AA versus Anvil T-Shirts [Updated with Pictures]

Date Tue, November 27 2012

I’ve purchased enough shirts from online printing services to have experienced a variety of brands. Many of them are nice, some forgettable and some slightly less awesome. Two of the more common brands are America Apparel, which is known for being American-made, and Anvil, a brand that tries to provide women with truer sizes. I’ve actually used both and have very specific opinions on them, so I thought I’d shed some light on the subject. This is especially helpful if you’re a customer of Shirt.Woot and haven’t purchased shirts since the switch to Anvil. In fact, this very fact is what spurred me to write this post because so many women dislike the new Anvil shirts. If I say no more, let me make it clear that I won’t buy any shirt from Woot until they switch from Anvil shirts.

The shit I bought from CafePress is by American Apparel, while the Initech t-shirt I reviewed for Five Finger Tees is Anvil.

American Apparel tees are fitted and run small

American Apparel tees are fitted and run small


American Apparel runs longer but thinner. It’s a junior’s cut that comes in around the ribs and has smaller arm holes. The XL is not a true XL in any way, measuring between 40-42. The largest size offers just four more inches, so thinner women will probably be more comfortable with this. On me, the shirt is snug but not uncomfortable. It looses up a little after wear.

Anvil shirts are wider and not vanity sizing, which means more women would be able to wear them. For example, I have a large that feels quite wide. An Anvil large might be comparable to AA’s XL at 40-42″. Plus, there are multiple cuts for women. The classic fit doesn’t go in much at the ribs. It’s pretty boxy. However, the real problem is length. Before washing, Anvil shirts are about 1-2″ shorter than those from American Apparel. They lose significant length during washing, though. My Anvil shirt now almost feels too long. It’s very reminiscent of those stupid shirts from the 80s and 90s.

Anvil’s arms are much longer and looser, and the same is true for the neck hole. I think the AA shirt gives me more curves and looks more feminine. The sleeves and neck are snug without cutting into my body or being uncomfortable. Anvil flares out like wings in a way that most people will find unflattering. The boxy shape also doesn’t do me any favors.

Anvil shirts have a loose, boxy look

Anvil shirts have a loose, boxy look

Material and Feel

AA shirts are simply softer. They retain that softness after wearing. Anvil shirts don’t feel overly rough at first, but become so after washing. I don’t really like the feel of mine on my skin, while my CafePress has remained quite smooth. I feel like the Anvil shirt wears more around the armipits and areas that experience friction. It’s not a pretty topic to discuss, but areas where you sweat tend to retain the smell more with Anvil.


My Anvil shirt has held up well through many washings if you ignore the fact that it’s not as soft. The American Apparel shirt is also doing well, but I haven’t had it nearly as long. It returns to the original size and shape after washing, which I like. I don’t think the sweat-retaining will be as much of a problem, however. The thread seems rougher on the Anvil shirt, which I think will make it resilient. I’ve had shirts similar to that from AA, and the thread broke because it was smoother.


American Apparel is made in America as the name suggests, while Anvil is overseas. This may mean cheaper prices, for the frugal, but many people like to see things made in the USA.

The Verdict

I prefer the look and feel of American Apparel, but understand why Anvil is appealing. On the surface, it seems to fit a larger range of people and have truer sizes for women. However, the loss of length is something I find personally unacceptable, and I’m only 5’2″. I can’t imagine these shirts working very well for most people because of this.

Below are pictures of an AA shirt in XL laying over an Anvil in L. It’s easy to see that Anvil runs much wider and shorter. You can also, hopefully, see that the up-close shot shows the rougher cotton of the Anvil shirt. It seems to get worse over time ,and while my Anvil tee has had many more washings, the AA shirt is absolutely softer.

AA XL over Anvil large

AA XL over Anvil large


Closeup of AA (black) and Anvil (teal)

Closeup of AA (black) and Anvil (teal)

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