Shirting 101

Learn about the different weaves, types of fabrics & differences between different options.


Cotton is the most common used material in shirting industry. The fibers are straitened, stretched and twisted together into yarns, which are then used to make threads. Cotton is typically judged on its fiber length and thickness to determine its quality. Long fibers can be spun into finer and stronger yarns, which in turn create a more durable yet soft shirt. These cotton fibers are much rarer, usually making them more expensive. They come from areas with consistently ideal climates. For example, Sea island cotton accounts for less than 0.001% of the available supply of cotton, making it the rarest in the world. This special cotton is sought after because of its long staple length, strength, and bright color, as well as its scarcity. This cotton is grown in the Caribbean, where the climate and natural conditions are optimum for growing.

Linen is another commonly used material in shirting. It is made from flax plant fibers and is usually not as tightly woven as cotton fabrics. Linen shirts typically offer a breathability that is unmatched, however they also wrinkle more easily. The blend of cotton/linen in shirts can offer the coolness of linen while not being quite as wrinkle prone as standard linen shirts.


Ply refers to the number of yarns used to make each thread. You will typically see either a single-ply or a two-ply fabric, when it comes to shirting. A single-ply fabric would mean that one yarn was used to make the thread in the fabric. A two-ply fabric would mean that two yarns were twisted together to make a single thread. 

We do not recommend choosing a fabric solely based on ply. However, if all other factors remain the same, ply can have a noticeable impact. If a single-ply shirt and a two-ply shirt have the same size yarns, the threads on the two-ply shirt would obviously be thicker. This is why a two-ply shirts can be more durable and, in some cases, heavier. A single-ply shirt will be lighter and potentially more delicate.



How you clean your shirt will determine the life of that shirt. Included below are some steps we believe can help keep your shirts in good condition. We recommend unbuttoning the buttons on the shirt, including the cuffs and collar. It is also a good idea to remove the collar stays, if your shirt has them, before washing your shirts. We believe it best to wash with cold water and air drying. If you would like to, you can wash whites in warm water. When finished washing, your shirt will probably be crumpled up in the washing machine. You will want to hang them on a hangar or lay them out so those wrinkles don’t set. We recommend hanging a shirt up to dry.


We have found that it can be helpful for the shirts to be ironed while damp. When shirts are still damp, you can use a cool iron to press them. However, some shirts may need a hot iron with steam to get all of the wrinkles out. If you are having problems with tough creases, spraying water on the crease will help. If you prefer a crisper look, we think it’s best to iron the shirt immediately after the wash.


Unfortunately, all shirts are going to shrink somewhat. A shirt will shrink most during its first wash and shrink by smaller amounts each wash after. One of the main causes of shrinkage is heat from a dryer. It is likely that the higher the heat you use, the greater your potential for shrinkage. It is also possible that high heat can change the feel of your shirt. A common misconception is that cleaning a shirt by dry-cleaning will keep it from shrinking. While dry-cleaning may not cause as much shrinkage as some other methods, frequent dry-cleaning is not good for the fabric and can lead to damaging your shirt.



Poplin is one of the most traditional and classic fabrics for shirting. Poplin fabrics are made with a plain weave, where a single horizontal thread is woven over and under single vertical threads. The weave is typically tightly woven, creating a very smooth and soft feel, especially with higher thread counts. However, this weave can also be more susceptible to wrinkles. The fabric can feel very light and cool but also maintains a moderate level of durability.


End-on-end fabrics are essentially poplin weaves. The main difference between poplin and end-on-end is that while poplin is usually all one color, end-on-end uses a white horizontal thread and a colored vertical thread.


Oxford fabrics are typically more durable and heavy. They are made with a basket weave pattern which can give them a course yet soft texture. The basket weave is made when multiple horizontal threads are crossed over an equal number of vertical threads. In most instances, colored horizontal threads are crossed with white vertical threads, resulting in a 2-tone color appearance.


A twill weave is typically created by weaving one horizontal thread over multiple vertical threads. The next horizontal thread is woven over the same number of vertical threads but is shifted over one. The weave of each horizontal thread should be shifted over one vertical thread from the one above it. Twill has an easily identifiable look that shows up as diagonal ribs in the fabric. They have the unique property combination of maintaining a high level of durability without having to sacrifice a soft feel. Twill is usually thicker, and sometimes softer, than poplins. The weave of a twill can make it more resistant to creases and wrinkles and even make it easier to iron.


Herringbone weave is a type of twill, but with a unique V shaped pattern. The V shape pattern is what gives it its name, herringbone because of the resemblance to the bone of a herring fish. Typically this weave is heavier and found in seasonal shirting fabrics for colder weather. Herringbone fabrics share in many of the benefits of the twills like resistance to creases and ease to iron.


Dobby fabrics are created by using a special loom that weaves the vertical threads individually. They typically have distinctive patterns woven directly into the fabric. Dobby fabrics can come in all forms of patterns, colors, and weights.


Non-iron and Wrinkle Resistant might sound like the same thing but they are not the same, they are similar. Non-iron and wrinkle resistant fabrics are both meant to hold up against wrinkles throughout a full day of wear. They are sometimes called traveler shirts because if you have to travel, your shirt should still be in good shape by the time you arrive. A non-iron shirt, as the name suggests, typically requires little to no ironing. A wrinkle resistant shirt usually require ironing, significantly less  than most other fabrics.


The yarn count measurement is a commonly misunderstood number. Most people understand the measurement to be the amount of thread per square inch. The actual measurement is of how fine or thin the yarn is that is used to make the thread. For example, a shirt with a yarn count of 100 would be made using finer/thinner yarns than a shirt with a yarn count of 70. The 100 yarn count shirt will end up having more threads per square inch than the 70 yarn count shirt because the yarns used are finer and can be woven more tightly together. When all other factors are the same, higher yarn count fabrics will mean a smoother and softer fabric. These fabrics are typically more expensive, mainly because of the rarity of very fine yarns.