Nothing says ‘simply stylish’ like a man in jeans and a plain t-shirt.
Finding its origins in underwear (yes, it was once offensive to flash your tee in public), the humble t-shirt soon evolved into a common workwear piece (along with the denim jean), before rugged icons like Steve McQueen made the plain white tee something of a style staple for men that remains 60 years on.
Unfortunately, we still tend to give the t-shirt as much thought as we do our undies, buying them in bulk – and only when our current go-to’s look a touch too ‘worn’.
But t-shirts – like the best jeans, suits and boots for 2015 – change with the seasonal winds. We’ve collated 20 of the best basic brands for men this year. Boasting luxury and more affordable brands, now it’s super easy to find that perfect tee.
Click through the slideshow for the entire list and then read on for making the most of today’s t-shirt.
Refocus The Fit
This is the most important, non-negotiable aspect of the t-shirt. While longline is a trend that goes against the regular fit rules, a baggy, long and shapeless tee doesn’t do the wearer any favours. The skinny guy will look skinnier and the larger gent well look even larger.
As a general rule, the shirt length should skim the top of your hips and come in a classic fit, which means the tee tapers in slightly at the waist after cutting squarely on the shoulder. The sleeve length shouldn’t cover more than halve your arm (but not too much less either) and the shoulder, chest, torso and arm areas should never feel restrictive; avoiding any skin tight varieties.
Work The Neck
You may have noticed that not all t-shirt necks are the same. In general, they come in crew neck (the rounded neckline) and the v-neck, which is an upside-down triangle neck shape or ‘v’ like the name suggests.
V-necks are great for lengthening the neck and giving some space, working well for the shorter guy or the gym junkie helping thin out a thick neck. Meanwhile, if you lacking in the size department or have narrow shoulders, a crew neck will flesh you, creating the illusion of broad shoulders and square proportions.
Other t-shirt style include longer v-necks, scoop necks and Henley (button neck) too. But if you’re not feeling confident stick to the two originals; crew and regular v-neck go with everything.
Poly, cotton, elastane – these are the three main fibre components of today’s basic t-shirt. Like suits, the higher the natural fibre content – in this case, cotton – the most breathable but fragile the t-shirt is. A lightweight shirt also option boasts more cotton and therefore, is a higher quality, great for layering under a blazer for a smart casual look
When shopping pure cotton fabrics Pima cottons are one of the most luxurious, and are buttery on the skin to touch. While cotton is more natural and expensive, sometimes durability is needed and a cotton blend provides this option.
Elastane (stretch fibres) helps to maintain the shape of your tee too and is great for active-type guys who need a bit of give. The bottom of the barrel is the cotton-polyester blend, which are cheaper in price but are easier to wear as they don’t crease.
Neutral hues are what make the t-shirt ‘basic’ by definition and include the colours white, black, grey and navy. Set these hues as your t-shirt foundations, ensuring you have one of each before splashing out in other colours and illustrious prints or patterns. timeless shades are what set the foundations of any successful wardrobe and we often classify t-shirts in these colours as ‘basic’.
White is the typical t-shirt colour and goes with anything and everything. It’s the prime choice as an undershirt in winter or alone as a super chic pairing with dark denim jeans and white sneakers or boots. Black is the other basics master and is a cool alternative to making the tee look dressier than what it is. Although the hue is a touch dark and hot for days at the beach, black looks sleek under a summer taupe suit with tassel loafers for a fresh evening outfit. And is a staple layering piece under a cardigan and trench for winter.
Grey comes commonly in marl (a melange of white and grey-ish shades) which gives the colour a textural look. Otherwise, the dark metal grey is a nice in-between shade for gents looking for an alternative to black but want something a touch more mellow than white. Note: grey shows sweat very easily so avoid if you’re likely to perspire while wearing it.
Just as in tailoring, navy is proving the new black for the basic t-shirt. It’s a great option for tonal blue looks, pairing a navy tee with dark blue chinos or dark denim and a satiny, bomber jacket. Navy is more day-appropriate than black and is less likely to show stains and sweat compared to grey.
Of course, plain t-shirts come in other colours too. But for the sake of keeping them ‘basic’ stick to muted or dark versions of your favourite colour such as dirty pink, burgundy, forest green and mustard for yellow.
Click through the slideshow for the 20 best basic t-shirt brands for men.