5 Ways to Easily Upgrade a Basic T-Shirt

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Man wearing sunglasses and a T-shirt | Pablo Cuadra/Getty Images

It’s summer, and with the hot weather comes the perennial dilemma: What should you wear when the weather is at its hottest? Luckily, all guys can look great in a basic T-shirt, which also happens to be nice and light. We’re not talking about the graphic tee emblazoned with a comedic slogan or a huge logo, but the plain, solid t-shirt, which may be one of the simplest but most comfortable pieces of clothing you own.

Whether your favorite is white, grey, or black, a plain tee is a classic. And there’s a reason why some of the coolest guys caught in top photographers’ street style shots are rocking a basic tee — styled correctly, they can look just as cool as a more formal silhouette, but without all the fuss and layering you want to avoid during the summer. Here are a few easy tricks to make your tee both hot-weather-ready and undeniably stylish.

1. Find your style

When you think of your favorite tee shirt, it’s pretty likely that your mental image is different than what your best friend or the guy in the next office over is imagining. There are tight crew necks and loose crew necks. There are traditional V-necks and deep V-necks. There are super-slim tee shirts and ones that are cut very generously. There are tees with lots of stretch and tees that hardly stretch at all. And even if we’re narrowing the field to short-sleeve tee shirts, there are shorter short sleeves and longer short sleeves, plus boxier sleeves and slimmer sleeves and everything in between. The point? Figure out what look and feel you like, so you can feel comfortable and confident in your tee. We recommend a soft tee with a little bit of slouch, but the rest is up to you.

2. Hone the fit

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Man posing in a black T-shirt with a cross-body bag | Pablo Cuadra/Getty Images

Once you’ve found the basic T-shirt that’s perfect (or close to it), take a moment to figure out how to make it even better. If the neck is a little too tight for comfort on hot days, give it a tug to loosen up the ribbing. If the sleeves are a little too long or a little too stiff, roll them gently, and a little haphazardly, to change the look. Alternatively, trim the ends off of the sleeves, and if your tee is too long, cut off the hem, as well, for a well-worn look where the edge of the fabric will curl.

3. Soften it up

A well-used t-shirt is almost always the most comfortable piece of clothing in your closet, so it never hurts to help the newer tees along. Just as you can with a pair of raw denim, you can jump-start your tee’s breaking-in process by taking it to the beach. The sand and the saltwater will age the fabric subtly, making it feel a little bit more like the tees you wore all last summer instead of one that’s fresh from the mall.

4. Style intelligently

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Guy wearing a T-shirt with a leather jacket | Source: iStock

T-shirts don’t have to be worn exclusively with jeans. (Though they do look undeniably great with a classic pair of dark denim.) Try yours on with a pair of chinos for a more sophisticated look, or try on a soft and slouchy one with a blazer for dinner. Think outside the box of how you styled your tees in high school, and aim for a more grown-up style with a good pair of shoes and sunglasses.

5. Embrace the lived-in look

After a season of putting your tees on heavy rotation, your most-loved tee shirts are likely going to look a little worn around the seams and pockets. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. While you might not want to wear a tee with visible holes to dinner, a worn-in tee can look just fine in a more casual setting. Style a well-worn tee with a pair of jeans that’s beginning to fade or a pair of chinos that shows a little bit of wear. High-quality clothes will look great as they age, so be sure to show off how much you’ve loved that tee.