The classic white t-shirt is a staple in any man’s style guide. It’s a must-have whether you’re wearing it underneath a dress shirt (a la Don Draper), under a jacket, or just going simple with some jeans.
You won’t find a Hollywood style icon who didn’t wear one. See: Marlon Brando, James Dean, Steve McQueen, Ryan Gosling, etc.
It’s the epitome of classic style. You’ll never hear a woman say she hates a man in a white tee and jeans. Any man can get a suit tailored to fit him, but wearing a white tee and jeans is harder than it looks. You have to be able to pull it off, and the only way to do that is to find the right shirt for you. If you look at any picture of a man wearing a properly fitted white tee, you’ll see a ton of comments about what brand of shirt it is.
The brand doesn’t matter. What matters is will that brand of shirt actually look good on YOU.
You will see a ton of advertisements of white tees on models and stars. You’ll go to the store and try them on, only to realize the shirt sits awkwardly on you. You have to find the one that fits your body shape comfortably. Brands like Ralph Lauren make shirts in a slim fit and regular fit. You want to try on both. You’ll see different names used for different brands.
It brings out the most essential features of a man: the chest, the arms, the back, and abs. Because it hides nothing, slimmer cuts need to fit well on the body. You will find instances where the shirt is advertised as slim fit or even regular fit, and sits poorly across the shoulders, causing it to drape across the body in a distracting fashion.
The white tee is designed to be versatile and still look effortless. So get one that has a bright white and fits YOU properly.
It’s very easy to find affordable white t-shirts as well as more expensive ones. The goal is to find something that is comfortable.
Brands will have multiple versions of the white tee. Each one is based on different materials, how soft it is, and the overall structure of the shirt. It is not uncommon to see the best fitting, softest tees at higher prices.
But here’s the takeaway point about pricing…
You can have an expensive white tee that fits you perfectly, but you can’t wear it every day unless you a bunch of them.
Remember, the white tee is only as good as its ability to be worn everyday.
Solution? Have your high quality tee that looks great over your quality selvedge denim. Then, have a couple of lower priced, decent quality white tees that fit you well. You can wear these the rest of the time and not worry if you get a bad stain on them.
Make it work with your budget.
I have a ton of tees priced at $5 that I wear regularly. I then have some really soft ones at $20, and then a few higher quality ones close to $50 that I wear rarely.
White t-shirts can be found for hundreds of dollars very easily. You just have to have the funds for them. If you have the money for them, by all means, you can buy them. No one is going to know the cost of them. People cannot tell the difference between a $40 t shirt and a $250 t shirt. The quality in shirts definitely increases from the $5 to the $40-$50 range. Beyond that price range, the increase in quality diminishes. So while it isn’t necessary to buy a higher priced shirt, you can still do it.
Remember that white t shirts will have to be washed often and lower quality shirts lose their color, and softness faster, so consider them disposable. That’s why I suggest having a handful of them that you can cycle through and then wear your high quality stuff for other outfits.
With that said, if you have enough money to make the $200 shirts your disposable shirts, then go for it. It’s all about how you approach pricing.
Search for any white tee and you’ll all different types of shirts.
What you really want to do is separate it by the type of neck it has.
Crewneck, v-neck, and scoop neck are the most common. There are deeper v-neck and scoop neck shirts, but I won’t discuss those here because it’s really only if you choose to want them.
The crewneck is the classic look. It’s on every star from the 1950s until even today in 2016. It’s timeless, effortless, and just an overall essential. You’ll never know when you’ll need to wear it.
I’ve lost count of all of the brands I have crewnecks from. You can’t go wrong with H&M if you need a basic crewneck white tee. Just get any of the premium cotton versions ($5-$9).
Also, look for pima cotton which will be even softer. Armani Exchange has some great pima cotton tees for about $15-$30.
My favorite is definitely my tee from Levi’s Vintage Clothing. It’s a 1950s style shirt and a bit pricey, but the quality is outstanding and I can wear it with pretty much anything. Those are about $40-$80 depending on when you find them on sale. Abercrombie also makes great crewneck shirts. I always look for ones without the logo. They are super soft. They can be found regular priced from $15-$20), but you can easily find them on sale for ~$7. Scratch and Soda also makes great quality shirts for $40-$60.
The v-neck really hit its stride something like 5 years ago, with tons of jokes about the deep v-necks. It has also been around a long time. It looks great on a well-built chest because the v line can accentuate the skin.
Again, I have a bunch from H&M that I wear on a daily basis. They are blends and not 100% cotton. They’re cheap, ($5) so I don’t feel bad if something happens to them. They’re stretchy so they’re a bit more form fitting. I have some from J crew that aren’t as slim but look more classic Americana. Those are a little bit more but can be found on sale often.
The scoop neck can be tricky to pull off, but has the best look when done correctly. It requires a blend of a decent (not a bodybuilder) chest and great placement of clavicles. It has to sit well on your shoulders or else the scoop will be shaped weirdly across your body. These are also the best to use underneath any dress shirts. When I go without a tie, these are what I use with the top button unbuttoned. No one can see that you have a shirt underneath.
I had to try a couple times to get the right one. I use ASOS for my cheaper scoop necks (about $5-$8 usually). I use Zara for a softer scoop neck ($9 – $20). And then I bought some Hanes in a pack when traveling overseas ($4). I use the Hanes underneath any dress shirts.
Make your shirt become like you. Ride it out for ages. If it gets holes or tears, go with it. A t-shirt becomes better with age. It adds character. Crisp, clean tees are great. but worn tees are awesome as well.
See Johnny Depp as an example:
Buy it. Wear it. Own it. It’s timeless.