Why The F*ck: Should I Buy A $50 T-Shirt?

They definitely aren’t all created equal.

Walmart is selling a 6-pack of white crew neck tees for $12.46. Right now. Target, its fancier competitor, will run you $9 per Mossimo Supply Co shirt. So with these options, why pay $100 for an option from Handvaerk, or $65 for one from NN.07 over at Mr. Porter? To get to the heart of the matter, we chatted up someone in the business about the heart of the matter: materials. Because though the silhouette might make the first impression, on the whole, it’s the fabric that makes the cost vary.

Yep, that’s $65 worth of t-shirt from NN. 07

Materials matter

“First of all you have the quality of the materials,” Albert Samuels, a Senior Merchandiser for the basics brand Alternative Apparel.”There are all different types of cotton out there.” Alternative uses a 100% organic Pima cotton for their $46 perfect crew neck tee. Pima cotton has a softer, slicker feel than the Hanes from your childhood and is widely considered some of the best cotton out on the market right now.

Alternative Apparel thinks they have ended the search for the perfect tee with this $46 version.

Not too heavy, not too light

Like in wrestling, your fighting weight matters. Though it’s expressed differently, the weight of  your shirt (think of it like thread count for your sheets) not only effects how soft it feels but also how heavy and durable the material. The weight of Alternative’s perfect tee not only allows it to go the distance when it comes to the dryer, but also strikes the sweet spot of seasonality. “The weight of our shirt is sort of perfect because it can be worn year round.”

Industry Choice: John Elliott + Co’s classic tee is an industry favorite for $64.

Location, location, location

When you want a well-made suit you go to the Italians and when they wanted a well made-shirt, Alternative went to Peru. “Pima cotton is made in Peru,” Samuels explained. “We think that they really know the most about how to handle the fabric so we make our shirts there. That of course plays into the price as well.

Of course Samuels isn’t just buying premium priced res with no abandon.  The merchant does have a rule of thumb for when designs skew too expensive. “Once you get over about $60 you’re paying for the brand in my opinion rather than the quality. James Perse makes a great t-shirt but when you start selling them for $84 bucks, you can get the same shirt at a different brand for around $60.”

As for the most expensive designer shirt he’s bought himself: “John Elliott sells his for $64 and I swear by them.”

Photos by Flickr/Insomnia Cured Here