The Great Cotton Debate: 100% Vs. Blended

Author: Zachary Lowell

Cotton Plants

Without looking at the collar tag, do you know what your material your shirt was made with? For those who aren’t sure the go-to guess is most likely going to be cotton. And, odds are, this educated assumption is probably going to be correct – or at least partly correct. Most shirts today are made from either pure cotton or cotton blended with some other fiber. But which is better? While this question has been the subject of vigorous debate in the sartorial world for years, many less fastidious dressers may still be unsure which camp they should support.

Just like high thread count numbers, shirts made with 100% cotton are thought to be more desirable than blends. Yet many people are still unclear about the advantages and draw-backs of pure and blended cotton fabrics.

It’s said that the real advantage of 100% cotton fabrics is their smoothness – some claim they feels better to the skin, have a finer drape, are more breathable, etc. Sure, natural fibers like cotton are usually soft and comfortable, but the quality of any fiber comes down to things like how it’s grown, milled, finished and woven. In the end, a custom tailored shirt made with a cotton blend is likely to feel much nicer than a 100% cotton shirt that comes in a bag from a big-box retailer.

In many cases, blending cotton with other fibers produces garments that are stronger, more breathable and more eye-catching. Linen, for example, is often woven with cotton to create cool, long-lasting summer time shirts and suits. Synthetic fibers like polyester and rayon can add a more lustrous shine and texture to a shirt that would be impossible to achieve with just pure cotton. In most cases though, a blended cotton fabric will contain about 80% cotton and 20% other material, which is usually considered just the right balance for a noticeable cottony feel and texture.

Another major disadvantage for many natural fibers is their tendency to wrinkle, and cotton is no exception. Pure cotton garments need a lot of attention to keep them looking their best – or at least they need more attention than blended cottons, many of which feature wrinkle-fighting synthetics fibers or are treated with a non-iron finish to make them even more maintenance-free. While fabric finishing techniques are continually improving, pure cottons still can’t match blends in terms of ease-of-wear.

In many the ways the blended vs. the pure cotton debate is far more complex than most people realize and both sides can certainly claim the superiority of their argument. Both types of fabric offer their own particular strengths, making them hard to compare. But, by understanding the pros and cons of each, you’ll be able to find clothing that better suits your lifestyle and needs.


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