Kiran Rao

One Engineers quest for the prefect t-shirt

In school, I moved a lot. And by a lot, I mean 3-4 times per year. Throughout the process, I discovered what I valued, and what I could live without. As I whittled away my stuff, I noticed my life improving. Cleaning became faster. I stopped buying junk. I stopped wasting time.

I found there was a name for this: minimalism. A bunch of these “minimalists” also wore the same outfit everyday. The benefits claimed were:

Hell yeah! So I did what any reasonable person would do. I picked the first grey t-shirt in sight. Looked good. Felt great. Bought 8 of them. Ditch all my other shirts1. Done. That was easy.

Old Spread of Shirts

The shirt was perfect in the winter. But as summer began, I realized my mistake. The super soft cotton proved hot and heavy. Leaving the house for 5 minutes left me drenched in sweat. Over time, the shirt started stretching and shrinking in weird ways. My once perfect shirts become uncomfortable and unflattering. Maybe I should have done some research…

Aspects of a T-shirt

Material Type

Material is the first and most important part of a shirt. The fabric makes a huge difference in how the shirt feels.

Material Weight

An often overlooked property is the material weight. In the US, it’s measured in oz/yd^2 (thanks imperial), though often called oz. As one would expect, heavier shirts (6+ oz) are warmer than lighter shirts (3-4 oz). They also look different. Heavier shirts tend to hold their shape, while lighter shirts tend to drape closer to the body.


There are three main features of cut: size, fit, and length. All three factors vary from place to place but generally:

Other Considerations

In addition to being a good shirt, I also considered the following:

My New Shirt

I ended up buying 14 unique t-shirt from 5 different brands. After 6 months of testing through 3 seasons, I finally found my new standard shirt: The Bella-Canvas 3415. It’s works for me because:

I’m not suggesting anyone go out and buy this exact shirt. Each person is different and what works for me might not work for anyone else. I hope this post is helpful in understanding what will make a shirt work for you.

  1. I did not actually “Ditch all my other shirts”. I instead donated the bulk of my aging shirt collection to Salvation Army. I kept a few that I really liked for special occations.