Best Fabrics for Shirts – a SANVT Guide

SANVT Journal

For many of us, shirts are only withdrawn from our wardrobes after long periods of inactivity when a formal occasion comes around – or for business. But we don’t have to be so particular, as shirts can be worn in many different ways in many different settings. If you consider the elements of the shirt, like the cut, the fit, the collar, the pattern, you can achieve a completely different look from one shirt to the next.

Of all shirt elements, one of the most important aspects is the fabric. So, you may be wondering what’s the best ‘fabric’ for shirts? Well, there’s no simple ‘best’ fabric for every circumstance but we can definitely detail three popular fabrics and when it’s best to wear such a shirt.


  • Best for: most occasions
  • In a word: versatile
  • Made from: cotton, typically
  • Type: natural / blend

What exactly is OXFORD?

Oxford is a type of woven fabric that’s typically made from cotton but nowadays can be made from a variety of different materials. Shirts made from Oxford, known as Oxford Shirts, were invented in 19th century Scotland. In the 21st century they have become one of the most popular types of shirt worldwide.

Oxford shirts were originally worn by the era’s elites but today’s shirts have a far more versatile appeal. This is because Oxford is a fabric that can fit in anywhere: it can look sporty but it can also look formal if combined in the right way.

To touch, and to look at, it is a bit thicker than some other fabrics, so it isn’t necessarily the best choice for extremely formal occasions where a bit more elegance is called for (e.g. a wedding). But apart from that it can look great in most situations. If we were to recommend an overall ‘best’ fabric for shirts then Oxford would probably be it.

There are a few variations to bear in mind too. If you fancy something a little more formal, then you could always opt for a shirt made from Oxford’s more upper-class counterpart. The appropriately named Royal Oxford.

Looking for an Oxford shirt? You can take a look at SANVT’s Perfect Oxford Shirt, which is sustainably made from pure organic cotton.


  • Best for: summer (esp. holidays)
  • In a word: fresh
  • Made from: fibers of the flax plant
  • Type: natural

Linen is a popular fabric that most of us have worn at some point. It can be one of the best choices for shirts in hot weather. This is because of linen’s sought-after cooling effect.

How does linen keep you so cool? It’s a phenomenon that is attributed to its relatively high ‘conductivity’, which is the same property that keeps metals cold. This is why linen is often worn on holidays, as it’s so comfortable to wear in hotter climates.

The fabric has some other pros and cons. On the plus side, it’s a sustainable fabric as it’s grown from the flax plant, which doesn’t take much water to grow – and most of the plant is used in production, with minimal wastage. The downsides are that linen wrinkles easily, meaning it’s high-maintenance. And it also has quite a particular ‘on vacation’ look that tends to work best in a limited range of settings.

All considered though, some linen items are pretty much essential to have for breaks and journeys to hot climates.


  • Best for: very formal occasions
  • In a word: serious
  • Made from: cotton or silk
  • Type: natural / blend

Sometimes you need a more serious quality in a shirt. You might need something special for a ceremony. Or you might have a crucial business meeting in a sector like finance where looking your best and making the right impression is important. These formal situations are where poplin can be one of the best shirt fabrics. 

The way poplin is woven creates a fine but also thick fabric that has a flowing look because of its low tendency to wrinkle. Shirts made from poplin also feel very soft to the touch, almost silky, and can even be made from silk (although they’re more likely to be made from cotton).

On the whole, the elegant lustrous look of poplin is a great choice for formal occasions, ceremonies and serious business. But outside of that realm you’re going to look a little overdressed if you don a poplin shirt. It’s certainly a useful type of shirt to have but it’s not as versatile as the Oxford shirt. Note that in the USA and some other regions, Poplin is known as ‘broadcloth’.

IN CONCLUSION: The best fabrics for shirts

So, as you can see, there’s no simple best shirt. It can be good to have a range of shirts to hand, maybe even all of the above. The more options the better so you can look in place wherever you are. That said, if you’re looking for a versatile shirt that’s going to fit in well in a wide range of situations then we recommend a shirt made from Oxford.

Given the times that we live in, another thing to bear in mind is the quality and sustainability of your shirt. SANVT’s Perfect Oxford Shirt is made from premium-quality ELS cotton that’s 100% organic. Not only that, you can select width as well as length for the perfect fit. Take a look at SANVT’s perfect Oxford Shirt at the links below: