Here we provide the definitive overview of the different types of fabrics commonly used in dress shirts. By understanding what the different weaves mean for a fabric you can be sure to find the ideal dress shirt fabric for your needs.
Broadcloth—very similar to poplin–is a tightly woven fabric with a very simple over-under weave and slight sheen, which makes it very dressy. Broadcloths are great for guys looking for as little texture as possible in their fabrics. They are generally a thinner, lighter fabric. Particularly, white broadcloth fabrics can be slightly transparent.
Learn more about broadcloth fabrics here or browse our selection of broadcloth fabrics here.
Chambray is a plain weave fabric. That means it has a similar construction to broadcloth, though it is generally made with heavier yarns for a rugged, blue-collar workwear appeal. Generally there will be white threads running in the weft/width direction such that the fabric has an inconsistent color to it. This could be compared to an end-on-end, though chambray is generally much heavier and more appropriate for casual wear than dress.
We all know denim as the fabric of our jeans. But construction wise, denim is a twill fabric. A sturdy, possibly coarser twill. For the most part though, when it comes to denim shirting, you’re mostly going to find much softer, lighter versions of the fabric then what your jeans are made of. Denim shirting can come in many forms but generally will be a bit shiny and be a dramatically different color on the inside than the outside.
Dobby (which is very similar to Jacquard, although technically different) can vary widely. Some versions are quite similar to broadcloth in terms of thickness and weight, while others can be thicker or woven to almost look like twill. Many dobby fabrics have stripes woven into them, although some are solid colors. The solid colors tend to have a faint stripe or dotted patterns woven in the same color as the base cloth.
Learn more about dobby fabrics here or browse our dobby fabrics here.
End-on-end broadcloths are a very popular type of dress shirt fabric with a distinct contrast coloring. Woven with colored thread in the warp and white thread in the weft, it looks like a true solid from a distance, but has more texture when seen from up close. Typically a lighter weight fabric, it’s a great choice for those living in warmer climates.
A fall/winter favorite. Flannels are warm, fuzzy fabrics that are most often brushed twill or brushed melange fabrics. While they’re most regularly 100% cotton, they sometimes can come in cotton/wool blends for added warmth. Usually made in thicker weaves, these are decidedly casual fabrics that are great for cold weather.
Melange fabrics are generally very thin and very smooth luxurious fabrics with a particular soft finish. They are a special type of construction in which each yarn is a combination of fibers that are dyed and not-dyed. These different colored cotton fibers are woven together for a feathered, intentionally inconsistent, somewhat organic look.
Oxford Cloth is very similar to pinpoint oxford, except it uses a slightly heavier thread and looser weave. It has a slightly rougher texture but is more durable than most fabrics. A symmetrical basket weave where one yarn may cross two yarns. Originally developed for sports, so it’s the least dressy, and (in some circles) not considered appropriate for office or formal wear. Oxford cloth has recently become quite popular used in casual button down oxford shirts. It can be worn slightly wrinkled straight from the dryer.
Learn more about oxford cloth here or browse our selection of oxford cloth here.
Pinpoint (also referred to as pinpoint oxford) has the same weave as oxford cloth, although it uses a finer yarn and tighter weave. It is more formal than oxford cloth, but less formal than broadcloth. Pinpoint fabrics are generally not transparent and are slightly heavier and thicker than broadcloths. Because of their heavier construction, pinpoints are fairly durable fabrics. A great choice for business shirts, but opt for a twill or broadcloth if you’re looking for a formal shirt.
Learn more about pinpoint fabrics here or browse our selection of pinpoint fabrics here.
Pima, Sea Island, Egyptian Cotton
When you hear about Egyptian cotton you should know that this is not referring to the type of weave, but to the type of cotton used to make the weave. For practical purposes, Pima cotton, Sea Island and Egyptian cotton all refer to the same cotton plant: Gossypium Barbadense. This is a more desirable cotton for its “longer staples” which allow it to be threaded into finer, stronger threads. Making matters a bit more confusing, there are trademarks filed around the names “Sea Island” and “Supima”, so you can keep an eye out for “certified sea island cotton” vs. “sea island quality”. In our experience, sea island cottons are usually higher thread counts around 120s+ and Egyptian and Pima cottons can be found in more rugged 80s and 100s. Shown here is a light blue stripe 100s thread count broadcloth Egyptian cotton, and a light blue 120s thread count broadcloth sea-island cotton.
Poplin is so similar to Broadcloth that we decided not to distinguish between the two in our fabric descriptions. For all practical purposes you can equate the two. They are both a plain weave fabric that is going to be quite thin, smooth and flat. The amount of shine on a poplin can vary from fabric to fabric. That said, technically Poplin is different than Broadcloth in that Poplins can have different weight yarns in the warp and weft while broadcloths will have a a symmetrical construction. For example, broadcloths could be 100/2×100/2 (meaning 100s two-ply in the warp and weft) while a poplin could be 100/2×60/1 (meaning 100s two-ply in the warp and 60s single-ply in the weft).
Royal Oxford is what we call a “pretty fabric”. Although the name is similar, it is not at all similar to pinpoint oxford or oxford cloth. It is a dressy fabric with a distinctive shine and texture. With a more prominent weave than broadcloth or pinpoint, it’s ideal for those interested in a dress or formal shirt with visible texture.
Learn more about royal oxford fabrics here or browse our selection of royal oxford fabrics here.
Definitely one of our favorites, twill could be the perfect dress shirt fabric. Twill is easily recognizable because it will show diagonal lines or texture. It is generally slightly shiny. Twill is an extremely tight weave, that can come in extremely high thread counts, some of which might be mistaken for silk. Because of the diagonal texture twill is a bit softer than broadcloth and will drape more easily. Twill won’t give you the same “crisp” look that freshly pressed broadcloth can, but it’s relatively easy to iron and resistant to wrinkles.
Learn more about twill fabrics here or browse our selection of twill fabrics here.
If everything else is the same (weave, ply, mill, and type of cotton), higher thread count means a smoother, silkier, more expensive fabric. Thread count is often referred to with a number like 50s, 80s, 100s, 120s, 140s 160s, etc up to 200s. These numbers refer to the yarn size. 140s means there are 140 hanks (1 hank = 840 yards) of yarn in one pound.
While thread count can be an indicator of quality, remember that ply, mill, and type of cotton will have just as much to do with how luxurious the fabric is.
Two Ply vs Single Ply
Ply is how many yarns are twisted together to make a single thread. Shirting fabrics are most often two-ply or single ply. Two-ply means that two yarns are twisted together to make a single thread that is then woven into the fabric. (Note that this is not at all like two-ply toilet paper!). Two-ply fabrics are generally superior to single-ply fabrics.