While cotton has a long procession of loyal followers, the same can be said of dri-fit fabric, except that it hasn’t been out on the market long enough for its followers to be considered of the same caliber. Those who prefer dri-fit shirts can at best be known as fans. Regardless of how we try to categorize them, the fact is there are some T-shirt wearers who would not wear anything but cotton, and others who wouldn’t be caught dead in what they call ‘sweat tanks’.
The question we really want answered is which type of material is better for printing on, and once printed on, how can a company tell which product is the better to sell.
Printing companies will tell you that any product made from polyester is going to be difficult to work with from the start, since it repels the water-based ink used in printing. This repelling action is really proportional to the polyester content. Many printing companies will add a disclaimer with print on polyester (which includes dri-fit) material because it is so prone to cracking.
Dri-fit is basically an extremely fine plastic mesh made to act like material, and it does a really great job at that. The problem is, water-based inks do not typically want to stick to plastic. There is just not enough absorbancy for the ink to imbed into. The result- less than optimum quality prints on T-shirts.
Cotton, on the other hand, is the choice medium to print on. Cotton is cheap and very absorbant. There is not a lot of information out there on why cotton is preferred for T-shirt printing, which in itself points toward the fact that it is a given that cotton is the mainstay to print on. It is assumed that all print shops will offer numerous choices in cotton shirts with prints or plain cotton T’s to print on.
The absorbancy of cotton allows the ink to penetrate into the very fabric, instead of only the surface of the fabric, as with dri-fit, eliminating the risk of cracking and other imperfections. Cotton is extremely soft, durable, and highly biodegradable. This makes the material not only better for the environment, but a much better pick for a garment to be worn against the skin. If a consumer constantly thought of polyester as essentially being a garment of plastic, would he be so likely to want it so close to his skin?
For being suitable for sale, or marketability, cotton is always going to outsell dri-fit material. If a printing company is trying to decide which type of material would be better to stock, of course they are going to want to carry something for everyone. A printing company may wish to consider carrying a small percentage of dri-fit T-shirts for those customers who would not buy anything at all unless they carry them. However, a printing company that wants to meet the demands of an ever-growing T-shirt wearing population would not err to keep in store a good supply of cotton T-shirts. As they say, ‘Give the people what they want’.