Shirt Fabrics & Dress Shirt Material Types

shirt fabrics cotton dress shirt

Written by Tanya Zhang

What are Shirts Made of?

I often find myself talking about the fit and structure of men’s dress shirts more than anything. However, the selection of shirt fabrics is equally important. So I wanted to draw attention to the various fabrics used, so that you know which types of dress shirts are most suitable for your needs.

Shirt fabrics like cotton is one of the many shirt material types used in dress shirts. Depending on the event you are attending, selecting the right types of shirt fabric can make all the difference in your appearance. So let’s jump right in and explore the different dress shirting fabrics.

Cotton Dress Shirt Fabrics

The right dress shirting fabric can drastically affect the way you look and feel. A lighter fabric, for example, will help keep you cool and comfortable at an event that’s in a warmer environment. Of course, cotton shirting fabrics affect your clothing style, as well. Having a cotton dress shirt in your closet is one of the staple types of shirt fabric to have. The best shirt material is a good essential cotton dress shirt. Here's why a cotton dress shirt is a great shirt material type to have:

  1. Comfort: Cotton is a soft and breathable fabric, making it comfortable while keeping the wearer cool and dry on warmer days.

  2. Durability: A cotton dress shirt is a fabric that can withstand wear and tear, making it an excellent choice for dress shirts that are worn frequently.

  3. Easy care: Cotton is easy to care for and can be machine-washed and dried, making it a practical choice for men who want low-maintenance clothing.

  4. Affordable: Cotton is a relatively inexpensive shirting fabric, making it an affordable choice for dress shirts.

Nimble Made has great selection of cotton dress shirting fabrics. They use almost 100% across all their dress shirts and are the best shirt materials by far. This white dress shirt is their bestselling slim fit dress shirt for men. Curious about how synthetic fabrics stack up against cotton? Read our article on polyester vs cotton.

Poplin vs Twill Shirt Fabrics

broadcloth dress shirt fabric

Poplin Shirting Fabrics

Poplin is a shirt material type also often called broadcloth. One of the many shirt material types, poplin is a type of shirt fabric that is tightly fabric woven and has a very simple weave structure and very little sheen. Thanks to these characteristics, poplin and broadcloth are types of shirt fabric that are both beautiful, professional, and a dressy fabric. This white dress shirt is the best shirt material for a classic and professional look.

Twill Shirt Fabrics

Twill weave fabrics are easy to recognize because they show diagonal weave or texture. This diagonal effect can range from very fine and subtle twill to larger imperial or cavalry twill. 

Moreover, twill almost always has a little sheen, but the degree may depend on varying factors, including weave, color, and cotton. Twill is an incredibly tight weave that can take a very high number of threads, some of which may be mistaken for silk. Here's a in-depth guide on what is twill.

Due to the twill texture, the twill fabric is softer than broadcloth fabric and is easier to drape. However, twill will not give you a “crisp” appearance like that found in broadcloth and poplin fabrics that has just been pressed, but it is relatively easy to iron and wrinkle-resistant.

When it comes to poplin vs twill shirt fabrics, it really comes down to preference are the differences are in the nuances of how the shirts are made and its weave pattern. This is a close up of the twill weave in one of our favorite slim fit ties for men:



Chambray Shirt Material Type

Chambray is a plain weave fabric, which means that it has a structure similar to carded fabric, although it is usually made with thicker threads and is more suitable for casual wear or workwear. 

chambray fabric

To fully understand chambray, we have to first look at cambric fabric. Cambric, or batiste, is one of the thinnest and densest fabric types. "Said to be first established Cambrai, France in 1595, chambray is defined as 'a lightweight even weave fabric formed of colored warp threads or yarns [often blue] and white weft yarns,'" according to Swinburne University of Technology.

In the early 19th century, the name “chambray” replaced cambric in the United States. Although chambray shirt fabrics are the same shirt material types as cambric, the former has a colored base fabric and white weft threads.

Therefore, chambray can be made in any color you want, whether it’s the warp or the filling. Blue chambray shirts can often come off as denim shirts and shirting fabric, but are not made of denim material. This is one of favorite chambray dark blue dress shirt:


Oxford Cloth Shirting Fabrics

oxford cloth

Oxford cloth is one of the shirt material types that has a slightly rough texture, but it is a fairly durable fabric than most types of shirt fabric. In addition, it is composed of a symmetrical basket weave, one of which can pass through two threads, to produce patterned fabrics in a subtle way. 

Originally designed for sportswear, it is the least elegant and (depending on where you are) not suitable for formal or office wear. Oxford shirt fabrics has always been an indispensable part of traditional American polo shirts and casual shirts. A deeper dive into what is an oxford shirt here.

Oxford shirting fabrics were originally manufactured in a Scottish fabric factory in the 19th century and had a rich tradition. Oxford shirts are one of four shirt fabrics named after universities. For better or worse, Yale and the others didn’t catch on quite like Oxford. Our favorite men's slim fit dress shirt in a grey oxford shirt fabric below:


Dobby Shirt Fabric

white dobby fabric weave

The dobby weave is similar to a jacquard weave in thickness and weight. Some versions of a dobby weave may be thicker or more woven and look almost like twill. 

One notable feature of the dobby fabric is that it can contain many different fibers, such as cotton, nylon, or silk, and can be made in various patterns, colors, and weights. The color of the warp and weft thread can be the same or different, which of course enhances the delicate texture of this shirt material type.

Dobby shirt fabrics are usually a popular choice for striped and plaid shirts due to their texture, and the patterns can be very complementary. You’ll find many dobby fabrics with woven fabric stripes, but there are some types of these shirt fabrics that have solid colors like Nimble Made's white dobby weave dress shirt:





flannel fabric

Flannels, like this blue and white button down shirt,  is a favorite for many people to wear in autumn and winter. Flannel is a warm, fluffy fabric, usually made of brushed twill or brushed poplin. Although they are usually made of 100% cotton, sometimes they can also be made of cotton and wool blends or even cotton and cashmere. Here's a guide on flannel vs plaid.

These combinations serve to provide the wearer with extra warmth. As such, flannel is a fabric that is highly suitable for cold weather. Moreover, it makes excellent sleepwear for both kids and adults. You’ll also find blankets and other bedding made of flannel due to its warming abilities.

If you require warm clothing for an event, flannel will certainly do the trick. However, the fabric will limit your options in what you can wear. If you’re in a less formal setting, flannel can work just fine. But a black-tie event is out of the question.

The French term “flanelle” was used in the late 17th century, while the German term “flanell” was used early in the 18th century. 

Flannel was produced in the 17th century and gradually replaced the old Welsh plains, some of which ended with cotton or ribbon ornaments, which is a coarse wool cloth, a local textile product. In the 19th century, flannel was mainly produced in cities such as Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Hay-on-Wye, and Llanidloes. 


Recap on What Shirts are Made of

Dress shirt material types constitutes a wide range of clothing options for men and women. Choosing the right types of shirt fabric for your dress shirts plays a significant role in both your look and feel. As such, it’s important to make sure that you invest and dress appropriately for the various events you attend.


Frequently asked questions about types of shirt fabric

1. What is the best material for a dress shirt?

Dress shirts are usually made from cotton because it is the most breathable, durable, and comfortable material making it the ideal dress shirt fabric. Moreover, cotton fibers are strong enough to allow for a range of weave patterned fabrics and thread counts.

2. What is a weave shirt?

We speak of shirt textiles or dress shirt fabrics when we refer to the fabric's actual weave. Cloths are made by weaving cotton threads (called weft and warp treads) together. There are many ways to weave cotton threads together.

3. Should dress shirts be 100 cotton?

Dress shirts made entirely of cotton are the finest. Synthetic fibers are not as durable, breathable, or pleasant as cotton, and they significantly reduce the lifespan of a shirt. You will not be able to keep starch in polyester mix clothing if you take it.

4. What fabric is used for formal shirts?

About 85-90 percent of quality formal shirts are made of cotton. Linen shirts have a promising fabric that provides much more comfort than cotton. Not just for summer, it is becoming more and more popular in fashion. Two-ply yarns are used to create quality shirts, with fine counts ranging from 2 x 80s to as fine as 2 x 140s.

5. What fabric is best for formal shirts?

For formal shirts, linen is one of the best fabrics. Flax fibers are commonly used to produce this fabric, which is soft, pleasant, breathable, and lightweight. Many individuals choose this fabric because it is a robust fabric that dries much faster than cotton.

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