The 5 Main Types of Men’s T-Shirts (and How to Wear Them)
Warm weather has a way of making guys want to live in their tees. Some guys regard the T-shirt as a perennial classic, a style that can be worn with just about anything else in their wardrobes, while others are reticent to wear them on any occasion other than the weekend, for fear of looking too casual. But there are plenty of ways to upgrade a basic tee, and in fact, there are plenty of different kinds of men’s T-shirts that you can wear, even if you currently only wear tee shirts as undershirts. These are our favorite kinds of tees, and a few great ways for you to wear them this spring.
1. The basic solid tee
Tee shirts originated as undershirts that were introduced more than a century ago, and were issued to soldiers and sailors in the U.S. military. They were later adopted by farmers and laborers of all kinds, and in the 1950s, it became acceptable to wear them without a shirt on top. Crewnecks or slight V-necks in white, navy, and grey look the most classic. A trim tee in any of those colors will look great with a pair of rigid jeans, and a navy blue tee pairs especially well with a pair of tan chinos.
Handvaerk’s cotton tee is a great example of how a navy blue tee, combined with your favorite pair of tan chinos, makes for an easy spring outfit, while Sunspel’s slim cotton tee demonstrates how a charcoal grey tee shirt will pair easily with the dark pieces you’ve worn all winter for easy transitional outfits. Meanwhile, James Perse’s off-white T-shirt and Sandro’s white T-shirt are great examples of basic tees in shades that can be a great layer in your warm-weather looks.
2. A tasteful graphic tee
In the 1960s, tee shirts were printed with everything from brand names to political slogans, and what we know today as the graphic tee was born. Graphic tees feel younger and more casual than solid tees, and in most cases, you should reserve graphic tees for laid-back events, trips to the gym, or errands around town. Look for tees with classic and tasteful designs.
When you’re looking for a graphic tee that you can wear without looking like you’re still in high school, go for a tee with a print that looks classic. RRL’s cotton-linen graphic T-shirt, for instance, incorporates a graphic inspired by Trench Art for a tee that will look great with your selvedge jeans and worn-in field jacket. For something a little more sporty, try a design like Ralph Lauren’s graphic tee, which will look right at home with classic athletic staples, like a pair of Jack Purcells. If you’re already looking forward to summer, go for a tee with an appropriate print, like A.P.C.’s sailboat-printed tee, to wear with tan or navy chinos. And if your style tends toward minimalism, consider the signature heart print of Comme des Garcons’ graphic tee, which will look great with a dark pair of jeans.
3. The pocket tee
If you’d prefer a solid tee to a patterned or printed one, but are worried about it looking like an undershirt, you can make the look a little more intentional with a pocket tee. A pocket tee in a classic, neutral color can pair well with a blazer, a bomber jacket, and many other lightweight pieces of outerwear that are staples for spring and chilly summer nights.
If you tend to wear a lot of neutrals, a grey pocket tee, like Levi’s Made & Crafted cotton T-shirt, will likely integrate easily into your wardrobe. Club Monaco’s cotton T-shirt is another great basic, and in ecru, will look great with everything from navy blue to red. Wear it with jeans or twill shorts, and layer either a button-front shirt or a light jacket on top on cooler days. A tee in a slightly bolder shade, like the army green of Albam’s garment-dyed tee, will pair easily with statement-making pieces of outerwear, such as a denim utility jacket. Similarly, Faherty’s indigo cotton tee will look great with the tans and blues in your closet.
4. A classic henley
A henley is an excellent choice if you aren’t afraid of a casual style, but are looking for a tee with with a little more to it than a simple crewneck or V-neck. The henley is a particular favorite among fans of American workwear, and is easy to pair with other workwear favorites, like a field jacket, a utility jacket, a pair of sturdy twill chinos, or a pair of rigid selvedge jeans.
Chimala’s cotton henley, in white, is about the easiest way to get started with henleys. Pair it with anything from a tailored pair of chinos to your favorite jeans, and if you need an extra layer of warmth, add a classic shawl-collar cardigan on top. If you’re looking for a style that makes a bolder statement, go with the Nudie Jeans henley in black, which you can pair easily with a dark pair of jeans. Other great choices if you want some color in your warm-weather wardrobe are Rag & Bone’s cotton henley and Vince’s short-sleeve henley, which are both offered in multiple colors. Each can be paired with your favorite chinos, whether they’re green, navy blue, tan, or even grey.
5. The striped tee
A striped tee is a classic style, and the choices range from bold rugby-style stripes to the narrow bars of the mariniere. Depending on the style you choose, you can go for an all-American look or one reminiscent of the best of French menswear. In either case, a pair of tan or navy blue chinos is generally an excellent starting point.
A.P.C.’s breton-striped tee is about as classic as striped tees come, and in black, will be easily paired with dark trousers or jeans and will look especially polished with a classic tan trench coat or even a tan utility jacket on top. The Grayers striped tee takes the trend in the opposite direction, and offers an athletic look that will look great with your favorite weekend pieces, whether that’s a pair of worn-in jeans or a trim pair of sweatpants. For a look that’s a little sleeker for mid-week errands, try Officine Generale’s striped T-shirt, which you can wear with a dark pair of trousers and a dark jacket for a minimal look. Or try Jil Sander’s striped tee, another choice that will look great with an all-black outfit.