I’m having a great discussion with Peter in the comments section of this Uniqlo Undershirts article. He had a great question about polyester vs cotton, or rather natural fabrics vs man made.
I have recently purchased the AIRism v-neck undershirt in beige from Uniqlo. It feels really lightweight and comfortable but I’ve heard that man made materials like polyester are inferior to natural materials like cotton in regards to undershirts?
Instead of replying to him in the comments, I decided to write an article on the topic.
Polyester vs Cotton
From my experience, and in my opinion, natural yarns/fabrics are not superior to fabrics made from man made fibers like polyester or nylon. Nor are they inferior.
As it pertains to durability/longevity, they’re all about the same as well — with one major exception.
Each fiber/yarn/fabric comes in different quality levels.
Because of this, it may leave people with the impression that one type of fiber may be worse than another.
Not All Fibers Are Created Equal
But, the reality is, it’s not the fiber type that is better or worse than another. It’s the quality in which it was made, and from what it was made.
In other words, there can be shitty cotton that doesn’t last very long, or amazing cotton that has a long life.
Same holds true with every other fabric, regardless of whether it’s natural or man made.
For example, the value brand undershirts, like the ones from hanes, fruit of the loom, etc, can easily cost less them than $1 to make.
Knowing that is true, what do you think the quality of the cotton is that is used in that type of undershirt? Probably not very good.
Of course, the other variable is personal preference and/or how one person reacts to a particular fabric or yarn type.
For example, you may put on a particular polyester shirt and hate it, or it may make you sweaty or even hot.
As a result, you may convince yourself that you don’t like polyester.
But, that experience was related to that particular shirt, the particular polyester that was used in that shirt, and the particular weave & weight of the particular polyester.
The truth is, it is very likely and quite possible, that you may absolutely fall in love with another shirt made entirely differently with polyester.
So, my recommendation would be to not only try different fabric types, but also to try different fabric blends, of different weights, even with different knit constructions, from different brands, and different price points.
Experimentation is crucial, so you can find an undershirt (or underwear) that you love (:
Polyester vs Cotton Articles
There are tons of comparison articles online about cotton vs polyester.
I did a “cotton fiber vs polyester” image search on Google, and it returned a boat-load of search results.
In my opinion, many of these articles could have a particular bias, so keep that in mind when reading them.
That said, it wouldn’t hurt to have multiple points of view on the subject matter. However, I believe it all boils down to personal preference.
My Favorite Undershirt Fabrics
I’m a huge fan of super lightweight undershirts — the lighter and thinner, the better.
My definition of super lightweight fabrics is in the range of 80gsm – 135gsm.
In polyester, I generally prefer the mesh weave fabrics over the typical jersey weave, because I feel those meshed weave polyester fabrics breathe better.
In TENCEL or Viscose (Rayons like MicroModal, Modal, “Bamboo”, or generic Rayon), most of my experience is with jersey knits, and I’m very happy with that style. Of the three, my personal preference is TENCEL. It simply feels cooler on the skin to me than the other two.
In Nylon, I like jersey knit and mesh weaves about equally.
In 100% Cotton, if it’s really lightweight (under 100gsm), I like jersey knits. If it’s over 100gsm, I like cellular construction which is basically the same as mesh weaves.
In blends like Cotton/Polyester or Cotton/Polyester/Rayon, I prefer a gauze-like weave (a very loose knit jersey).
What about you? What is your opinion on polyester vs cotton? Do you agree with my take? Let me know in the comments below!