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:
- Always wearing their favorite shirt/pants
- No time deciding what to wear
- Little temptations to buy new clothes
- Always looking great (or at least consistent)
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.
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 is the first and most important part of a shirt. The fabric makes a huge difference in how the shirt feels.
- Cotton is your typical t-shirt material. Looks like a shirt. Feels like a shirt. But, it tends to shrink in the dryer. Once it gets wet, it holds onto moisture.
- Polyester solves these shortcomings, but has its own. It’s commonly used for sports appearal because it handles moisture well. However, it looks and feels like a gym shirt. Unfortunately, gym shirts are not fashionable, despite what 10 year old me thought.
- Elastane, sometimes called Spandex/Rayon/Lycra, is a stretchy material mostly used in compression gym gear. It’s wrinkle resistant and very stretchy.
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:
- Size: S/M/L etc. Usually refers to what the shirt size is around the chest.
- Fit: Regular/Athletic/Slim etc. Usually refers to the size around the waist.
- Length: How long is the shirt? It’s rarely listed so the only way is trying it on.
In addition to being a good shirt, I also considered the following:
- Price: I don’t want to buy buying $100 shirts
- Availability: The world is experiencing supply chain issues. Am I able to buy 10 today?
- Longevity: Will the specific shirt exist in 10 years? If it’s fulfilled from a fast fashion firm, probably not.
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:
- Material: a blend of Cotton, Polyester, and Rayon. The best of all three.
- Weight: 3.8oz. On the lighter side, as I tend to be warm.
- Cut: I think it looks good. I have yet to have someone tell me otherwise. (In fairness, I don’t think anyone actually cares)
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.
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. ↩