At Real Thread, we consider ourselves t-shirt aficionados, purveyors of great tees, or whatever term you can think of to indicate that, well, we just really like t-shirts.
That being said, not everyone knows the ins and outs of t-shirts in the same way that we do, so when presented with the option to pick between t-shirts based on the makeup of the fabric, more likely than not you'll have no clue what to choose.
This can be problematic, because when it comes to apparel, there aren't a lot of factors that can determine the look, feel, and overall outcome of a t-shirt more than the material it's made out of.
Shirt materials, for the most part, can be broken up into three main categories:
Those first two –– 100% cotton and cotton/polyester blends –– are pretty easy to comprehend because, well, it's in the name, but what in the world does tri-blend mean?
Well, we're glad you asked 😉
A tri-blend is a fabric made up of three different materials: cotton, polyester, and rayon. Rayon is certainly the wild card here, as it's by far the least common (and most mysterious) material on that list.
Rayon was originally created as a silk substitute, giving it a luxuriously soft feel. Made up of cellulose fibers, it's also moisture-absorbent, making it a great choice for athletic or athleisure wear.
Rayon by itself doesn't make for a great t-shirt because of how light, thin, and drapey it would be, but combined with cotton and polyester it makes for nearly the perfect garment.
Soft. Like, really soft. The added rayon and the polyester give tri-blend t-shirts a little bit of stretch along with the added softness, making them incredibly comfortable to wear.
In terms of weight, tri-blends tend to lean on the lighter side of things, so if you're looking for a thicker, more heavy-weight option, tri-blends won't be your best fit. But if light and airy is fine with you, then this will be a match made in heaven.
Generally, tri-blends lend themselves nicely toward faded, vintage-style prints.
When printing with water-based and discharge ink, the ink actually removes the color of the cotton in the fabric, replacing it with the color of the ink. The agent in the ink (known as discharge) only removes the color in the cotton though, meaning that with tri-blends, you'll be able to see some natural heathering in the shirt.
Take a look at the print results below:
As you can see, the print results on the two tri-blends are less vibrant than the two prints above, on 100% cotton and cotton/polyester, respectively.
Neither result is better than the other –– they're simply different. If you're looking for a naturally heathered, vintage print, a tri-blend is the perfect route to go. If not, it could be worth it to print on a 100% cotton shirt or a polyester/cotton blend instead.
Worth noting though: it is possible to achieve a bright, solid print on a tri-blend. Using our Bold Ink, the print will have a little bit of a feel to it when compared to our SuperSoft Ink, but it still feels great, doesn't crack or peel, and can give your design some extra pop.
Tri-blends don't shrink much at all relative to 100% cotton shirts. You can expect a tiny amount of shrinking, but it shouldn't affect the fit much at all in the long run.
Do we ever! Here's a list of our favorite tri-blends here at Real Thread:
American Apparel TR401 (Made in the USA 🇺🇸)
American Apparel TR401W
Next Level 6010
Next Level 6051
Hopefully, that answers all of your tri-blend questions. This high-end, super soft fabric has the potential to seriously up your shirt game.
If you have anything else we can help with, talk to our team! If there's anything we love more than t-shirts, it's people, and we'd love to help you find the perfect t-shirt.