Choosing Cotton vs. Synthetic

Recently, I’ve been trying out a few button-ups (and a polo) that are either all, or majority cotton. This has shifted my thinking some when choosing a shirt to wear.

Previously, all of my button-ups were either merino or 100% synthetic. Of course, I am able to get multiple wears out of the merino shirts, but the synthetic shirts either need a rinse or wash after each wear.

The synthetic shirts come out of my bag ready to wear, the merino sometimes need a steam in the bathroom. And when it comes time for a wash, the synthetic shirts are ready to go after hanging dry, while the merino shirts need a steam.

Now that I have some mostly cotton shirts in my wardrobe, I see some areas where they fit in. I’m specifically talking about a few from Taylor Stitch (The Short Sleeve Bandit in Heather Grey, our review and The California in Olive Hemp Poplin) and the Mack Weldon 37.5 Oxford. On the polo side, I’m talking about the Mack Weldon SILVERKNIT Polo (our review).

Being someone who often wears an undershirt under my button-ups, I’m able to get two wears out of each of these shirts. In the case of the Hemp Poplin fabric from
Taylor Stitch I’ve gotten two days of wear out of it even without an undershirt.

I find myself favoring these mostly cotton shirts in a few situations:

  1. When I need a casual shirt, these, specifically the Taylor Stitch shirts are perfect. They look normal, have great drape, and the small amount of linen or hemp blended in give them a little edge on performance.
  2. On my travel days, I tend to go for something a little more durable than a merino shirt. Synthetic was previously my go-to, but I found they could start to smell by the end of a long day of travel.
  3. When I want a shirt that just looks absolutely normal and simple, the heavy cotton of the Mack Weldon shirt gives that classic Oxford look and drape and the polo looks just like your standard pique polo.

While the Mack Weldon shirts do have some extra tech to up their performance to some extent, the Taylor Stitch shirts just rely on a small portion of other natural fibers to make them something special.

Wearing these shirts for a few months has made me more likely to give mostly cotton shirts a chance. There are many cases where cotton will suffice, or even be a better choice. If you’re looking for a shirt to wear once or twice before washing, and don’t mind ironing or steaming, merino might not be worth the extra expense and synthetic might not be the best for keeping fresh all day. For me, cotton blends come out on the top in these cases and if I’m going to spend a lot of time out in the heat, a blend with hemp or linen is my choice.

Choosing Cotton vs. Synthetic