By Chazzy Matses
Picking the perfect t-shirt blank for your business is an extremely important decision. With so many different options for t-shirt blanks out there, choosing the one to best fit your brand can be an intimidating and difficult decision. Some of the aspects to consider are fabric quality, fit, sizes and colors.
Below I will describe each of these things and how they apply to several of the most popular t-shirt blanks to help you choose the best quality t-shirt for your brand.
“Innovating from thread to finish. We make timeless, authentically worn-in styles that people want to wear today and tomorrow.”
Alternative Apparel has built a reputation as having some of the softest, fashion blanks around. They are also known for their eco-friendly and vintage-inspired styles. They offer the widest variety of blanks, outerwear, pants and accessories of all of the brands mentioned in this article. In their Unisex blank t-shirts alone they offer 44 different styles. The most popular Alternative blanks you find brands using are the 100% Cotton #1070 Basic Crew, the #5050 Keeper Vintage Jersey Tee, and the #1973 Eco Jersey Crew.
Alternative offers tearaway tags on most styles. Because Alternative is also a retail brand, they are known for their offering of fashion-driven styles and colors.
While the fit of Alternative’s blanks was a bit confusing in years past, they have now organized their fits into 3 distinct camps: Classic, Slim and Relaxed. The majority of Alternative’s styles are Classic Fit and are true-to-size.
Some of their more iconic styles, including many of the Eco Jersey and Eco Fleece styles, are Slim Fit. A couple of their women styles are marked as Relaxed Fit and feature more of an oversized, boyfriend cut.
Alternative Apparel has a nice selection of sizes ranging from extra small to 3X. Depending on how you prefer your t-shirts to fit, you may want to consider ordering a size up. These blanks are not made with preshrunk cotton and Alternative Apparel recommends that you wash your blanks in cold water to reduce shrinking.
The AA1070 blank comes with 25 different color options for you to choose from. This is an extremely large amount of colors which is definitely a positive. Alternative Apparel does offer additional color options but many of them are available only on specific style blanks. One thing that I noticed when browsing their color selection was plenty of earth tones, heathers and neutral themes.
“Everyday wear with easygoing comfort and casual style”
Alstyle provides a fairly thick quality t-shirt from many of the reviews I have read. Although from what I have heard, some of their blank models are actually quite soft.
They have a wide variety to choose from including 22 types of basic style blanks. The most popular blank models are:
- 1901 Adult Short Sleeve Tee: Very basic t-shirt blank that is 5.5 oz and 100% preshrunk cotton
- 5301 Men’s Fine Jersey Fitted Tee: Fashion style t-shirt that is 4.3 oz and 100% combed preshrunk cotton
- 1701 Ringspun Tee: Softer version of their basic t-shirt which is 5.5 oz and 100% ringspun preshrunk cotton
The 1701 and 1901 models have a pretty average fit to them. They are a good option for brands looking to market toward consumers who aren’t too picky on fit.
The 5301 has a slimmer fit than their other blanks. This model is a fashion t-shirt and is suitable for brands that want a slimmer fit and more trendy style blank.
Alstyle has a pretty wide range of sizes available for all of their t-shirt blanks. Most of the sizes range from small to double or triple XL.
Their shirts are made with preshrunk cotton so that is always one thing to consider. One disadvantage that I spotted was that none of their adult size blanks have an extra small option.
The available colors for Alstyle blanks are fairly average. Some models offer a wider range of colors than others, but they tend to stay on the dark side.
They will cover all of the basics such as black, white and gray without a problem. They do however have some unusual color choices such as mustard and banana that might be appealing to some brands.
“Effortless basics and iconic fashion favorites for women, men and kids.”
American Apparel blanks are known for their exceptional quality, producing arguably some of the best quality t-shirts on the market. They have just the right amount of thickness that is also extremely soft and comfortable.
Although expensive, their blanks have become the go to t-shirt for a majority of independent fashion brands. Their most popular models are:
- 2001: A fine jersey 100% cotton blank with a slim fit
- TR401: Tri-Blend blank which is made up of 50% polyester, 25% cotton and 25% rayon
The TR401 is a softer blank but it is thinner than the 2001 and also has less stretch.
The fit of American Apparel has to be my favorite out of all the blanks in this article. There is a good amount of length in their blanks which is one thing that I love. Many of their models have a slim fit so that is one thing to always consider.
The fit of the Tri-Blend model is a little bit smaller than the 2001. I find myself wearing a size larger than my normal size of medium. Again, it all depends on how you prefer your t-shirts to fit. The Tri-Blend blank can sometimes feel a little snug and doesn’t offer much stretch.
American Apparel offers a very large range of size for their unisex tees. Most models are available in sizes XXS to 3XL. It is always best to check out the specific sizing charts for each blank model and decide which size if best for you. Models that are not 100% cotton tend to be on the smaller side and may require a size up.
The American Apparel 2001 offers the widest range of colors that you will find anywhere. Currently there are 47 different color options and they are adding new ones constantly.
The Tri-Blend t-shirt only comes in 8 different colors since it is made up of a mixture of materials. So if you are going with American Apparel, chances are they will have a model style that comes in your desired color.
“A fashion brand with great quality wholesale apparel for everyone.”
The only Anvil blank that I have personally dealt with is the 980 model. The 980 is a slimmer, fashion fit model tee. Many people consider the 980 to be the closest alternative to the popular American Apparel 2001.
In my opinion, the 980 is a very underrated model in the t-shirt industry. I say this mainly because it is thicker than and just as soft as the 2001 but for a cheaper price. I used the 980 for my first initial Vicious History release and I was extremely satisfied. It is a pre-shrunk 4.5oz 100% combed ring spun cotton t-shirt that also features a tear away label.
The fit of this t-shirt is also very similar to the 2001 except for a few small differences. The 980 is a little bit shorter in length compared to the 2001 and various other blanks. The thick material provides for a surprisingly soft and comfortable fit.
The only downfall that I noticed is that the sleeves tend to wing out a couple of inches although this is different for every body type.
The 980 comes in a wide variety of sizes ranging from small to 3XL. They even offer 4XL size tees in certain colors. Since the 980 is made with preshrunk cotton, make sure to order true to size as these shirts will not shrink much.
The 980 is available in 20 different colors to choose from. They are available in 4XL in white, chocolate, navy, black and heather gray. The available colors are pretty basic and you won’t find many unusual or exotic options.
“Find the perfect balance of incredible comfort and style.”
Gildan is a relatively cheap blank alternative that you see many start up brands using. The popular models are:
- Heavy Cotton 5000: 5.3 oz 100% preshrunk cotton t-shirt
- Soft Style 64000: 4.5 oz 100% preshrunk ring spun cotton t-shirt
I have only had the chance to try out the heavy cotton model and I have mixed reviews about it. Like the name describes, the t-shirt is relatively thick and rugged. On the other hand, many critics have said that the soft style model is one of the most comfortable tees they have ever worn.
I have heard many mixed reviews towards the fit of these models. Some people love them while some others dislike their fit for a couple of reasons. Although they are advertised as preshrunk cotton, these shirts have been known to shrink significantly over time. Even fresh out of the box, many people have reported several inconsistencies towards sizing.
Many of the same size shirts will have completely different dimensions. From what I have noticed with the 5000 model, the length is pretty average but the sleeves wing out quite a bit.
Almost every time I see a brand printing on Gildan, their product shots have the t-shirt sleeves rolled up a few times. It all depends on the style you prefer, but it is something to take into consideration.
The 64000 soft style tee comes in sizes small to triple XL while the 5000 heavy cotton comes in sizes extra small to triple XL. Since they are preshrunk cotton tees, it is best to order true to your normal size. Be careful when washing them as they are known to shrink. To reduce the risk of shrinking, wash cold and either dry low or hang dry.
The 5000 heavy cotton comes in a wide range of 37 different colors. You will find some very unusual and exotic colors in this range such as Heliconia and Sapphire. The 64000 soft style has fewer options but still comes in 27 different colors.
“Tultex consistently delivers what matters most to you.”
Tultex is another one of those alternative blank brands that are cheaper to print on. They only offer four different unisex models but the 0202 blank is the only one that I have seen used. The 0202 is a 4.5oz 100% ring spun cotton t-shirt with tear away tags.
I have a couple Tultex tees in my closet and I must say that I actually like them for the most part. I find them to have a nice fit and be very comfortable at the same time. The only downfall that I notice with this t-shirt is its thinness.
The 0202 is probably the thinnest tee out of all the models mentioned in this article. Wearing a white Tultex t-shirt almost feels a little see-through and its thinness is definitely noticeable.
In my opinion, the Tultex 0202 has one of the nicest fits around. Again, it’s always a matter of opinion and body type when discussing t-shirt fits. You will find that the 0202 has a fairly good length, similar to that of the American Apparel 2001.
The sleeves are also very nice as they provide good coverage yet do not wing out like some other brands. One thing that many people complain about when it comes to Tultex is their shrinking inconsistencies. After several washes, Tultex owners have noticed that the fit does not stay intact and the dimensions become warped.
The dimensions of every Tultex shirt that I own have stayed in proportion because I wash them cold and then only hang dry them. This is a serious thing to consider for your customers if you decide to go with Tultex. If the fit stayed in proportion more often and they were made a little thicker, Tultex could possibly be one of my favorite blanks.
The Tultex 0202 comes in a large amount of sizes ranging from XXS to 3XL. These tees will shrink if you wash them in hot water so you might want to consider ordering a size up. The only way to keep the shirt in its original size is to wash and dry it in the method I described above.
The 0202 comes in 22 different colors, many of which are pretty basic. Due to the thinness of these tees, you want to be weary of lighter shades because they can feel a little see through.
I hope that this guide helped you understand the differences between all of these popular blanks and narrow down the best quality t-shirts for printing. If you have any other questions, feel free to email me at chazzy[at]vicioushistory.com and I will be glad to help you.