Why Is It That Polyester Shirts Are Often Softer Than Cotton Shirts?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Ivar, Oct 31, 2012.

  1. black_umbrella

    black_umbrella Senior member

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    Emptym is right, polyester fibers are generally between 12 to 25 microns. Even supima tends to only be approximately 17 microns at the smallest.

    HH's comments make no sense. All of the technical "wicking" fabrics are actually polyester.
     
  2. emptym

    emptym Moderator Moderator

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    I think polyester does insulate better than cotton. But performance polyesters are usually treated with chemicals that help them absorb sweat and reflect the sun. One benefit to polyester is that it tends not to stick to one's body when wet, at least not as much as 100% cotton.
     
  3. Xenon

    Xenon Senior member

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    Your post certainly make the most sense, but my experience differs in terms of insulation. The polys are hotter when its hot and colder when its cold to me. Part of the reason is that poly is a simple solid section fiber and acts as a thermal bridge. Cotton is more complex and has voids that trap air and offer no such thermal bridge.

    Another reason that poly may be softer is again that it is a solid section smooth fiber with no/less whiskers or fuzz. Typical cotton has alot of whiskers that may feel prickly and that can also trap hard water sediments to a greater degree.

    That said no matter how smooth a 100% poly shirt is, it feels very uncomfortable to me when actually wearing even if it has a nice hand. Actually this holds true with most non iron 100% cotton shirts as well.

    Also there isn't a poly shirt, even microfiber poly, that is as smooth just to the touch alone once you move into the NE 170 and over range. At that range the only competition in any tactile quality is silk (not even the finest cashmere or wool can compete against the skin). Also remember that many true Sea Island cottons, no matter how shiny/slick are only NE 120 to 140.
     
  4. in stitches

    in stitches Kung Joo Moderator

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    1. honestly, i dont find poly to be softer than cotton. more smooth and silky maybe, but not necessarily softer. i have plenty of cotton shirts that i find to be butter soft.

    2. how is this not a reevolving thread?
     
  5. HansderHund

    HansderHund Senior member

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    +1 to both.

    Sorry, I meant to make myself more clear. I simply meant that polyester can be made to be a smoothe fabric. The overall texture can be made in a more uniform way and therefore feel softer at first glance. I can't wear it as I have hyperhidrosis and therefore can take the lack of breathability.
     
  6. anginaprinzmetal

    anginaprinzmetal Senior member

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    ^this
     
  7. emptym

    emptym Moderator Moderator

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    Well, a lot of polyester is solid, but it can be made hollow. Your point about fuzz could be true. Although I thought one reason old cotton clothes are soft is that the fibers break down over time and create more fuzz.

    That's interesting about your experience. Mine is pretty much the opposite. IOW, polyester garments feel warmer to me than cotton ones. But a lot of that may be due to the weave of the fabric. For example, I think a relatively lightweight microfleece shirt is warmer than a heavyweight cotton sweatshirt. The only things I can compare directly are jersey-knit t-shirts, and there I'd say the polyester is warmer. Actually, I have a pair of poly/nylon blend corduroy pants and they're warmer to me than cotton ones of about the same weight.

    And some of it may be the way they perform when wet. As outdoorsmen like to say: "Cotton kills," since when wet it's very chilly. I'm not sure if that's due to evaporative cooling, an increase of thermal conductivity and/or something else.

    I've never owned a 100% polyester dress shirt, but one of my favorite shirts is an old Patagonia silkweight capilene T that's 100% polyester. It's my favorite thing for the hottest conditions, from jungles to deserts. That or one of their Puckerware shirts. After that, I like linen, then an old poly/cotton oxford weave shirt, and then plain cotton. But really, the differences aren't huge imo. The main disadvantage to cotton in the heat imo is how it sticks to me when wet.

    No vitrol.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2012
  8. in stitches

    in stitches Kung Joo Moderator

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    i assure you, i meant it endearingly. no joke.
     
  9. Zac Duncan

    Zac Duncan Well-Known Member

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    Except softer, polyester is lighter than the cotton one
     
  10. Pawz

    Pawz Senior member

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    For cheap shirts, we call it polyester. For pricier ones, we use the term micro-fiber. You're welcome. :)
     
  11. Xenon

    Xenon Senior member

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    Ah, you're right and I failed to consider different weaves in poly. Was only thinking of plain poplin type weave. And there is definitely nothing worse than wet cotton. It just stays wet forever when its cold. In the summer though when cotton gets damp due to perspiration it seems to speed up cooling due to evaporation maybe?

    Was trying to find stiffness values for various fibers of the same diameter, but can't locate anything except on high count cottons. The finest cottons are not just thinner put at given thickness are actually less stiff. This might come into play with poly, perhaps the structure is not as rigid?
     
  12. Xenon

    Xenon Senior member

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    I thought this was changing now and that the new concensus was that wool was by far the best "wicking fabric" available. Cotton perhaps being one of the worst
     
  13. in stitches

    in stitches Kung Joo Moderator

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    i cringe at the thought of a skin tight wool running shirt.
     
  14. Nicola

    Nicola Senior member

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    Only because you don't grow up with wool undershirts. Wool hockey sweater etc
     
  15. Patek

    Patek Senior member

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    I have plenty of technical rear that is wool. Good wool does not itch--I'm not sure how they do it.
     

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