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Do American Apparel T-Shirts Shrink? Results of a Spreadshirt Testlab Study

Spreadshirt was out to find out if it was the difference in fabric and cut that makes American Apparel t-shirts worth the premium price over other t-shirts. For this first Spreadshirt Testlab experiment Spreadshirt took twenty black American Apparel t-shirts and documented how they changed in the color, condition, overall length, the length of the sleeves, the checks and the waist.

The results of the study found that the elements reduced as follows:

Length: -1.02″ (3.5%)
Chest Width: -.75″ (3.7%)
Waist Width: -.87″ (-4.0%)
Sleeve Length: -.28 (-3.2%)

After twenty washes Spreadshirt also found that the color saturation gets lower and the fabric gets linty. Tobias of Spreadshirt stated that the AA shirts “couldn’t satisfy my expectations” but was pleased that the shirts overall shape stayed stable.

This was a great experiment and it would be interesting to see how the American Apparel compare to other brands.

For more info check out the Spreadshirt Blog.


Written by T-Shirt Talk


  1. erik · June 5, 2008

    good to know!

  2. Michael C. · June 8, 2008

    I have a small line, and was trying to figure out if the AA phenomenon was all sizzle and no steak. I strongly dislike the fact that they do not go above 2X, thus requiring you to downshift to a much less quality blank for 3x and 4x. Strictly speaking, they do not go over XL, for as the Spreadshirt test proves, the sizes are really askew by one from actual (the 2X starts as a “skinny person’s 2X” and is pretty much an XL after washing).

    We did a similar test (not as exact, with percentages and all), and found that one of the other RADICAL shrinkage areas occurs in the neck opening. After one washing (and drying), it shrank by a little more than .625?

    We also tested the Alternative Apparel “Basic Crew T-Shirt” (which is too pricey a blank for our line at US$6.90), That shirt did the best on shrinkage.

    The 980 Anvil 4.5 oz Cotton Ringspun shirt did quite well in all areas (But, again, only goes to 2X), and the OR420 Anvil Men’s Organic T-shirt was pretty good as well (though probably due to the “organic” properties, it is not nearly as soft and was described by one of our models as “scratchy”). Nonetheless, we’ll be using the organics for our 3 and 4X sizes, as I think they have a generous cut, wash well, and have SOME caché beyond a plain ol FOTL or other line that goes to 4X.

    We ultimately settled on the AA for the “normal” sizes, mainly due to the “street appeal” of the label on our customers (which sucks, because, while of good quality and softness, nothing irks me more than buying a shirt that shrinks radically three days after you buy it–now I have to SELL them).



  3. Ant · June 28, 2009

    I have a good number of AA shirts. I never measured them before or after washing, but they have always fit me very well. I am slim and I wear medium size shirts.

    If anything, I like them better shrunken than when they were brand new because they fit me perfectly as they are now.

  4. Louise · December 18, 2011

    What I want to know is, what temperature did they wash the shirt at? On what cycle? Did they go in the dryer? (and how hot/how long?) I don’t know if it’s only one or two or all of the above that can make a shirt shrink. Would it help to only wash in cold water on delicate cycle, with Woolite, and line dry?

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