Ten T-Shirt Terms that You Should Know Before Buying Online

Shopping at the Click of the Mouse

Buying t-shirts online is great because it offers you an unmatched level of convenience and often yields substantial savings over in-store purchases.  However, there are a few challenges that are unique to buying t-shirts online that you should be aware of prior to making the purchase.

Since you’re not able to actually see or touch the shirt in-person getting the right size and the right type of t-shirt can be difficult. Of the two challenges understanding the type of t-shirt or fabric that you’re getting is usually more critical because as long as you know your size measurements you can always refer to the online store’s size chart or request more information concerning a shirt’s measurements.

Knowing t-shirt terminology will aid you in your decision on the type of t-shirt to buy.  So, let’s check out the ten t-shirt terms that you should know before shopping online and you’ll find that buying t-shirts online is a lot easier than you think.


When you think of a basic cotton t-shirt, you’re most likely thinking of a jersey knit fabric.  Jersey fabric can take on many different characteristics based on its weight, yarn type and how it is knitted and dyed.  Lighter weight jersey made of fine yarn can have a clingy, fitted look.  Heavier weight jersey can produce a relaxed fit t-shirt.  Also, with jersey t-shirts you’ll find that the face side of the fabric (the one that everyone sees) has a different look then the back side due to how its stitched.


Rib is characterized as fabric that has heavy vertical ridges or ribs running down the length of it. You’ll usually see them described as 1×1, 2×1 or 2×2. The numbers let you know how wide the ribs are in comparison to the space between the ribs.   Sometimes you will hear 1×1 rib referred to as “Baby Rib” as the ribs are narrower than other ribbed garments.

Often rib knit fabric has a stretchy or elastic quality to it (without the spandex) that makes this fabric ideal for tank tops and shirt collars and cuffs.  At Rock Bottom T-Shirts, we also use “Baby Rib” in several of our infant garments, like our Infant Short Sleeve Bodysuit, because the stretch inherent in rib knit fabric is great for getting garments over a baby’s head and allowing them freedom of movement as they grow and explore.


This is a process in the spinning of yarn that removes short fibers in the cotton and arranges the longer fibers in a parallel orientation.   When this yarn is knitted, the result is a much softer fabric.  Combed cotton is characterized by its strength and is often found in higher quality t-shirts.

Ring Spun (Ringspun or Ring-spun)

Ring Spun cotton is created by spinning (twisting and thinning) cotton fibers into yarn. The result of this process is a much finer yarn that is noticeably soft to the touch.

Combed Ringspun

When you make a cotton t-shirt that has been both combed and ringspun, such as our Womens V-neck T-Shirt, you get a shirt that is as strong as it is soft.  For more information on combed ringspun garments, check out this blog post on the process.

Crew Neck

A crew neck can best be described as a neckline that is round and close fitting. Crew necks are most commonly found on t-shirts and sweatshirts.

Top Stitch

Neckline with Top Stitch

Neckline with Top Stitch

Neckline without Top Stitch image

Neckline without Top Stitch

A top stitch is a clean and decorative method of stitching.  It is often done on hems and necklines to provide a clean, finished look.  For example a top stich sewn around the neckline of a t-shirt prevents the fabric around the neckline from overlapping onto the neckline.  An example of a top stitched neckline can be found on our popular Women’s Scoop Neck Tee.


The term taped does not refer to actual tape like you used in school.  The term refers to a thin strip of fabric that has been sewn on top of the neck and/or shoulder seams inside the t-shirt to cover up the seam.  This gives a cleaner, higher end look to the t-shirt and adds to its comfort and durability.

Raw serge

A sewing technique that employs threads stitched in diagonal lines across the edge of the fabric .  On a jersey knit garment, this can produce a high-fashion look where the garment is not hemmed, but the raw serge helps keep the edge from unraveling, like on our Juniors Racer Back Shirt Tail Tank.

Using ribbed fabric, a raw serge can produce a ruffle looking edge like on our toddler tiny tees.  Don’t confuse a raw serge with a raw edge.  A raw edge is where the garment is actually cut off and allowed to fray like on our Juniors French Terry Zipper Hoodie.


The weight tells you how much a portion of the fabric weighs.  We use ounces per square yard.  So when you see a 4.5 oz t-shirt, that doesn’t mean the whole shirt weighs 4.5 oz., but a square yard of fabric used to make the shirt weighs 4.5 oz.  On some websites, you may find the term “gsm” or grams per square meter used to describe a fabric’s weight.

Usually the lighter the weight the more form fitting the garment will be while a heavier weight garment will drape more.  Shirts that are 4.5 oz. (153 gsm) or less are usually considered light weight.  Shirts that are 6.0 oz. (203 gsm) or more are considered heavier weight shirts.


T-Shirt terminology can vary from website to website.  You will find that some websites use more technical terminology while others employ more descriptive language.  Either way, we hope that these terms will allow you to make more informed online purchasing choices.  Are there any terms that we missed or that you’d like to learn more about?  Please let us know with a comment below or on our Facebook Page.

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