What Is The Difference Between Heavyweight & Lightweight T-Shirts?


Printed and personalised t-shirts can be used for a whole host of reasons. You may need some promotional t-shirts for a product launch or brand campaign, printed t-shirts as part of an upcoming event or maybe you just want a comfy t-shirt to wear around the house. Whatever the reason, one of the factors that needs to be considered is the weight of the t-shirt you’re looking for as it pretty much dictates a lot of the other factors including material, overall quality and most importantly; price.

More often than not, t-shirts tend to fall into two weight categories; lightweight and heavyweight. This categorisation is based on the gram per square metre (gsm.) So what’s the difference between the two?


Any t-shirt under around 160gsm can be considered to be lightweight. With lightweight t-shirts having a much lower gsm than the heavyweight variety it means they are obviously much thinner and therefore more breathable. This makes them an ideal choice if you are looking for a t-shirt to help keep you cool during the summer months. Obviously, this excludes t-shirts which are designed specifically to be breathable! Alternatively, for those with a strict budget when it comes to promotional clothing, lightweight t-shirts are a much more affordable way for you to create your own range of printed t-shirts. The lower the gsm, generally the cheaper the garment will be so the volume of t-shirts you will be able to get printed will be much greater.

What are the potential drawbacks?

While lightweight t-shirts are cheaper than the heavyweight variety making them ideal as printed t-shirts, when it comes to embroidery they aren’t particularly great. This low gram per square metre means that the t-shirts are very thin. When you try to apply embroidery to the garments, the fabric just won’t have enough about it for the embroidery thread to sit comfortably on the garment which will result in either the embroidery pulling or the t-shirt becoming irreparably damaged. While you may be able to get away with some lightweight t-shirts being embroidered, those with a gsm of around 100-120 will struggle to have a professional looking end product with embroidery.

Another drawback of lightweight t-shirts is their durability and longevity. Constant wearing and washing causes the quality of the t-shirt fabric to diminish over time. As the fabric is incredibly thin from the outset, you're going to find that they breakdown much quicker than other garments. As promotional t-shirts to be used over the short term basis they are ideal, but for anything longer you may start to experience some issues.


Any t-shirt with a gsm around 180 to 200+ is generally considered to be a top end heavyweight t-shirt. As you can imagine this is a much thicker garment than a lightweight t-shirt and offers better retention of heat and more comfortable overall fit. In terms of having them personalised, they can be both printed or embroidered giving them much more personalisation options than their lightweight counterpart. As the fabric is much thicker those of lightweight t-shirts, you are generally going to find that they last longer and continue to hold their colour after multiple washes.

What are the potential drawbacks?

For those looking to create a range of promotional garments within a budget, the main downside to heavyweight clothing is going to come down to the price. As they have a whole host of positive factors including durability, comfort and improved longevity, you can expect to pay sometimes double the cost per t-shirt in comparison to the lightweight variety. This may result in the total cost being a little too much compared to what you initially had in mind. However, if you are looking for promotional clothing which can be used over a span of several months while still holding its quality, then you will find it to be a better long term investment.