Plain T-shirts to Help Combat Tactile Sensitivities

Plain T-shirts to Help Combat Tactile Sensitivities

A shirt is a shirt is a shirt; fabric, cut and style shouldn’t matter except for personal preferences, right? Even if this isn’t true for everyone, as a person with Asperger’s, I wish that were the case. I want to be able to see a shirt I like and buy it in my size. For me, there are a few obstacles instead.


The bane of every shirt ever, the tag is the first thing cut out of every shirt I own. I’ve used scissors, an exacto knife, nail clippers, and even box cutters for getting the wretched things out. There are two places to look for tags – at the neck and along the side. Generally, I find the “side” tags at the left and they’re typically in dressier shirts. Even if I’m wearing a tank top underneath, I’ll get rid of the side tag.

Tagless tees are wonderful. The schmootz they use on the inside for displaying tag information will start to peel or fade, but I haven’t had it become scratchy. I know, schmootz is a highly technical term. My apologies.


Seams are a given for every shirt, so I’ve learned to look for almost-smooth ones. Seams that appear to jut out uncontrollably or have rough edging from the thread are a huge no-no. Uneven seams pose another problem. If they fall to one side for a certain length and then fold and fall in another direction I am constantly distracted by the inconsistency. I could iron the seams in one direction, but I don’t iron.

For a lot of shirts, if the seams along the side rub me the wrong way I will wear a tank top underneath. This usually happens with dress shirts and the tank layer is appropriate if matched properly.

Collars and Cuffs

A tight-fitting collar is forbidden in my closet*. I feel it every move I make and I’m afraid it is getting closer and closer to choking me. Seems a bit exaggeratory, but the way I feel isn’t typical for most people. I will break out into a sweat and start to panic. It only takes a few minutes of wearing a tightly-collared shirt to have me in tears. Cuffs are not as extreme as far as reactions go, but the annoyance level rests at about an 8 on a 10-point scale. They restrict my movement and take away freedom.

I stay away from collared shirts (obviously), but when there is a collar, there are also buttons. Not every shirt appearing to have buttons actually has buttons, they’re sewn on and for show. That’s a no-go.

*Hoodies sometimes have tight collars, but I stretch them out. Hoodies are my favorite so they get the extra attention.


100% cotton, please! Pre-washed and pre-shrunk is pretty standard so I don’t have to watch out for it too closely. The fabric breathes and only clings when it is wet. It is light enough to layer beneath sweaters in the winter or even with another t-shirt in the summer for a fun look.

Silk feels nice beneath my fingers, but not against my back. It holds and moves each of the hairs, creating a tingling and “activity” sensation. Imagine tiny bugs crawling constantly over your covered skin. Not awesome. Staying away from anything that is too rough or too soft is the only way to go and it is probably different for every person. I did try silk sheets once. That was awful, I felt like I was going to be sliding off the bed every time I rolled over. One aspect I had liked was the coolness of the sheets whenever I scooted to a new spot.


Tactile sensitivities are not uncommon for people with Autism or ASD. Just like other symptoms, the sensations and severity will vary person to person. What works for me could be a living nightmare for another, and they may enjoy the feel of polyester or wool.


Writer, artist, entrepreneur, mother and Aspie with insatiable curiosity.

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