Before You Buy, Guide to Sweat Short Fabric

We all know sweat shorts are comfortable and soft.

But, did you know the actual choice in fabric can make a big difference in the feel of the shorts?

Sweat shorts are typically made from two different fabrics.

Sweat shirt fleece, also known as jersey fleece, and french terry.

Both are soft and cozy. So which one do you choose?


Sweatshirt Fleece

The majority of sweat shorts are made from sweatshirt fleece.

Sweatshirt fleece fabric has a faint resemblance to wool in touch and feel.

It is a thicker heavier fabric then french terry, but doesnt absorb water as well.


How its made

Sweatshirt fleece comes from the family of stretch knit fabrics.

Usually it comes as a cotton polyester blend, usually 80% cotton and 20% polyester. Yet sweatshirt fleece can also be 100% polyester. Cotton helps wick and absorb moisture.

It starts by knitting twisted yarns into fabric.

Fleece yarns range in size from 20 singles to 40 singles. A single is considered one cohesive thread. The size of the yarn and knit will determine the weight of the fleece.

The higher single the finer the yarn. Fine yarn will create a super smooth lightweight material.

The lower numbered singles create a heavier material. This is perfect for warmer, thick, and cozy material

The heavier the weight of the fabric the warmer and thicker it will be.

Next time buying sweat shorts consider the fabric weight. Refer to this guide to get the exact thickness you want.

Now how do they make it warm and fuzzy?

In order to get fleece fuzzy a large roller with either sandpaper or wire brushes is rolled over the knitted yarn loops until the yarns and fibers become curly and soft.


Features and Benefits of Fleece

  • Wicks moisture away from body

  • Launders Well

  • Weightless and warm

  • Soft on touch

  • Does not ravel, run or shrink

  • Dries quickly

  • Super comfortable

  • Great alternative to wool

  • Earth friendly


  • Attracts dust, lint, and hairs

  • Not wind resistant

Caring for Fleece

  • Fleece can be washed in washing machine. But it should be kept inside out. And the machine set to a warm gentle cycle.

  • Fleece is water resistant. Using a mild detergent will help maintain its water resistance property.

  • When drying sweatshirt fleece in the dryer use the lowest settings and remove quickly when complete.


Additional Advice and Tips

  • Fleece should never be ironed. It may leave a burn mark which cannot be removed.

  • Bleach and fabric softeners reduce the water resistant property of fleece. They should never be used when washing this fabric.

  • Always read the instruction on the content label. There will be specific information on how to make the fabric last longer.


Sweatshirt fleece may be the most common fabric found in sweat shorts. But french terry is a close second.

French terrys unique trait is that it is lighter than sweatshirt fleece. This means on really warm summer days french terry fabric is probably the better option.


French Terry

I am guessing you have seen terry cloth in your life. Basically every bathroom towel is made from it.


I had the blessing of owning a pair of terry cloth shorts in middle school. Needless to say everyone called them towel shorts.

But I am not here to talk about terry cloth. I want to talk about its smoother, lighter, hipper brother...

French terry.


How its made

Unlike sweatshirt fleece, french terry can be made from 100% cotton.

Although it is most often found using the same cotton polyester blend. (80%/20%)

French terry is woven using two separate wrap threads, one has loose tension.

This loose thread is pushed backwards while the other yarns are woven together. This creates the distinguishing loops of terry.

French terry can be hand knitted, but today, is machine knitted most of the time.


Characteristics of French Terry Cloth

The out facing side of the fabric is smooth and flat. It has a very similar in look and feel to sweat shirt fleece.

Unlike fleece, french terrys inside loops are not brushed into a fuzzy material.

Instead the loops are left untouched. See image above.

This is what makes french terry unique. And gives it an added water absorption.

  • The weight of the french terry cloth varies from light to medium, but usually this fabric is very light.

  • The loop side of french terry cloth wicks moisture quickly. This makes french terry best for summer season.

  • French terry made with cotton thread can absorb up to 27 times its weight in water

  • French terry is strong and can withstand most rubbing, tugging, twisting, pulling etc. without causing damage.



  • Not as warm as fleece.

  • Lightweight material wont feel as thick as sweatshirt fleece.


Caring for French Terry

French terry cloth can be washed easily. Use lukewarm water with any detergent. The soft loops will not be damaged.


The Final Battle


French Terry vs. Sweatshirt Fleece

Wrapping up

I personally like sweatshirt fleece over french terry.

Why? The main reason is that it is cold in Oregon, where I live, the majority of the year.

And I wear sweat shorts year round! You better believe that.

I need to keep my legs warm and cozy during the winter. So sweatshirt fleece is the better material for me.

Whats your preferred material?

Now if you have never worn sweat shorts. Do yourself a solid click below and get comfortable.


Updated: July 08th, 2017 by Resources - PatmaSports Research Department