At first thought, a T-shirt seems to be the least complicated piece of clothing to buy. But things are rarely quite what they seem; there are a few essential things to consider when choosing and wearing a perfect T-shirt. The fit, colour, and fabric must be right; the styling well done; the occasion appropriately chosen.
If you’re confused, and don’t know where to start, we’ve got you. Here’s our guide to choosing the perfect men’s shirt.
History of the Humble T-Shirt
Many people think that T-shirts are a modern-day invention, but in fact, as Artofmanliness.com explains, these T-shaped garments go back centuries. They initially covered the entire body, to protect more expensive clothes such as suits from bodily dirt and sweat. Yep, showers were scarce back in the day!
Over time, the T-shirt has evolved and has, of course, ended up looking just like the ones in your wardrobe.
So let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to choose the right T-shirt for you.
1. The fit
Remember those loose XXL T-shirts from the 90s? Ok, now forget them. Unless you’re working in the garage, you’ll want a fitted T-shirt that accentuates your shoulders and best physical attributes. Don’t worry; fitted doesn’t mean as skin-tight as a diving suit or restrictive of your movements.
Firstly, pay attention to the length. A T-shirt should be long enough to tuck into the trousers, but not so long that it feels like you’re wearing a dress.
Secondly, when trying on, check shoulder seams and sleeves. The seams should sit nicely on the edges of your shoulders and the sleeves should be on the shorter side – definitely not reaching your elbows!
Lastly, there’s the neck; make sure the neckline is not too loose or too tight. The best way to check it is to raise your arms.
2. The colour
T-shirts are one of their favourite wardrobe pieces for most men so, naturally, you should have them in a few colours. For a start, cover your bases with white, black, grey and navy. White and black pair easily with anything, and can be dressed up or down. Grey and navy are more laid-back options for a simple day or weekend look.
Pretty much any other colour will look great when chosen carefully to pair with the clothes you already have. A bright colour adds a pop to your look and lets people know that you’re daring and fun, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Most guys also have some graphic tees. They’re great for a fun day outdoors with friends or watching a match, but avoid them if you’re going for a ‘put-together’ look. Opt for graphics that are smaller and subtle, over large shiny ones.
3. The fabric
If you think any fabric is acceptable, think again. It’s better to have fewer, high-quality options than a tonne of cheap pieces. The best choices for your dressier tees are 100% organic, Pima or Egyptian cotton, bamboo, or even luxurious merino wool. They are lighter and thinner, resistant to stretching, fading and pilling and, of course, they look and feel great.
For your other T-shirts, there are some more economical and less labour-intensive options. According to MensHealth.com, a 50/50 poly-cotton blend will be less likely to shrink in the wash, and wrinkles will shake out easily.
Other popular choices to consider are rayon, viscose or polyester, all of which are comfortable, easy to wash and to maintain.
4. Neck shape
When choosing between the most popular classic crew neck, the v-neck, and polo tees, firstly consider the occasion. The crew neck and polo are generally considered more formal, and the v-neck more leisurely.
Secondly, think of your build. If you’re shorter, a v-neck elongates the neck and adds a little height to your appearance. Avoid very deep v-necks, though, especially if you’re larger, as they tend to look tacky and may also accentuate a belly. If you’re looking to make yourself look a little bigger, go for a crew neck as it will make your shoulders appear broader.
Polos tend to be most versatile; they can easily be dressed up or down and are especially great when worn in different colours. Avoid white or black polos, though, as they tend to make people think of uniforms. Dress up a polo shirt up by pairing it with trousers, or dress it down with chinos or denim.
5. Styling options
How you style a T-shirt informs the entire look, so you want to be sure to make the right choices. A classic and smart look is easy with a well-tested combination such as navy with khaki, or white and grey with dark denim. As a general rule, go with lighter trousers and darker tee combinations, but be very careful with the white-black combo as you may end up looking like a character from Miami Vice.
High-quality T-shirts will look great under a cardigan, leather jacket or casual, light blazer. Go to freshcleantees.com to find a selection of men’s T-shirts that can be delivered direct to your door.
Lastly, there’s the eternal question of whether you should tuck in the tee, or not. Most of the time, the answer will be no. However, there are exceptions, such as when it’s a uniform, with a polo-shirt, or in the recent trend of the ‘French tuck’, when you tuck in only the front of the tee. Spend a minute in front of the mirror and check the different options for individual outfits.