Go to Google and search "heavyweight t shirt" or "heavyweight tee" and you will be awash in brands offering their version of a "Heavyweight T-Shirt". But, how heavy are heavyweight tees, really? And what does that even mean? Are all heavyweight fabrics the same? Read on to learn what makes a shirt heavyweight, and what should make Goodwear your new standard for the made in USA heavyweight t-shirt.
What is a Heavyweight Tee?
The “heavyweight tee” isn’t fully defined, and brands often list anything other than a “normal tee” as heavyweight. When you think of the typical “merch” at a concert, restaurant, road race, etc, these shirts are almost always in the 4.0 to 5.0 ounces per square yard (osy) range. Bulk, wholesale shirts are meant to be cheap, and using less material is an obvious way to keep costs down (mixing in polyester is also common, but that’s a story for another blog). So, when going for a shirt heavier than the norm, 6.0 osy is the go-to. But, when every brand’s heavyweight shirt is 6.0 osy, doesn’t that just make it the new “normal” tee?
At a minimum of 7.2 ounces per square yard even before the first wash/dry, the classic Goodwear Crew Neck is truly heavyweight. A relic of the past, before fast fashion, when durability was expected and quality was king. Read on to learn how we make the best heavyweight t-shirt around, all in the USA of course.
How to Make A Heavyweight T-Shirt
What Is Yarn Gauge?
Beginning on the plant as a puffy white cotton "boll", these cotton fibers need to be processed and spun into yarn. The raw fiber can go on to create an endless amount of yarns with different weights and characteristics for all sorts of applications.
If you've ever knit, you will know about the wide range of yarn gauges, and the accompanying needles. Think of the difference in the yarn for a blanket compared to a hat or scarf. Cotton thread works the same, only on a much smaller scale. The smaller the gauge, the thicker the yarn/needle.
The most common 100% cotton yarn used in t-shirts is 16 singles, with “premium” options often using 20 singles yarn. (Note: singles just means it is a single twisted thread of cotton yarn, rather than two or more threads twisted around each other in opposite directions). For our heavyweight fabric, we use a robust 12 singles cotton yarn. Again, the smaller the gauge number, the thicker the yarn.
What is Fabric Weight?
Yarn is yarn, but what about the fabric? Because a roll of fabric uses so much yarn, small changes in the yarn gauge can have a huge impact on the final product both in weight and texture. A prime example of this in action can be found in bedsheets. A higher thread count results in softer, “airy-er” sheets. Literally, more threads per square inch. So naturally, fitting more in the same space requires thinner, wispier yarn, resulting in a more lightweight end product despite more material.
But, softer isn’t necessarily better. With thinner yarn, you end up with a thinner fabric. So while soft, this material is often very lightweight and extremely prone to wear and tear. Namely, pilling of the fabric, easy tears, and busted seams.
With a heavier gauge yarn comes a heavier, thicker fabric. To counteract the initial rough texture, we garment-dye our colors and garment-wash the whites. This process wears down the fabric enough to create a softer texture, and we can do this because the fabric is so heavy and can take the abuse.
As you wear our shirts, over time the fabric will soften further, without failing. With simply more material to wear through, our shirts last incredibly long, getting softer all the time. Heavier gauge yarn for the seams, collar, and cuffs further increases the strength and durability of the shirt. Thicker yarn uses more cotton, and exponentially increases in price. An 8.0 osy shirt can therefore cost as much as 33% more to make than the “standard” 6.0 osy product.
Below you can see a two shirts held over a light. A Goodwear heavyweight tee on the left, compared to a "normal" weight shirt from a popular fruit themed underwear brand. The density of a true heavyweight fabric and the thickness of the finished shirt are clear as day.
Are Thicker T-shirts Better?
Like everything, it comes down to preference. On a 90 degree summer day, probably not. But you’re likely not wearing jeans that day either. Speaking of jeans, if you’ve ever held a pair of fast fashion denim next to a premium quality denim brand, the difference is astounding. The nicest jeans are the ones you can wear for years as they break-in, wear down, and get softer and softer without failing, and you can feel it in the weight of the product. A cheap pair with Spandex, polyester, or just thin gauge yarn won’t be able to take half of the abuse a good pair of denim can, and the pants rip and tear, usually in the crotch.
A thicker t-shirt is no different. Our heavyweight tees can stand up over the years to whatever you throw at them. Not only that, the shirts simply feel better than the thinner options. Just like that premium pair of denim, the texture and weight of our fabric is simply unmatched. And lucky for you, we break the shirts down by garment dyeing/washing, so they are soft and comfy right from the first wear. And unlike your favorite denim, you can wash them over and over and over again.
Why Buy Made in USA?
We believe it is vitally important to uphold the tradition of high quality, hand crafted apparel right here where we started. Imagine the French began growing grapes overseas for their wine, or the Italians stopped using Durum wheat for their pasta. In these traditional practices, the compromise of quality has simply never been an option. In Italy they have the D.O.P., in France the AOC, or in Germany the PDO, to ensure that the regionally significant products can never be anything less. As an American-made brand from the start, importing fabric or outsourcing labor has... simply never been an option for us.
Cheaper to make overseas, cheaper to use less yarn, cheaper to compromise. But that’s not what we do. We’ll continue making the best heavyweight t-shirts around, always in the USA.