Here is some valuable and important information for those that are interested in finding the softest t-shirt available for their teams or events. We tested 19 different styles of shirts from 100% cotton to various blends of cotton, polyester and rayon. Our goal was to find which of them were the softest shirts, both before and after washing them. The benefit of this information is being able to better select the type of shirt for your needs.
About testing for the softest t-shirt *
We acknowledge that we can't reasonably test every shirt out there. We had to narrow it down. So we wanted the test to be limited to shirts that had at least 25% cotton in the blend. So dri-fit moisture management type shirts were out. Sorry Nike and Under Armour, you'll have to wait for a different type of test. Additionally, we stuck to distributors that we know so that we could be sure to get the items in time.
This led us to 19 shirts from 10 different brands. The brands included American Apparel, Anvil, Bella + Canvas, District Made, District Threads, Gildan, Hanes, LAT, Next Level and Port & Company.
We used all black shirts (or as dark as possible if the style didn't have a pure black). And they were all size XL, in case you were curious about that.
The set up for the testing was pretty straight forward. We covered the labels on the shirts so there wouldn't be any bias and then some of our employees rated them on softness on a scale of 1 (less soft) to 10 (more soft). We didn't limit how they could test so some used their hands while others used their cheeks.
Keep in mind, the testing wasn't a ranking system. They were rating them all individually so some shirts scored the same.
Following the test we then washed all the shirts twice and hung dry them. We then washed them again and dried them on a "medium" heat setting. Then we did the softness test again.
First, the top 10 and their scores:
#1 [9.25] District Made - DM130 (Tri Blend)
#2 [9.00] American Apparel - TR401 (Tri Blend)
#3 [8.5] Next Level - 6410 (60/40 with suede finish)
#4 [8.00] District Threads - DT4000 (100% ring spun)
#5 [6.5] Next Level - 6210 (60/40)
#5 [6.5] District Threads - DT6000 (100% ring spun)
#5 [6.5] District Threads - DT140 (100% ring spun)
#8 [6.25] Bella + Canvas - 3001C (100% ring spun)
#9 [5.75] Next Level - 3600 (100% ring spun)
#9 [5.75] LAT - 6901 (100% ring spun)
Post-wash softness (and change from pre-wash score)
#1 [9.5 +0.25] District Made - DM130 (Tri Blend)
#1 [9.5 +0.5] American Apparel - TR401 (Tri Blend)
#3 [9.0 +0.5] Next Level - 6410 (60/40 with suede finish)
#4 [8.5 +3.25] District Threads - DT142 (Tri Blend)
#5 [7.5 -0.5] District Threads - DT4000 (100% ring spun)
#6 [7.25 +0.75] Next Level - 6210 (60/40)
#7 [6.5 +0.0] District Threads - DT6000 (100% ring spun)
#7 [6.5 +0.0] District Threads - DT140 (100% ring spun)
#7 [6.5 +0.25] Bella + Canvas - 3001C (100% ring spun)
#10 [5.75 +0.25] Hanes - Nano 4980 (100% ring spun)
The finish by the DM130 by District Made was not what we expected. Even as a tri blend, this dark horse wasn't expected to score this high, let alone at the top. And when you consider that these shirts anywhere from $2-$4 less expensive then the American Apparel TR401, it definitely makes it worth considering. However, the American Made aspect of the TR401 is always a strong argument for purchase.
Not listed in the top 10 of either test was the American Apparel 2001, that company's popular 100% ring spun cotton. It finished at #11 in both tests, but our first guess was that it would be in the top 5.
Check out the DT142 by District Threads in the post-wash test! While it is not uncommon for t-shirts to get softer as they are washed, the jump from this style was impressive. That makes is a great candidate for those seeking shirts for the long term.
If you are looking for softness in a t-shirt, choosing a blend is going to help. The next consideration is probably how the shirt will be used. If you are running an event and doing a give away, the pre-wash test is what you might look at. If you are looking at shirts for your team that you know are going to be worn repeatedly with laundering then the post-wash numbers might be a better choice. And of course price is always a factor.
If you would like some more detailed information on pricing or any other way we can help, call or email us directly.
*These tests were done for Select Printing's internal use. Opinions may vary.