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How do you know a cotton shirt really is cotton?

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
I bought a shirt a couple of days ago from a reputable UK high street retailer (Marks & Spencer) which is labelled as being 100% cotton. It said this on the packaging and on the tab stitched into it. Today I was in another shop and spotted what appeared to be the exact same shirt. It was absolutely identical apart from the manufacturer label stitched into it. The same pattern on the fabric, the same buttons, the same cuff details, the same placket, the same shape collar, etc. I assure you, it wasn't just similar, it was a completely identical shirt.

However, it was labelled as being 60% cotton and 40% polyester.

So, how likely is it that a factory somewhere is weaving the exact same cloth with the same coloured yarns/threads and then another factory is cutting and stitching them the exact same way, except some batches are woven with pure cotton and others with a mix?

Is it possible that both shirts are made from the same material, it's just that one of the shops has been lied to by the real manufacturer (probably a far-eastern factory), and this deception is being passed on to the customer?

How can you be sure a cotton shirt really is all cotton?
post #2 of 35
I burn a portion of the shirt.

Polyester, being man-made, will give off an arid smell.
post #3 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by lee_44106 View Post
I burn a portion of the shirt.

Preferably while wearing it.
post #4 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by lee_44106 View Post
I burn a portion of the shirt.

Polyester, being man-made, will give off an arid smell.

This is true, however it could be a different fabric and made in the same factory, or the mill makes the same color both ways, a blend and 100% for different price points. Also, I believe it is illegal to mismark clothing care labels and such.
post #5 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by patrickBOOTH View Post
This is true, however it could be a different fabric and made in the same factory, or the mill makes the same color both ways, a blend and 100% for different price points. Also, I believe it is illegal to mismark clothing care labels and such.

Damn it! Why did you not tell me that earlier? I just burnt all of my shirts in a bonfire in my back yard.

By the way, they were all cotton.
post #6 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by lee_44106 View Post
I burn a portion of the shirt. Polyester, being man-made, will give off an arid smell.
You mean acrid
post #7 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flea Spray View Post
I bought a shirt a couple of days ago from a reputable UK high street retailer (Marks & Spencer) which is labelled as being 100% cotton. It said this on the packaging and on the tab stitched into it. Today I was in another shop and spotted what appeared to be the exact same shirt. It was absolutely identical apart from the manufacturer label stitched into it. The same pattern on the fabric, the same buttons, the same cuff details, the same placket, the same shape collar, etc. I assure you, it wasn't just similar, it was a completely identical shirt.

However, it was labelled as being 60% cotton and 40% polyester.

So, how likely is it that a factory somewhere is weaving the exact same cloth with the same coloured yarns/threads and then another factory is cutting and stitching them the exact same way, except some batches are woven with pure cotton and others with a mix?

Is it possible that both shirts are made from the same material, it's just that one of the shops has been lied to by the real manufacturer (probably a far-eastern factory), and this deception is being passed on to the customer?

How can you be sure a cotton shirt really is all cotton?

It's possible a fabric mill can produce two versions of the same fabric--one that is 100% cotton and one that is a cotton/poly blend.
post #8 of 35
You can't know for sure what exactly has gone into a cloth today, with the finishes and treatments. The burn test may have been telling, to experienced testers, before WWII when cloths were less complicated. At least that's my opinion, and I have done a little research on the subject. A retailer could be just as easily misled as a customer. In the end you have to know what you expect and desire from a cloth, and also develop the ability to appraise it, tag unseen. Do you like the shirt? Does it feel good to you? Does it wear the way you like? If you have no experience with higher-end shirtings and you are truly curious, you might acquire a few choice examples to wear and study as benchmarks. Then you might know better what's possible, and know better what you want. In the end, that's the only way to know just what you have: knowing just what you want.
post #9 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigbucky View Post
You mean acrid

uh no. I meant ARID.

as in "dry", as in opposite of "wet"........
post #10 of 35
Arid smell? Really? Ok, whatever. But if you burn plastic it gives off an acrid smell
post #11 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flea Spray View Post
I bought a shirt a couple of days ago from a reputable UK high street retailer (Marks & Spencer) which is labelled as being 100% cotton. It said this on the packaging and on the tab stitched into it. Today I was in another shop and spotted what appeared to be the exact same shirt. It was absolutely identical apart from the manufacturer label stitched into it. The same pattern on the fabric, the same buttons, the same cuff details, the same placket, the same shape collar, etc. I assure you, it wasn't just similar, it was a completely identical shirt.

However, it was labelled as being 60% cotton and 40% polyester.

So, how likely is it that a factory somewhere is weaving the exact same cloth with the same coloured yarns/threads and then another factory is cutting and stitching them the exact same way, except some batches are woven with pure cotton and others with a mix?

Is it possible that both shirts are made from the same material, it's just that one of the shops has been lied to by the real manufacturer (probably a far-eastern factory), and this deception is being passed on to the customer?

How can you be sure a cotton shirt really is all cotton?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey View Post
You can't know for sure what exactly has gone into a cloth today, with the finishes and treatments. The burn test may have been telling, to experienced testers, before WWII when cloths were less complicated. At least that's my opinion, and I have done a little research on the subject.

A retailer could be just as easily misled as a customer.

In the end you have to know what you expect and desire from a cloth, and also develop the ability to appraise it, tag unseen.

Do you like the shirt? Does it feel good to you? Does it wear the way you like?

If you have no experience with higher-end shirtings and you are truly curious, you might acquire a few choice examples to wear and study as benchmarks. Then you might know better what's possible, and know better what you want.

In the end, that's the only way to know just what you have: knowing just what you want.


Two obvious real-life tests from my own experience is this:

1.) a cotton/poly blend shirt, when ironed, gives off an unmistable slightly "burnt" smell (that's the polyester being singed by the heat of the iron);

2.) if you take a cotton/ploy blend shirt and soak it in, let's say, a small plastic washtub or whatever, and you lift the shirt out of the washtub while it's still soaking wet, you'll notice that it doesn't "hold" as much water in the shirt as does a 100% cotton shirt

Many years ago, I ordered some made-to-meaure shirts from J.P. Tilford (made by Royal Shirts) at Harry Rosen and all the fabrics I chose were 100% 2-ply cotton. Or so I thought.

When I received my shirts several weeks later, I took them home and just soaked them in a small plastic washtub to get the starch out. One of the shirts just didn't "hold" nearly as much water as all the others. I hung the shirts up to dry and the next day, when I was ironing all the shirts, I noticed that one particular shirt had this particular "burnt" or "singed" smell to it when I was ironing it. It was then that I realized, HORROR UPON HORRORS, that this cloth was a cotton/poly or poly/cotton blend!!!!
post #12 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by SuitMyself View Post
Two obvious real-life tests from my own experience is this:

1.) a cotton/poly blend shirt, when ironed, gives off an unmistable slightly "burnt" smell (that's the polyester being singed by the heat of the iron);

2.) if you take a cotton/ploy blend shirt and soak it in, let's say, a small plastic washtub or whatever, and you lift the shirt out of the washtub while it's still soaking wet, you'll notice that it doesn't "hold" as much water in the shirt as does a 100% cotton shirt


This is not definitive as it could simply be from the finishing done to the coton (resining, non-iron, ect) that makes it less absorbative or smell strange.

Polyester when burnt will form a but of melted plastic like hard ash. Coton, even non iron, will not have this hard ash. However low levels of polyester content would not be easily detected this way.

The only thing I know for sure is that faulty labels happen and my not be deliberate. however it is very unlikely that a factory is doing two identical looking fabrics in different blends- not reasonable to think so -unless one is old inventory- it would look and feel different however.

When poly is present it is usually in high enough levels to make it easy to tell once you wear the shirt.
post #13 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xenon View Post

This is not definitive as it could simply be from the finishing done to the coton (resining, non-iron, ect) that makes it less absorbative or smell strange.


I understand what you're saying, Xenon.

But this shirt definitely was a blend--most likely a 50/50 blend or perhaps even a 65 poly/35 cotton blend. When the shirt was dried and I held it up to the light, it was definitely a lot more see-through than my 100% cotton shirts. I never enquired with Harry Rosen about the exact fibre content of that shirt. I figured I'm stuck eith the shirt since I had already washed it.

I also own a lot of non-iron 100% cotton shirts and they don't even feel anything close to this blended made-to-masure shirt from Harry Rosen. I'm just shocked HR would even stock poly blend fabrics. My non-iron cotton shirts are very dense and substantial fabrics and the HR shirt was very thin and see-through.
post #14 of 35
CSI : SF, obviously.
post #15 of 35
you can't, especially when you purchase at a mass retailer likes Marks and Spencer. While they're likely to pay a bit more than other mass marketers, there is little quality control ensuring that the product they're receiving in their stores is what they ordered unless customers bring it to their attention. The sales staff is not trained to check this, nor are the stockists ensuring that they only unpack 100% cotton.
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