A Guide to Men’s Shirt Fabric Types - Apposta

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A shirt’s fabric determines how it looks, feels and drapes. Each shirt fabric type has unique properties best suited to certain situations. For example, linen is light and breathable, making it best for summer. Cotton-cashmere meanwhile is soft and warm, so suited to winter. Understanding these qualities will help you to make the right choice for your needs.

What to Think About When Picking a Shirt Fabric

Fabric choice influences many aspects of a shirt from how stiff, transparent or breathable it is to how it sits on the body. It’s important to think about when, where and how you will wear your shirt. Consider the level of formality, seasonality and occasions you'll need your shirt for. You should choose a fabric which meets these needs.

How to Choose a Shirt Fabric by Need

Work Shirt Fabrics

Cotton is a classic choice for many types of work shirts. It's breathable, durable, versatile and easy to care for. Depending on the weave, cotton can be lightweight (poplin) or heavyweight (twill). In summer, a linen shirt can be worn in place of a cotton one. Specialist fabrics such as easy-iron and anti-stain are also suitable for work shirts.


Casual Shirt Fabrics

Casual shirts can be more textured than business shirts. Oxford weave fabric is one of the most popular, versatile materials used for men’s casual shirts. Chambraydenim, flannel and linen are also appropriate fabric choices for casual shirts.


Formal Dress Shirt Fabrics

Formal dress shirt fabrics should be smooth and have a high thread-count. The fabric should be tightly woven with a uniform look and feel to the surface. Poplin is one of the most commonly used fabrics for formal dress shirts, but it’s not the only choice. Other suitable fabrics for a formal shirt include: fil-à-filroyal OxfordsilkSupima cotton and Egyptian cotton.


Summer Shirt Fabrics

Summer shirts need to be breathable, quick drying and light. They are best made from breathable materials that can wick moisture away from the skin and keep their wearer cool. For this reason linen is a popular choice, as is cottonPiquevoilemock leno and seersucker are suitable fabric weaves for summer shirts.


Winter Shirt Fabrics

Winter shirts need to be warm and insulating. This means a thick, textured fabric is best. The best winter shirt fabrics include denim and flannel as well as cashmere and wool blends. Twill weave results in a thicker finish than plain weaves of a similar quality which means it is a good choice for cold weather.


Types of Men’s Shirt Fabrics


Cotton is a fabric made from the fibres of the cotton plant. It is extremely versatile and is used for shirts due to its softness, comfort, durableness and breathability.


Sea Island Cotton

Sea Island cotton is one of the highest quality cotton types and it has the longest fibres of any cotton species. These long fibres result in a smoother and more lustrous surface, giving fabrics a sheen often compared to silk. The high strength of the fibres allows the fabric to be woven very finely, making it lightweight and breathable, yet durable.

Shirts made from Sea Island cotton are typically more expensive due to the quality of the fabric and the relative scarcity of the cotton.


Supima Cotton

Supima cotton is a luxurious fabric grown in the United States. It is made from a species of cotton plant cultivated for extra-long staple fibres. Supima cotton is twice as strong as regular cotton and is notable for its fineness, softness and colour retention.


Egyptian Cotton

Giza 45 and Giza 87 are types of Egyptian cotton, renowned for being some of the finest cottons in the world. They are created from fibres grown near the Nile River. Giza 45 is the highest grade of Egyptian cotton. Its fibres are incredibly fine and long, making for a highly luxurious and soft fabric. The long fibres also make it very strong and durable, and it's highly resistant to pilling. Its rarity and quality make it one of the most expensive cottons.

While Giza 87 is not as highly regarded as Giza 45, it is still an extremely high-quality Egyptian cotton. It has longer and finer fibres than most other cotton types, resulting in a soft, durable, and high-quality fabric.


Easy Iron Cotton

Easy-iron cotton has undergone a special treatment to make it easier to care for. It requires minimal ironing and retains the softness and breathability of standard cotton.


Stain Repellent Cotton

Stain-repellent cotton is a fabric with a special weave that helps it to resist staining. It is designed to repel common staining agents such as red wine and coffee without the use of chemicals. It dries quicker than standard cotton.


Bio Cotton

Bio cotton's production process does not involve the use of chemical pesticides. Bio cotton also requires less water to grow than standard cotton.


Stretch Cotton

Stretch cotton offers enhanced comfort and increased elasticity. A special treatment gives this fabric natural stretch without the need for synthetic threads. As a result it offers superior range of motion.



Cotton-CoolMax is a hybrid material that keeps its wearer cool and protects from UV rays. It appears identical to standard cotton, but it is UPF 50 rated and wicks moisture away from the skin. This fabric keeps its wearer dry, comfortable and protected in the heat.



Cotton-linen is a blend fabric that offers cotton’s softness and linen’s superior breathability. This makes it an excellent option for formal occasions during the summer.



Cotton-silk combines fibres of cotton and silk resulting in a fabric that is silky smooth and durable. This fabric is soft, lustrous and comfortable.



Cotton-viscose offers the durability of cotton and the lightweight, soft drape of viscose. It is a suitable fabric choice for summer shirts as it is absorbent and breathable.



Cotton-cashmere is an insulating material which combines cotton and cashmere fibres. It wrinkles less than pure cotton and is extremely soft to the touch. This material has the ability to keep its wearer warm, making it a practical and luxurious choice for a winter shirt.



Cotton-Tencel is a blend fabric comprising cotton and Tencel fibres. Tencel fibres are sustainably sourced from wood and create fabrics with benefits such as softness, colour retention and biodegradability. Cotton-tencel fabric is durable, breathable, moisture absorbent, fast drying and bacteria resistant.



Cotton-nettle is a hybrid material that makes use of nettle yarns to bolster cotton’s strength and breathability. Nettle fibres are durable, breathable, soft and flexible, biodegradable and antistatic.



Cotton-bamboo is a blend material that incorporates both cotton and bamboo fibres. The presence of the bamboo fibres increases breathability and moisture absorption.



Cotton-Wool combines cotton and wool fibres woven into a single fabric. It provides greater insulation than cotton and is more comfortable than wool. It’s also resistant to creasing.



Cotton-canvas is a highly durable material that has a distinctive textured weave. It is strong and resistant to damage, making it a popular choice for casual shirts.



Linen is an absorbent, breathable fabric that can wick moisture away from the body, making it an ideal choice for hot weather. Linen shirts are strong and durable, yet soften the more they are washed.


Normandy Linen

Normandy linen is a linen fabric woven from flax plant fibres grown in Normandy, France. It is one of the softest and most luxurious linen fabrics used for the production of shirts. 

Read more about Normandy Linen.



Silk is a natural, high-quality fabric made from the cocoons of silkworms. Known for its softness, lustre, and luxurious feel, silk is one of the finest and most desirable textiles in the world.



Lycra is a highly elastic synthetic material. It offers a greater range of motion than natural materials typically offer. It’s also breathable, soft, durable and light.


Types of Men's Shirt Fabric Weaves

Weave is an important factor to consider when deciding on a shirt fabric. Along with the type of fibre, it’s one of the key elements that determines how a shirt looks, feels and behaves.

Plain Weave

Plain weave consists of a simple cross-cross pattern, in which the weft and warp alternate over and under each other. This type of weave is identical on both sides.

Plain weave is suitable for a variety of shirts.


Poplin Weave

Poplin is a versatile plain weave fabric constructed with a thick weft yarn and fine warp yarn. It is wrinkle resistant, soft, durable and breathable. Its versatility means it is ideal for an everyday shirt.

Poplin weave is suitable for a variety of shirts.


Twill Weave


Twill is a fabric with a diagonal rib pattern, created by weaving a weft thread over multiple warp threads. The weave creates a thicker, less transparent material than plain weaves.

Twill weave is suitable for cool weather shirts.


Oxford Weave

Oxford weave uses a ‘basket’ technique which means that multiple weft threads are crossed over an equal number of warp threads. The threads are usually of a single colour crossed with a white to give Oxford its unique textured finish.There are three key types of Oxford weave, each with its own attributes.

Classic Oxford is thick, durable and has the fabric’s trademark pronounced dot pattern.

Pinpoint Oxford fabric has a smoother, more delicate finish than Classic Oxford Fabric.

Royal Oxford fabric uses high thread count yarns exclusively, for a silky and luxuriously soft finish.

Oxford weave is suitable for casual, smart casual or special occasion shirts, depending on the type.


Flannel Weave

Flannel is a type of fabric weave with a loose construction. Thick and insulating, it typically has a brushed surface which makes the fabric soft to the touch.

Flannel weave is suitable for cold weather shirts.


Denim Weave

Denim is a type of twill fabric. It is usually woven with an indigo-dyed warp and a white weft, giving it its characteristic colour and textured appearance. It is known for its strength, durability and longevity.

Denim weave is suitable for cool weather shirts.


Chambray Weave

Chambray is a type of fabric that combines a coloured warp yarn and a white weft yarn. Despite its appearance, chambray isn't a type of denim. While denim is woven with a twill weave, chambray uses a plain weave which is lighter and less structured.

Chambray weave is suitable for casual, warm weather shirts.


Fil-à-fil Weave

Fil-á-fil is a type of weave which involves alternating light and dark (or different colour) threads in both the warp and weft directions of the weave. It is also known as ‘end-on-end’. The fabric has a contrast textured appearance which appears to be a block colour from a distance.

Fil-á-fil weave is suitable for work shirts.


Mock Leno Weave

Mock leno is a weave structure that mimics the characteristics of leno weave. In a traditional leno weave, pairs of warp threads are twisted around each other with each pass of the weft. In a mock leno weave, the appearance of leno's open structure is typically imitated by grouping warp and/or weft threads and weaving in a plain weave or twill pattern. This creates areas of openness and texture that resemble leno, allowing air to pass through and cool the body.

Mock leno weave is suitable for warm weather shirts.


Chevron Weave

Chevron is a type of twill weave that creates a distinctive arrow pattern in the fabric. The rectangles align perfectly with each other to create a continuous zigzag pattern.

Chevron weave is suitable for work shirts and casual shirts.


Dobby Weave

A dobby weave features geometric patterns that are woven into the fabric. They offer a way to add a pattern to fabric without using different coloured threads or printing.

Dobby weave is suitable for casual shirts.


Pique Weave

Pique is a type of decorative weave that is characterised by raised parallel cords or geometric texture. This can appear as a waffle, honeycomb, or diamond-like texture. This style of weave is particularly associated with shirts for formal occasions. It's also frequently used in casual polo shirts and tennis attire because it is durable and maintains its shape well.

Pique weave is suitable for formal shirts.


Jacquard Weave

Jacquard is a type of weave produced to create woven-in patterns. It often includes many coloured threads to produce designs which are woven directly into the material, rather than being printed or dyed onto the fabric.

Jacquard weave is suitable for a variety of shirts.


Satin Weave

Satin is a style of weave that produces a fabric with a smooth, and lustrous surface. Satin's appearance is due to more of the thread surface being visible on the face of the fabric. Weft threads are floated over the warp threads, meaning they travel over several warp threads before going under one. This results in long floats of thread on the surface of the fabric, which catch the light and give satin its signature sheen. Satin weave typically has a matte finish on the back.

Satin weave is suitable for special occasion shirts.


Seersucker Weave

Seersucker is a method of weaving in which some threads are woven tighter than others, causing them to pucker. Seersucker fabric does not sit flat on the skin and promotes air circulation, making it ideal for hot weather.

Seersucker weave is suitable for warm weather shirts.


Velvet Weave

Velvet is a type of weave which produces fabric with a soft, plush feel. Velvet is created by weaving two thicknesses of the material at the same time. The two pieces are then cut apart, creating a pile effect on the surface of the fabric. As it is expensive to produce, velvet is considered to be a luxury fabric.

Velvet weave is suitable for special occasion shirts.


Zephyr Weave

Zephyr features double twist yarns with horizontal warp yarns woven closer together than vertical weft yarns. This method of weaving creates a cooling sheer fabric with a soft drape.

Zephyr weave is suitable for warm weather shirts.



Jersey is a knit fabric, rather than a weave, characterised by its stretchiness and drape. Lightweight, comfortable and breathable, jersey comes in two main types. Single jersey is made with a flat knit on one side and a series of loops on the other side. Double jersey uses two layers of loops knit together, making it heavier and less stretchy.

Jersey knit is suitable for casual shirts.


Technical Terms to Know

Thread Count

A fabric’s thread count refers to the number of threads per square inch. This indicates how tightly woven the fabric is. Generally speaking, the higher the thread count, the smoother and softer the fabric will be. That being said, a low thread count is not always a signifier of low quality.

Warp and Weft

A fabric's warp and weft refer to the two sets of threads which are woven together to make a fabric. Warp threads run vertically along a fabric and are held in tension on a loom or frame. Because of this, they need to be strong. Weft thread is woven horizontally or side to side through warp threads to make a fabric.


A fabric’s ply refers to how many yarns have been twisted together to form a single thread of the fabric. Our fabrics are split into four categories: single-ply, two-ply, three-ply and four-ply. The higher the ply of a fabric, the stronger, thicker and more wrinkle resistant it will be.


A yarn is a long continuous length of interlocked fibres, used for weaving into a fabric.

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