At first glance, it’s pretty hard to tell different t-shirt styles apart. Sure, it’s easy to tell the difference between a v-neck and a crewneck, but if I were to hang three 100% cotton t-shirts in front of you and ask you to describe the differences, you wouldn’t have much to go off of.
In fact, let’s try it.
Minus the shades of navy blue, each of these shirts look pretty similar, but by looking at photos, there aren’t many great ways to tell how these shirts are actually going to fit.
While you’ll never get a perfect idea of how a t-shirt will fit you specifically without trying it on, there are a few small features you can look out for to tell if a shirt is going to have slim, retail-quality fit, or a wider, boxier one.
And there’s perhaps no feature more crucial to how a shirt will fit than this small one you’ve likely never thought to look for: side-seams.
You may have never thought to look for side-seams when shopping t-shirts before, but now that they’ve been brought to your attention, you won’t be able to unsee them.
It’s really nothing complicated –– side-seams are simply the stitching that runs down the sides of a t-shirt, from the underarm area to the bottom hem.
Great question. On the surface, it may not seem like side-seams and the fit of a t-shirt are closely connected, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
While the side-seams themselves don’t necessarily affect the fit of the shirt, they indicate how the shirt was made, and shirts with side-seams are made quite differently than shirts without.
T-shirts are constructed in two main ways: side-seamed and tubular.
Tubular t-shirts are created by literally cutting a cylinder of fabric, creating space for the neckline, and then sewing on the sleeves. It’s fast, efficient, and cheaper to produce because less labor is involved.
This is problematic for the fit of a shirt because people generally aren’t shaped like cylinders. Looking at the photos above, you can see that tubular t-shirts (left) aren’t as tailored to fit your body, and tend to have a loose, boxy fit.
When a shirt is created with side-seams, the front, back, and sleeves are all cut individually, then stitched together for a more tailored fit that’s more flattering on the body.
While tubular t-shirts can be an OK option if you’re on a budget, or are looking to order custom t-shirts for a family outing or something where quality isn’t particularly important, we always try to steer people towards printing on t-shirts with side-seams.
That said, you can count on these brands to have consistent side-seamed t-shirts and a slim, retail-quality fit:
Our team would love to help. We know a lot (maybe even a little too much) about t-shirts, and would love to walk you through the ins and outs to help you find the perfect t-shirt, sweatshirt, hoodie, or tank top for your next project.
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