, each made with a different blend of materials. Some shirts are made entirely from cotton. Others have a 50/50 cotton/poly blend. Finally, some shirts are made from nothing but polyester. Each has advantages—but which one is right for you?

Let’s dive into each category and take a closer look.


Weaving Magic—The 100% Cotton Tee

Cotton has always been a popular material for clothing because of its remarkable softness. Run your hand over a cotton tee and you’ll know immediately what we’re talking about. You won’t find anything softer outside a petting zoo.

The softness of the material means that cotton shirts are very comfortable to wear. They’re light and breathe easily. They’re particularly good for swag because cotton has the most vibrant colors when screen printed. Logos and messages on these shirts really pop.

These shirts often fit loosely on the body, allowing air to circulate freely. Cotton does tend to wrinkle more than other materials, and it shrinks a little. It also stops trapping your body heat as soon as it gets wet, so it’s a better material for warm climates.


Clean and Dry—The 100% Polyester Tee

On the opposite end of the spectrum from cotton is the all-polyester shirt. These garments lend themselves to athletic activities because of their moisture-wicking properties. When you sweat, polyester wicks the moisture away from your body, transferring it to the outside of the garment.

Where cotton shirts are all about comfort, polyester shirts are all about functionality. They look good and they last a long time. They don’t wrinkle easily. They resist shrinking and are difficult to rip or tear. Polyester is a tough, practical material that works as hard as you do.

Of course, there’s a trade-off to get all that durability. Polyester isn’t as soft as cotton and it fits the body more closely. Screen printing on polyester shirts still looks good, but the are a little more faded than they would on cotton shirts.


Half and Half—The Cotton/Poly Blend

Want more softness than straight polyester, but more durability than straight cotton? You’re in luck. Cotton/Poly clothing is the best of both worlds, blending the comfort of cotton with the attractive functionality of polyester.

These shirts are very comfortable. Cotton/poly is a breathable material that feels good on your skin. Shirts usually fit loose on the body, making them great both for loungewear and athletic or physical activity. They don’t shrink like pure cotton shirts do. Screen printing colors come through more vibrantly than they do on straight polyester.

Cotton/Poly is a happy medium. If you’re a T-shirt savant, you might notice that it’s not quite as soft as pure cotton and that it doesn’t wick moisture away quite as well as pure polyester. But it’s a great compromise that offers the best features of cotton and polyester without many of the downsides.


And the Winner Is…

So, which T-shirt should you choose for your branded swag? If we’re being honest, it’s almost impossible to go wrong—but you should still try to pick a material that matches your audience.

If you’re going to use your shirt to reward employees, and your company has a sporty vibe, you might want to consider the half and half. After all, your employees are already familiar with your logo, and the shirts will offer them a lot of value while also reinforcing your brand personality.  They’ll also be wearing this shirt over and over, due to it’s amazingly comfortable fit.

What if you’re going to give your shirts to clients? If your brand has to do with home goods or targets a more mature audience, cotton is a perfect choice. The softness and luxury of the material will make a strong statement about the quality of your brand.

At the end of the day, the easiest way to decide is to come in to our office and try out these shirts yourself. Why not visit us in-store or online and learn how the talented marketers and technicians at Elevate Promo can make a difference for your business?

Our skills will fit your business to a tee. And we mean that literally.

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