The fundamental measure for quality shirting fabrics is based on the diameter of the thread and not the number of threads per inch. The measure is determined by the calculating the number of hanks (840 yrds) per pound of thread. There are a number of different ways to express the size of the thread, including yarn size, yarn count, yarn number and cotton count. But they essentially mean the same thing - the higher the number, the finer the fabric.
Thread count is only one factor. The type and density of weave also play a major role in how the shirt feels.
Generally the higher the count
Shirts come in either one ply or two-ply constructions, which means that it is either made from one strand or two strands of cotton twisted together. Because two-ply cotton is a stronger and more flexible fabric, good shirting is usually two-ply. By altering the number of twists and the tension between the strands high-end shirting manufacturers are able to create luxurious fabrics.
The style of the weave plays an important role in not only how the shirt looks but also how it feels against the skin. Not only can the density of the weave be changed but also the way threads interact with each other to give the fabric different texture, feel and look. Below are descriptions of some of the more common styles.
a tightly woven plain fabric that offers a smooth lustrous texture and is ideal for the classic business shirt.
Is a weave that offers a highly durable shirt with a texture that is ideally suited to today's busy environments. Sometimes referred to as a basket weave, shirts made from this material are ideal for both casual and business shirts.
As the name suggests this fabric is very similar to oxford but with a finer weave giving a slightly more elegant look.
Another variant of the oxford weave but with a slightly more pronounced pattern and is ideal for evenings or formal events.
a heavily textured fabric that can be used for more elaborate evening shirts.
End to End
This weave gives a delicate change in colour tone by weaving threads of different colours together, usually with one dominant colour. A great fabric for when you want to create a shirt with a little more character.
Consists of continuous diagonal lines that enhance the depth of the colour. This style of fabric is commonly seen in business shirts.
A very similar weave to twill but the diagonal lines reversed to give a distinctive symmetrical pattern. Again a fabric that can be used for formal business shirts but doesn't look out of place in a casual environment.
Dobby / Jacquard
These weaves are used to create intricate patterns in the fabric itself. Given the huge range of possibilities, this fabric can be used for formal wear right through to casual shirts.