Leonardo Da Vinci is famously quoted for saying, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. The simplicity of a white t-shirt can certainly deliver more than a touch of sophistication to your style when you find the right one. A white t-shirt’s enduring versatility makes it the ultimate wardrobe staple for any man. Whether you’re on a budget, looking for a fresh white tee for your holiday or looking for some luxury in your life, my guide will navigate you towards not only finding the perfect solution, but looking after it too!
There’s nothing like a well-fitted, quality white t-shirt to elevate your style. As a men’s personal shopper, I’ve fit-tested over 100 from Abercrombie to Zegna to provide you with first-hand insight so you can find your perfect match. All opinions are my own and are not sponsored in any way.
What I’ve Based My Opinion Upon
Fit is the number one component of style, your t-shirt needs to fit your body well. The right fit will take a quality white t-shirt from looking good to looking great. A slim-fitting t-shirt offers a sleek and classic look, whilst a relaxed, oversized or boxy fit generally provides a more casual and laid-back look, it’s still vital to get your sizing right though.
The perfect fitting t-shirt will accentuate the best features of your upper body and will make light of any areas you may not be as happy with. Generally, the seam around your shoulder should run across its edge and the arms should end at the midpoint of your bicep. You should feel the material skim around your torso, just enough to let air circulate, and finish at around the midpoint of the fly. If you want to show off and flatter your muscular frame, consider sizing down and going for a heavier-weight material, or going for a lighter-weight material that hugs your torso more.
The budget pleasers
Assuming you’re wearing the t-shirt for leisurewear and not sports, then you should definitely look at cotton. The more premium the cotton the more the t-shirt will tend to retain its shape and whiteness. Mercerised cotton as in this example from Reiss applies a finishing treatment to the cotton which improves dye uptake and tear strength whilst improving fabric shrinkage and applies a slightly silky finish to the garment.
Other premium cottons include the rare Sea Island cotton featured in the classically cut t-shirt from Sunspel at £155, which they pitch as the world’s most sought-after cotton due to its extremely long staple fibre. You can also look at cotton blend t-shirts with material like silk or cashmere, you’re then really taking the look and feel up a notch.
Lyocell or Tencel (actually the same thing) are materials popping up more on labels now and provide a good alternative to cotton. They’re semi-synthetic, even more breathable than cotton, smooth, lightweight and have great moisture-wicking properties, so something to definitely look out for.
Son of a Tailor interestingly allows you to customise your fit. If you are conscious of being to small, tall or your physique isn't quite what it was, then playing around with the dimensions of your t-shirt as well as weight and fabric could be perfect for you. As a personal stylist, I have referred many of my clients their way.
Not all manufacturers will detail the weight of a t-shirt, some will go with light, mid or heavy weight; but the weight of a t-shirt can be a good quality or comfort indicator, as well as a styling one. Fabric weight is usually measured in GSM (grams per square meter). Heavier material t-shirts are typically thicker and more durable (see below as a guide).
Lightweight T-shirt fabric: 135 GSM
Medium weight: 170 GSM
Heavyweight: 200 GSM or more
If you are planning to layer a t-shirt, go for a lighter weight as it will be far more comfortable. 200gsm or more is really suited to a lot cooler weather, so beware. I would say a good weight for a more premium feeling all year round t-shirt would be between 150-180 gsm.
Quality at a reasonable price
What else do you need to know?
For best results always wash your whites separately. It sounds obvious, but that means keeping anything away with just a bit of colour in or clothing that you think is faded anyway. Heat is best when it comes to keeping them white, though always try and follow the garment labels to avoid potential shrinkage. Make sure you employ a good whites detergent. A fabric whitener with stain remover can also help keep your whites supremely white.
Frustratingly the anti-perspirant or deodorant you use can have a yellowing impact or leave marks on your clothes, making your clothes look past it way before their time. I have included a link to the best non staining, invisible dry deodorants here, from spray to roll-on and stick, with natural and environmentally friendly options included.
Get first things first. If it’s winter, concentrate on your outerwear first, as this is what people are going to see you in mostly (first impressions) and how you may be seeing yourself most often when you are out. Putting a coat above a long sleeve t-shirt makes sense.
Remember too that you don’t have to get everything in one go. This exercise is an investment in you, so it is important to find items that flatter you and not just items that do the job. Some items when put on in isolation like a jumper may not excite you, so, if possible, try things on as part of an outfit. Starting out in a tracksuit may not be the best call.
Worth investing in
Keeping Creases Out
No one likes a creased t-shirt, and if you’re anything like me you don’t like getting the ironing board and iron out either, waiting, ironing and then trying not to wrinkle. Buying a steamer is the perfect solution and a game changer, not just for your white t-shirts, but for most of your other clothes too.
Most heat up in seconds are easy to use and really worth their weight in gold. If you search Amazon, you’ll find a tonne, but from experience Tefal, Phillips and The Steamery are brands I trust most, and I’ve included my top three recommendations here. You’ll also see two of them below.
If you are hanging your t-shirts which I recommend, make sure you use quality hangers of the right width to avoid unsightly creases around the shoulder and maintain the t-shirts shape. If you don’t have these, then you can also refer back to the above steamer after folding them away.
In conclusion, a white t-shirt can provide you with the statement item of clothing you need in the summer as well as the staple all year round versatile solution for daily dressing. Like anything you get what you pay for. I would say the sweet spot for buying a quality white t-shirt would lie somewhere from the £50 upwards mark and then depend upon the quality of fabric and fit you desire. Going through my selection here, which I have put all in one place, you will find enough variety to keep you content for the next 4 seasons.
A little bit of luxury
All t-shirts, deodorants and steamers mentioned in this article can be found via this link also.