The venerable white tee is a fundamental part of a man’s armour, like good shoes, a decent haircut, and shining pearly whites.
This foundational item is in plentiful supply, with a range of cuts and weaves for fussy or oddly shaped dressers. As a cornerstone of the male wardrobe, most guys can and should get well acquainted with them at some point. White tees are a low-cost staple that you can wear with just about anything.
They are common features on both the casual and formal end of the spectrum. The weather is no obstacle to the ubiquitous white tee either, as you can layer or delayer as the thermometer changes. It’s always a safe bet to own several in your rotation. Regularly chuck out the ones that start to look a bit flogged, and you’ll always look on top of your game.
You might be thinking white tees are as boring as it gets, but finding ways to incorporate them is about as straightforward as vegemite on toast.
If your inspiration is running a bit low, the five below options will hopefully inspire a shopping expedition that’ll put you in good stead for all-season sartorial victory.
Look #1 – Under Denim
White t-shirts and denim button-ups are like those two guys in your friendship group – on their own they’re decent company, but put them in a room together and they turn into rockstars. Combining a plain white tee and some form of denim – a shirt or jacket – has been a war winning strategy for guys since forever.
David Beckham is the leading man of the denim-tee marriage, usually relying on a dishevelled-but-not-sloppy aesthetic that is probably harder to pull off than it looks. Because you’re relying on basics that won’t date as seasonal trends invariably change, this option has a heap of mileage regardless of season.
Layering a white tee and denim shirt with a jacket-scarf pair will keep you stylishly insulated when it’s too nippy to rock solo. In summer, it’s as simple as rolling up the sleeves with a pair of navy chino shorts.
Besides, these staples are about as basic as you can get – they have huge functional value with other items in your wardrobe. No great limit to the combination, besides your imagination or wallet.
Look #2 – Like James Dean
Besides Happy Days and James Dean’s unforgettable chops in the sartorial department, greasers have demonstrated they know a thing or two about looking cool.
Greasers cropped up in the 50’s, terrorising diners with their pomade-heavy haircuts, leather jackets, and minimalist dress sense. This approach is famously simple and accessible to anyone with a pair of decent jeans.
The key ingredients are about as simple as a short black – a decent pair of jeans, a freshly-ironed white tee, and Chelsea boots.
Wear a slim cut tee for a more contemporary interpretation of this look, as a baggy shirt might give the impression that you’re more skaterboi than anything else.
Whether you embrace full greaser style is at your discretion. Even without the quiff or Olivia Newton-John on your arm, the simple minimalism of a white tee, jeans, and belt is an invincible option. It’ll never date, it works in most settings, and its easy AF.
Look #3 – Tight & Tucked
As an alternative to chinos, a pair of smart trousers with a tucked in white tee will let you dip your toes in formal waters but keep you miles away from the risk of overdressing.
This manner of dress carries across the seasons, whether you rock it on its own in the brutal no man’s land between November and February, or add layers when it cools down. You should look for pants without belt loops and raised fronts.
These are a step beneath suit pants, but superior to your old pair of chinos that are one heavy Saturday night away from a ripped crotch. Also avoid tucking in to jeans, unless your aspirations relate to looking like a clueless undercover cop.
If this sounds like your piece of toast, don’t wear a loose fitting or longline tee. The extra folds of fabric will bunch around the waistband, adding invisible kilos and giving you an unflattering muffin top silhouette.
You should stick to slim cuts that taper beneath the arm hole. If you’ve been smashing meat pies and Imperial pints at lunch for consecutive months in a row, keep this look as an aspirational option for when you get your fitness and nutrition in order.
It’s a look that favours the slimmer bloke, and none other.
Look #4 – Under A Heavy Winter Knit
Further proof of the white-t-shirt’s versatility: not only does it look good on its own, it looks good layered under most anything you want to put on top of it, including this heavy winter knit.
There’s something about the contrast that’s cool – take a warm weather garment, throw it under something that’s decidedly more suited to less balmy months, and you’ve got a recipe for fashion magic. Note: This will also work for black leather jackets.
Look #5 – With Your Favourite Blazer
Jackets have a life beyond the corporate shirt and tie gimmick. Pairing a jacket with a white t shirt puts you in the middle of smart casual and way-too-overdressed, for when the usual shirts and accessories are too much firepower.
You should consider a navy double-breasted jacket, white tee, and contrasting colour pants with loafers. This look will get you past the dress-code entry requirements in town, whether you’re grabbing a nightcap with the boys or hoping to impress the girl you met on Tinder a couple hours ago.
While a classic blue or taupe jacket is a solid first choice, it doesn’t have to end there. A charcoal two-piece suit with a white shirt is another minimalist option if monochrome is the order of the day.
If you own a spectacular statement jacket that’s been burning a hole in your wardrobe, use this opportunity to give it a crack.
A white tee will help you maintain a degree of understatement in the rest of your ensemble, allowing the jacket to do most of the work.
Just keep the tee tucked in so you don’t look like a wedding DJ, and you’ll be sorted.