How to Choose the Perfect T-Shirt

We love dressing up as much as the next guy—and there are plenty of times you’ll hear us talk about the virtues of a perfectly-made suit. But, let’s face it, a man’s base outfit is a T-shirt and jeans. This is what you wear at home, on the weekends, at the ballpark, and with the kids. You probably spend more of your life in a T-shirt than you do in any other item of clothing. (Especially if you sleep in one.)

First, nail the fit
We’ve heard it said that only buff guys look good in T-shirts. We humbly disagree, but we get where that idea came from. In a plain T-shirt, the only thing that makes you “look good” is fit. And, sure, muscular guys have a head start.

But anyone can get fit right. Just be honest with yourself about what you need. First up: sleeves. These should end at mid-bicep. If they’re below the thickest part of the muscle, they’re too long. Also, they should gently hug your arm—so choose a shirt that’s appropriate. Don’t do hammer curls to try and grow into it.

If you’re slim, choose a shirt with a tailored torso so you don’t get swallowed up. If you’re not slim, give yourself more room. Alternative Apparel nails the slim torso and not-too-long sleeve proportions with its Heritage Garment Dyed Crew T-Shirt ($25-$34, alternativeapparel.com), while a brand like James Perse fits a bit slouchier (Cotton Cashmere Jersey Tee, $105, jamesperse.com).

Remember that when a T-shirt hugs your chest, it will make your chest look bigger. But if you don’t want your chest to look bigger, or you don’t feel great about your level of pec firmness, don’t let it hug too tight.

Finally, your shirt should end just a few inches below your belt. No one should be able to see your stomach, but the shirt shouldn’t totally hide your butt. Most often, if the sleeve length is right on you, overall length will be too.

Why fabric matters
T-shirts come in all kinds of blends, but the 100% cotton tee is still the gold standard. Why? Because it's soft, strong, and most breathable.

However, there's something to be said for blends. A 50/50 polyester-cotton blend will be less apt to shrink in the wash, and wrinkles will shake out easily. Downside: it may pill more easily and make you sweat more.

Dress up plain with a pocket
With a T-shirt, plain is good. But all-the-way, blank-canvas, just-a-white-crewneck plain can make you look like you’re in your undershirt. Or like you’re about to go for a run.

To V or not to V?
V-neck versus crew neck—people have deeply entrenched opinions about this. But, once again, your body is your guide.

A crew neck will make your frame look more square, so if you have a slight build, it’s the best option. Plus, if you’re tall and willowy, you don’t want a V-neck to elongate your already long neck. Flip the script: a V-neck is less boxy. And makes your neck look longer. So if you’re on the stockier side, this is a great way to break up your frame and add interest.

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