Construction Work Shirt for Hot Weather: Cotton vs. Polyester


As the temperatures continue to rise and summer quickly approaches, you may be preparing to purchase some new construction shirts for the next few months.

Perhaps your go-to in the past has been cotton. Or maybe you’ve preferred polyester more. Regardless of your previous preferences, you might be considering an alternative, or you may even want to buy both options.

In preparation for the coming months, which option is best for you personally though? And how do cotton and polyester construction shirts compare to—and differ from—one another?

Why Buy Cotton Work Shirt?

Whenever you purchase 100 percent cotton shirts, you’ll acquire a variety of benefits. For many construction workers, comfort is the primary benefit they notice, as cotton shirts are highly breathable (resulting in high air flow), lightweight and very soft. They also tend to fit “just right”, as they aren’t loose or tight.

Additionally, 100 percent cotton shirts will absorb your sweat and wick away moisture as you work outside in high temperatures, enabling you to maintain your body temperature and minimize any of the odors generally associated with hot weather. Of equal importance, cotton can be hypoallergenic, as it rarely leads to allergic reactions. And it tends to be resistant to dust mites and pollen, resulting in a decline in allergies.

Aside from protecting you from allergic reactions, 100 percent cotton shirts will also protect you from static shocks, as they don’t conduct electricity. Furthermore, they minimize the odds of chafing, due to their moisture wicking capabilities, while blocking UV rays too, allowing them to be worn during the peak of summer.

Highly durable, cotton shirts are built to last for long durations, as they have high tensile strength. Consequently, they won’t rip or tear while you conduct your job tasks. Not to mention, they can withstand several washings. Just ensure you don’t dry clean or iron them—and always wash them on a delicate setting to maintain their shapes and lifespans.

Also, don’t forget that 100 percent cotton shirts are prone to shrinkage, stains and wrinkles, and they can take longer to dry than other shirts. If you maintain them probably and remain patient as you wash and dry them, they can be used for several months.

Two Cotton Construction Shirts to Consider Purchasing:

Dickies Short-sleeved Pocket T-shirt

cotton work shirt

Dickies Short-sleeved Pocket T-shirt.

Comprised of 100 percent pre-shrunk, heavyweight cotton, this machine washable shirt is offered in five colors: ash gray, black, charcoal, dark navy and desert sand. Available in various sizes, ranging from small to 4XLT, the shirt can be utilized for long periods of time, due, in particular, to its knot-proof, taped neck and shoulder seams. Additionally, it has shoulder-to-shoulder reinforcement, another component that ensures its durability. Featuring a chest pocket that can be utilized for small tool (along with other items) storage, the shirt also has a tagless label. As a result, you won’t have to worry about any chafing as you wear it during long shifts.

Best Features: Several colors and sizes; taped neck and shoulder seams

Price: $19.99 – Buy cotton work shirt on

Fruit of the Loom Eversoft Short-sleeved Pocket T-shirt

cotton work shirt for hot weather

Fruit of the Loom Eversoft Short-sleeved Pocket T-shirt.

Offered in 15 colors, along with several sizes, ranging small to 4XL, this shirt is highly breathable and soft, as it’s comprised of EverSoft 100 percent, ring spun cotton. Due to its composition, the shirt wicks away moisture, eliminates odors and protects you from UV rays. Tag free, leading to further comfort, the machine washable shirt will also maintain its softness, regardless of how many times you wash it. Therefore, it will remain as comfortable after its 100th wash (for example) as it was the first time you wore it. To maintain its longevity, ensure it’s washed in cold water with similar colors and tumble dried on low.

Best Features: EverSoft ring spun cotton composition; various colors and sizes

Price: $9.84 – Buy cotton work shirt on

Why Buy Polyester Work Shirt?

Very durable, 100 percent polyester construction shirts are especially useful for highly challenging jobs that result in considerable wear and tear, as they can endure practically anything. Due to their stiffness, the shirts won’t be wrinkled as you conduct these types of job tasks either.

Comprised of plastic elements, the shirts also won’t shrink, unlike cotton shirts, so you can purchase the exact size you normally do without having to worry about whether or not they’re too small. Resistant to tears, the shirts withstand repetitive movements as well, enabling them to be worn over and over again, even if you have to bend and stretch on a regular basis.

Odor resistant and water repellant, the shirts will ensure you remain dry as you work in heavy rains or high temperatures. Although they’re not as soft and comfortable as cotton shirts, 100 percent polyester construction shirts are still known for their comfortability and softness, as you’ll want to wear them consistently. And their comfort and softness are renowned for persisting for several months, if not years.

However, unlike cotton shirts, 100 percent polyester shirts aren’t nearly as breathable. And they may lead to allergic reactions, skin irritations and static shocks—three potential negatives you must bear in mind as you wear them.

Two Polyester Construction Shirts to Consider Purchasing:

Carhartt Force Color Enhanced Short-sleeved T-shirt

polyester work shirt for hot weather

Carhartt Force Color Enhanced Short-sleeved T-shirt.

Featuring the manufacturer’s Force technology, this 4.25-ounce, 100 percent polyester, machine washable shirt can wick away sweat and, in turn, dry quickly. Consequently, you’ll remain cool, dry and comfortable for several hours at a time, even if you’re assigned long shifts during peak summer months. At the same time, it minimizes the odds of short- and long-term staining, as it also has Stain Breaker technology. Offering a side-seam construction, the shirt decreases the potential of twisting as well—another component that increases its potential for longevity. And it has a left-chest pocket that can be utilized for storage, along with a tagless neck label that eliminates itchiness.

Best Features: Force technology; Stain Breaker technology

Price: $21.99 - $24.99 – Buy polyester work shirt on

Radians ST11-N Short-sleeved Safety T-shirt

polyester work shirt

Radians ST11-N Short-sleeved Safety T-shirt.

To enhance its breathability, this shirt features Max-Dri moisture wicking technology, along with a mesh that increases airflow. As a result, you’ll be able to wear it on hot summer days, as you’ll remain comfortable, even as temperatures approach 100℉. Offering Class 2 high-visibility protection, it will reduce potential accidents too, particularly those associated with equipment and vehicles during low-light hours. Featuring an upper left pocket that can be used to store small items, the shirt also has a 2-inch stretchable reflective tape that adheres to it through heat transfer. Therefore, since its tape isn’t sewed on, the shirt feels like a typical t-shirt.

Best Features: Class 2 high-visibility protection; Max-Dri moisture wicking technology

Price: $12.19 – Buy polyester work shirt on

Things to Know about a Cotton Work Shirt

How can I maintain my cotton shirts to ensure they retain their longevity?

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Machine wash them in cold water. Avoid washing them with clothes that have completely different colors. And tumble dry them at a low temperature to reduce the likelihood of shrinkage.

How can I successfully respond to cotton shirts’ potential shrinkage?

Purchase one size larger than you normally would. In doing so, you’ll ultimately have a perfect size after your cotton shirts have shrunk a bit.

What else should I keep in mind, as I maintain my cotton shirts?

As mentioned earlier, don’t ever iron them, as ironing could damage them long term. Also avoid dry cleaning them.

Things to Know about a Polyester Work Shirt

Is polyester sustainable?

Yes. Polyester shirts can actually be melted, formed into other shirts and reused after you’re no longer able to use them. As a result, they won’t be sitting in a landfill. Instead, their components will be utilized for years to come.

Are polyester shirts typically affordable?

Definitely. The primary reason? They’re comprised of synthetic materials, rather than natural fibers like cotton, enabling them to be cost effective.

Why are polyester shirts more prone to static shocks than cotton shirts?

In short, they don’t absorb moisture as well as natural fibers do. And, consequently, their potential for static shocks is quite high.

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