About T-shirts

Posted by Atte Rytkönen on 23.8.2017 in General

A t-shirt is often left without the attention it deserves. Still, a well-fitting, well-made, quality t-shirt should be a staple piece of every man’s wardrobe. 

It’s already August and the main season of t-shirts is soon over. At least here in Helsinki. Despite that a few thoughts about t-shirts. During my vacation I have been wearing a lot different kind of combinations featuring simple t-shirts and therefore I decided to update an old post. How to find the right t-shirt and how to pull it off in a proper way?

White-t-shirt-for-relaxed-summer-style
The white t-shirt with blue cotton slacks and sneakers – perfect casual summer style.

The T-shirt – how to find the right one

T-shirt and its functions can be viewed from many different angles. For some t-shirt is purely an undershirt, which is used under button-up shirts and occasionally at home. For others t-shirt can be a cornerstone of their summer wardrobe. You can combine it with jeans, shorts or cotton slacks. Regarding t-shirts – as well as many other garments – the features one should pay attention when making a purchase naturally depends on the purpose for which it is intended to be used.

The white T-shirt

Let’s start with the classic. And a white t-shirt with jeans is a classic combination. You know, you have seen the iconic pictures of Steve McQueen sporting Jack Purcell sneakers, light colored denim and a white-shirt. White is also my personal favorite color for a t-shirt. It is simple but at the same time it is refined. And the good thing with these simple white t-shirts is that you can wear them for multiple occasions. If you are at home, you can wear one with your joggers. And if you suddenly need to hit the store for example, you can easily just change the pants to jeans and pick a navy blue unstructured blazer from you closet. And you are ready to go. And in fact, you can wear a crispy white t-shirt even with your casual suits.

In terms of men’s clothing and classic style there is a saying that “everything looks better with age”. This means that quality garments are about to age nicely. For example if you take good care of your shoes, they will look even better with some patina than when you buy them. But this does not really apply to your white t-shirts. Those just simply look best new, fresh out of the box. So keep them clean.

White t-shirt with blue cotton slacks - close-up
A chest pocket is a nice little detail to your t-shirt. And it actually makes the shirt to look and feel less like an undershirt.

T-shirt is not just an undershirt

I personally don’t wear a t-shirts underneath my button-up shirts. But I know many guys do. And if you are looking for a t-shirt to be used as an undershirt, first of all v-neck is in my opinion a better option than crew neck. Secondly, make sure that the fabric is not too thick, so that it is not visible through your button-up shirt. But if you are about to use the shirt without button-up or a sweater on top, for example with a sport coat, you should go for a little thicker and denser material. The thicker cloth will help so that your nipples will not shine through the cloth. And also that the fabric will better retain its shape.

Blue-t-shirt-with-brown-suit-trousers - casual yet refined style
Blue t-shirt combined with brown suit trousers – a casual but still refined summer look.

The gray undershirt

But if you are looking for an undershirt, the white is not necessarily the best option. Next time you are buying an undershirt, try a light gray one. The biggest benefit of the light gray color is that, unlike a white undershirt, it does not show through light-colored dress shirts. This is because gray reflects less light than white. So when the light hits your white or light blue dress shirt, a gray undershirt will absorb the light, while a white undershirt would reflect it.

And by the way, if you wear an undershirt, don’t wear your shirt without a tie and unbuttoned. Just don’t show the top of your t-shirt underneath your button-up shirt. So if you want to go tieless and wear an undershirt, at least pick one with v-neck collar.

Asket t-shirt - small size

Pay attention to the fit

I have sometimes said that a man wearing well-fitting t-shirt and well-fitting jeans is about to look more stylish and elegant than a man wearing ill-fitting and poor-quality suit. It naturally depends on the occasion and the dress code. You can’t go for a formal business meeting or to a funeral wearing jeans and a t-shirt. But you get the idea. In general garments like a plain t-shirt and simple jeans are good examples of the fact that the right fit and proper combining are the keys to creating your own style and 5/5 ensembles. To read more about this, check my post from a couple years back about white shirts for casual wear.

Army-green-T-shirt-with-white-cotton-trousers
Army or olive green is also a good color for your t-shirt. It goes well with white or light colored trousers and you can wear it with or without a jacket.

Different style – different fit

In terms of size, the right fit depends a bit on your style. You need to keep the balance through the whole outfit. Often with t-shirts – as with many other rtw-garments – the problem is the fact that the sizes are made for a specific body model. For a short man as myself, it means that many shirts are often too long in terms of sleeves and length. With dress shirts this is not necessarily a problem, because they are easy to alter (or tuck in your pants). With t-shirts that excessive length often leads to the fact that the shirt will be left to the store. But this is not always the case. One solution for too long t-shirt sleeves is to roll up them a bit. In my opinion this also makes the look a little bit more clean and subtle.

Blue t-shirt with high-waist suit trousers
Try to wear your t-shirt with trousers featuring higher waist. This is a good way to “dress-up” your basic t-shirt with chinos-attire.

T-shirt for different occasions and purposes

You could say that the t-shirt is also a great social leveler. Originally it started its life as humble underwear. But today you can find t-shirts made of cashmere or silk that can cost a fortune. And which you can wear with your tailored denim or high-waist cotton slacks. And then there are those premium-quality cotton t-shirts which are a perfect addition to your everyday wardrobe. And which will take you pretty much anywhere except to those formal business meetings or work occasions.

T-shirt with shawl collar cardigan and suit trousers - dress down your business look
The blue shirt with shawl collar cardigan. You can replace your suit jacket with a cardigan and wear it with the t-shirt and suit trousers. Finish the look with simple sneakers.

Keep it simple – again

When you look for a t-shirt, I have basically only one advice. Look for a simple and plain t-shirt. No patterns and no text, only one color and a simple shirt. There are multiple nice printed t-shirts available, but if you are about to go for more classic and restrained style, I would stay with the plain shirts. Regarding printed t-shirts some have even used the following phrase: “The man who imparts opinions via t-shirt has neither the intelligence to form a cogent opinion nor the good sense to keep it to himself”. If you want to go for a patterned t-shirt, try stripes. Blue and white striped t-shirt is naturally a classic choice. And definitely approved also by me.

Personally I want my shirts to be fitted but not too snug. And definitely not too tight. But especially on the shoulders and arms I like the shirt to look fitted. In terms of materials I like shirts made of soft, but still quite thick and robust fabric. As you can see from the pictures in this post, I use t-shirts for quite different kind of attires. But even though the attire would be casual in nature, I try to make it look sharp, fresh and clean.

The white MeyStory t-shirt with blue cotton trousers, mismo bag and superga sneakers
This white t-shirt by German brand MeyStory is my personal favorite. It is made of soft high-quality cotton fabric and the shirt fits me just how I like my t-shirt to fit.

Sum-up – T-shirt inspiration

As a short sum-up I thought to pick up a few looks (via The Sartorialist & pinterest) that I have personally been inspired. First there are a couple looks featuring t-shirts and sport coats. I personally think that these kind of attires are at their best when you keep the pieces casual enough. As you can see, the sport coats are in both pictures unstructured with soft shoulder structures and made of cotton.

The rest four pictures simply showcases the fact that simplicity works. When you have well-fitting clothes, that’s all you need. But also all these pictures showcase the fact that if you take good care of yourself and keep yourself in good physical condition, it will help you to pull off that simple t-shirt look. This is also what I try to keep in mind whenever I wear a t-shirt.

  • Rich Thomas

    Atte,
    This is great read. T-shirts are a staple of my casual and my travel wear. I especially like how you presented t-shirts with better clothing (suits, dressier trousers and ). It’s given me something to consider.

    • dresslikea

      Thanks mate, great to hear that! Have a great week!

      Best,
      Atte