Cotton Vs Polyester Dress Shirts The Differences And Benefits

cotten vs cotton mens dress shirts

There is an entire dress shirts: cotton vs. polyester debate that tries to settle which one is the best choice. However, as always, the truth is somewhere in the middle and each of these men’s shirt fabric comes with their advantages and disadvantages.

What’s the difference between polyester and cotton shirt fabric?

Cotton is a natural fiber with a lot of amazing qualities. The fabric is absorbent and keeps you from becoming too hot. It’s also very soft, which makes the shirts very comfortable to wear, especially for people who have skin sensitivity issue or other problems: allergies, excessive sweating and so on. Another characteristic of cotton is that its fibers are very efficient in holding the colour, thus the shirts made of cotton display deep, vivid, gorgeous colours.

Polyester, on the other hand, is a man-made fiber very similar to plastic, so it has a lot of the same characteristics. It’s very durable – a polyester dress shirt will last years and years, unless you burn it with a candle or with a cigarette, as is very susceptible to burning. It will keep its shape and size, it’s easy to clean and doesn’t hold stains as much as cotton does, and it dries easily.

On the downside, polyester shirts can make you quite hot, because it doesn’t let your skin breathe. Also, once you discard it, the shirt will probably remain in a landfill for a long time, as polyester, just like plastic, is not compostable.


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Recommended Cotton and Polyester Shirts


Calvin Klein Men's Dress Shirt Slim Fit Non Iron Herringbone, White, 16.5" Neck 34

Calvin Klein Men’s Dress Shirts Non-Iron Slim Fit Solid

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it’s a 100% cotton shirt that’s also machine-washable and doesn’t need ironing, so it’s a really great choice for busy people who hate ironing or taking clothes to dry cleaners (and that’s all of us, really). The shirt features a slim cut and no pocket, which ensures a sleek and elegant look. On the downside, the fabric is a little bit see-through, which might be challenging if you wear it with an undershirt.

TOMMY HILFIGER Men's Regular Fit Non Iron Solid Button Down Collar, White, 17" Neck 34

Tommy Hilfiger Men’s Dress Shirt Regular Fit Non-Iron Solid

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With a regular cut and a generous cut through the shoulders, chest and waist, those shirts are ideal for men of all sizes and ensure comfort and a classic fit. The fabric is machine-washable and resistant to wrinkles, which allows you to maintain a crisp, elegant look throughout the day. However, at almost $60 per piece, they are a little bit pricey in their category of products.

Polyester and cotton

Kenneth Cole Unlisted Men's Dress Shirt Slim Fit Solid , White, 15"-15.5

Kenneth Cole Unlisted Men’s Dress Shirt Slim Fit Solid

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Made of 60% cotton and 40% polyester, this shirt is machine-washable, lightweight and breathable. It’s also fairly inexpensive, at under $40 per piece, but the slim cut with tapered sleeves and higher armholes is not ideal for a lot of body types.

Are Cotton Shirts Better Than Polyester?

Technically speaking, natural fibers are considered superior to man-made, synthetic ones, when it comes to clothing. Yes, cotton shirts are softer, more comfortable, and breathable, while polyester ones score low in all those categories.

Polyester, especially in the summer, can make you all hot and sweaty. Because the heat produced by your body is trapped under the shirt, you keep sweating and getting hotter and hotter. That’s why, in warm weather, natural fibers clothing is a better choice.

However, there are now different types of polyester on the market, and some of them were engineered to be more breathable and comfortable. Also, let’s not forget the cold season, when, worn with an undershirt, a polyester dress shirt might be just what you need.

Is Polyester Warmer Than Cotton?

Well, yes, you could say that polyester is warmer than cotton because it traps the heat that your body makes. Depending on each person’s skin sensitivities and preferences, that could be good or bad news. For some, polyester shirts are great if they work in a cold office, and we all know that most offices tend to be pretty cold, be it summer or winter. For others, polyester’s property of not allowing the body’s heat to disperse might create issues, such as abundant sweating, or even skin rashes.

Cotton is breathable, which basically means that it absorbs the sweat, and the body heat is dispersing faster than with polyester. If you want to wear cotton shirts and be warm and cozy, layering is the best strategy – put on an undershirt or, why not, a vest.

Which Is More Expensive: Polyester Or Cotton?

The dress shirt: cotton vs. polyester dispute also involves prices, of course. Most of the time, cotton shirts are more expensive than polyester shirts, and generally speaking, when it comes to clothing, natural fibers are more expensive than synthetic ones. It makes sense to be that way, considering that it’s a longer, more complicated process to obtain a natural fabric, unlike synthetic fibers that can be manufactured from A to Z in one factory.

However, there are special types of polyester, usually developed by or for clothing companies that have properties way superior to regular synthetics. Some might be stain-resistant or mimic the qualities of natural fiber (breathable, soft, comfortable) while maintaining the advantages (durability, lightweight, easy to clean and dry) of synthetic fabrics. That’s the reason why you might find polyester shirts that are as expensive of even more expensive than cotton ones.

What Is the Best Material for a Dress Shirt

After discussing extensively about the advantages and disadvantages of each type of fabric, the conclusion is that the best material for a dress shirt is the one that best suits your needs. Cotton is superior to polyester in many ways, especially when it comes to comfort, softness, and keeping body temperature and sweat in check. Polyester, on the other hand, is a lot cheaper, more durable, easy to clean and dry and needs very little ironing.

Composite fabrics, who contain both cotton and polyester, are an excellent middle ground because the shirts combine the advantages of both types of fabrics. So, the dress shirt: cotton vs. polyester dispute can easily reach a compromise, namely mixed fabrics.

What Are Most Dress Shirts Made Of

Most dress shirts are made of either cotton or a combination of cotton and polyester. However, there are plenty of 100% polyester shirts, if you’re a fan of it. Combination fabrics, the ones that use both cotton and polyester in variable proportions, are preferred by many buyers, so companies are more and more using mixed fibers for their dress shirts.


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