43 Comments.

Hey Gents,

I haven’t covered this topic in a while, and it’s still a question many guys continue to wonder about. Adam from Wide Eyes, Tight Wallets covers the subject in depth. Hope this answers your question, as far as what type of undershirt to wear and when.

Take it away, Adam…

We of the menswear world spend so much time figuring out what we are going to wear (which shirt to match with which pair of pants, which tie to go with that shirt, which shoes to wear with the ensemble), that we often forget about some of the essentials.

In this case, I’m talking specifically about your underwear.

OK, not quite your underwear (not that cozy with you folks just yet), but actually, your undershirts.

The gut reaction from most guys here is, “What’s to think about?”

You throw on a white tee, or any other non-bright color, and you’re good to go. As long as it doesn’t smell funky, you’re a happy guy. Well, I hate to tell you, there’s a lot more to it than that, and picking out a good undershirt is important for a few reasons:

  1. This is the layer that you are the most up close and personal with. Therefore, comfort is a huge value here. Wear an uncomfortable undershirt and you will be uncomfortable, all day long. Most importantly, it will show, in the way you act and the way you carry yourself.
  2. On a more sartorial level, even if you can’t actually see the undershirt, the difference in the options really does have a huge effect on the way your outfit looks. From what layers you see when you look at the finished package, to the way your shirt drapes, to your ability to stay sweat-stain free; once again, your bottom layer can make you or break you.

So, what exactly should you look for?

To start, I want to quickly point out that an undershirt is not a tee-shirt. You can’t wear these out casually with a pair of jeans, or under a blazer. Undershirts are meant solely to be used as undergarments.

As such, they tend to be thinner, sometimes come in moisture-wicking fabric, but most importantly are designed around function over form, and should always be considered underwear. Working from there, you have a few things you’re going to want:

1: Style

The first and arguably biggest thing to look for is V-neck over crew-neck. All day, every day. Why? Because you can’t see that V-neck popping out of the top of your collar.

Sometimes, even a fully buttoned shirt will show a hint of crew-neck undershirt collar, and that completely disregards the times you want to loosen up and open up a button or two, or want to wear an undershirt under a polo, or Henley.

Why is this so bad? I actually wrote an entire blog post on the subject, and I’ll quote myself now (I was particularly proud of this piece of prose):

Here’s the test: Can you see a triangle of white tee-shirt sticking up from under my collar, like a thong riding up the butt of that girl in the trailer park?

undershirt1

Ok, that might be a little harsh, but the analogy remains: treat your undershirts like underwear; they are there to do a job, NOT to be seen.

It just looks….well maybe not quite trashy, but definitely unrefined and definitely not classy when they are visible over your shirt.

OK, maybe that wasn’t the most important point to take away, but on top of that, who takes great care of their undershirts? I beat mine up, and I’m fine with that, but I certainly don’t want a rumply collar throwing off my smoothly pressed duds.

That peeking shirt also throws this visual curve-ball into your otherwise carefully planned outfit. Where previously you were expertly balancing colors and patterns, all of the sudden here’s this big splotch of white thrown in for no good reason.

Bottom line, go for the V-neck.

2. Fit

Your next biggest priority is to find something that fits your body like a glove. A loose shirt will billow and fold around your waist, same as with a dress shirt.

You can have the most perfectly fitted, custom cut dress shirt that hugs you in the most luxurious of embraces, but if your undershirt is bunched up underneath it you will still look lumpy and misshapen. Instead, find something that hangs (at most) just barely off your body.

My test is to put the undershirt on, tucked in, with a pair of pants and belt. Not a look you want to wear in public, ever, but take a look at the waistline. You don’t want that undershirt billowing out at all (perhaps even more so than with your dress shirt).

3. Length

tommyjohn1

This is where I often struggle in my searches for good under-garments. These bad boys have to stay tucked in, all day long. An undershirt that has come up above the waistband will rumple up your dress shirt just the same as a loose fitting undershirt.

Find something with a little bit of extra length and (even better) a bit of a taper at the waist and you should be anchored down and good to go.

4. Color

Nine times out of ten white will be your best friend. Avoid colorful tees for the simple reason that the color can ‘bleed’ through thinner or looser-woven shirts. The only time you really need to venture from that line is when wearing a bright white shirt on top.

You’d think that a white undershirt would blend best with a white dress shirt, but in that case you fail to remember that your body is, in fact, not bright white (don’t care how pasty pale you may be).

Thus, instead of blending in, a white shirt causes a huge contrast between the single and double layers at any of its edges.

Instead, you can try to match your skin color, but I just go for something with a slightly darker shade (a light grey suits me well and is easy to find).

Get all that down and your golden. There might be a few more options, like special fabrics and other gimmicks, but most of that is just a matter of preference.

So, that might seem like a helluva demanding list, and where is anyone supposed to find an undershirt that does all of that??? Fortunately, I’ve already done all of the legwork and feel confident declaring the perfect dress shirt.

Behold: Your Best Bet

In a completely unsolicited and entirely whole-hearted endorsement, I give you the Tommy John Second Skin Stay Tucked Deep V-neck Undershirt.

tommyjohn2

Phew, what a mouthful, but really, it’s the perfect undershirt. The shirts are fitted to the body, but do not feel tight in any way. Honestly, it really does feel like a second skin.

The length comes most of the way down your butt and is the right length to stay tucked without starting to constrain your thighs like some sort of hidden miniskirt.

The fabric is incredibly soft, and also thin enough to not add too much in the way of layering or excess insulation. Most importantly, it covers the basics – white and V-neck.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Tommy John currently offers this specific shirt in grey, though I swear I’ve seen it around. They do have a beige option that should work just as well.

These undershirts are available through Tommy John as well as Nordstrom for $40 each. If that price is too steep for your tastes, Nordstrom Rack offers a ‘basic’ version (same fit, less luxurious of fabrics) for much cheaper. I personally have the ‘basic’ version and it hasn’t failed me yet. If my memory serves me correctly, I picked up a 2-pack for a little over $20. – Thanks to Matt and the Tommy John team for clearing this up.

The Similar Alternatives

If you can’t find Tommy John in a store near you, or have some other aversion to that choice, there are some other very similar options.

Nordstrom offers an undershirt through their house brand that is reported to be right in line with the Tommy John option; slim through the body, lightweight, and long enough to stay tucked in.

I’ve heard the same about the Hugo Boss undershirt, although from the pictures they look to be a little less fitted, so you might want to consider sizing down.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve been so happy with my Tommy John undershirts that I haven’t tried either of these myself, but the chatter on the internet all backs these up as solid bets. Nordstrom Rack often carries bargain versions of these as well.

The Regular Tee

uniqlo1

If you’d rather have an undershirt that can do double-duty on its own, the trick is to find something that falls in the middle ground.

Where my Tommy John shirt is much too form-fitting to wear as a top layer, you still want something slim and close to the body.

Again, where Tommy John undershirts are probably too long to be appropriate untucked, you still want to look for a Tee that isn’t so short that it won’t stay tucked when you need it to.

My recommendation here is Uniqlo’s Premium Cotton V Neck. The fit is great, and it does come in grey, which can be a little harder to find when looking specifically at undershirts.

My only complaint is that the fabric is a little thick, so I had to retire this option during the warmer months, but the rest of the year this falls right in with my rotation of Tommy Johns.

The A-Shirt

Also referred to by the wholly tasteless term, ‘wife-beater,’ the A-shirt is not a choice I personally make, but is still an acceptable option.

It covers all the requirements, lying close to the body, cut low from the neck, thin enough to go unnoticed under a shirt and long enough to stay tucked. I used to wear these all the time, but in the past year or so have turned away from them.

My reasoning is purely practical, in that the main reason I wear an undershirt at all is to keep my sweat off my nice dress shirts, and A-shirts just don’t cover up in the way I prefer.

That said, they are probably the coolest of these options (in terms of temperature, not style), and there’s no shame in rocking one under your dress shirt.

To wrap it up…

Keep the neck low, the shirt form fitting and long enough to stay tucked, and 9 times out of 10, go with white. If you’ve got that down, really any brand or style will keep you looking and feeling like you’ve got nothing under your dress shirt at all.

Tommy John may be my go-to, but I love having options when I go shopping.

Have any more brand suggestions? Leave them in the comments!

(One last P.S. from the Editor: Cladright is launching very, very soon. Don’t miss out! Read more about it here.)

PUBLISHED October 3, 2013


Adam is a regular contributor and editor at Effortless Gent. He is also the founder and editor of Wide Eyes, Tight Wallets, a men’s style blog focusing on budget-conscious tips and advice.



  • Ali Naaseh

    Humans sweat, so what? Get over it, go undershirtless, and your life will change forever

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      I go undershirtless (is that a word? I like it), but I also don’t sweat very much. If I was a guy who sweats a lot, or if I lived in a humid climate, it may not be so easy to just go without an undershirt.

  • The Smarch

    Whoa, sorry, but $40 for that TJ undershirt is a little, well, insane.

    • WideEyesTWBlog

      Yeah, the regular retail price is a little steep, but I got mine in a two-fer pack at Nordstrom Rack for closer to $20 ($22 I think). I definitely recommend taking a look there.

  • Blaine

    For those on more of a budget, Frank & Oak sell a great form fit deep v in white, gray or black for less than half the price ($18) of the Tommy John ($40).

    • WideEyesTWBlog

      I have yet to try out the Frank and Oak undershirts, but I might just have to add one to my next order. If you’re interested in the Tommy John at a more reasonable price, check your Nordstrom Rack. I think my two-pack was only $22.00.

  • Patrick

    Gap v-neck tees are the best. They’re a little pricy if you buy one ($16), but they drop to $26 for 2. If you shop on a 40% off day, you can pick them up for under $10 each. The reason I prefer theirs is that they’re cotton and their light heather grey color is perfect for under a white dress shirt, which I wear probably 3-4 times a week.

    Also, tuck your undershirt into your undies. It feels weird at first, but it keeps your undershirt anchored and clean. Best thing I’ve ever tried.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      I like the Gap v-necks as well, and I have a few. I’ve owned mine for a few years, and have noticed that after all those washes, they’re sorta out of shape (i.e. short and wide). Not that I care really, since I paid around $8 for each, and they’re easy to replace.

      Anyway, good suggestion.

  • http://jeremylwhite.wordpress.com/ JW

    Thompson Tee is a fantastic option for those who have to dress formally in very warm climates, or who, well, simply sweat a lot. Oh, and the shirts themselves–they work.

  • Texasdude

    I think Tommy John is actually underpriced for what it is. This is why I bought one so I think the article here is on point http://shopping.yahoo.com/news/-40-men-s-undershirt-%E2%80%94-and-why-you-need-to-buy-it-202751849.html

    • Tommy John

      Thanks Texasdude!

  • jklooster

    The V neck at ribbedtee.com has been my goto for awhile now. They have it in heather grey as well.

    • WideEyesTWBlog

      Nice, I just had another friend recommend that as well, I’ll have to add it to my list to try in the future.

  • Tommy John

    Hi Everyone,

    We wanted to say thank you to Barron for the awesome write-up! Also, we wanted to take a moment and provide some clarification about our product that is carried at Nordstrom Rack.

    The Nordstrom Rack product is our basic product. The product sold on our website and at other high-end retailers is our premium product. The basic product has the same fit as our premium product, but it is made from fabric that is not as silky and luxurious as the premium product.

    Hope this helps!

    The Tommy John Gang

    • WideEyesTWBlog

      Good to know! I was wondering why the price difference was so big. For the record (to the readers), I have the basic product, and love it. If the premium is even better, I imaging it’s pretty darn fantastic, but I haven’t been disappointed with the basic yet!

    • WideEyesTWBlog

      We updated the post, thanks again for filling us in.

  • Martin

    Being a Territory Manager in Sydney, Australia I’ve had a LOT of nice shirts ruined by sweat…gets damn expensive but I just cant imagine adding an extra layer in 95 degree heat to trousers and a shirt an tie would make the situation better?

  • Cary Davis

    Oy vey! If your a furry beast like me and you’re wearing a v-neck t-shirt, you got like this fountain o’ hair shootin’ outta da top of your shirt and it looks like you’re smuggling a kitten. It is with much sadness I’m adding “shave chest” in my daily grooming regime.

    I guess it’s better to be ignorant about some things, but now I know about the v-neck….Thanks for nuttin’ EG. What’s next flossin’ almost every day? Being a man is hard.

    • WideEyesTWBlog

      Haha, I had a friend say the exact same thing in response to this post. He called it ‘taco meat.’ Cracked me up.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      What’s wrong with a little chest hair? You’re a man, after all.

      • Cary Davis

        I’m just saying when little girls come up to you and ask if they can pet the puppy….and you don’t have a puppy….and they recoil in horror when they notice all dat fuzzzz…iz u…and they need Rational Emotive Therapy until their mid 30’s to deal with the trauma – If you make a sasquatch look like it has alopecia – then some light trimming might be a simple courtesy that you can extend to the other homo sapiens who share your world.

        I’m not saying you should use Nair all over you body. I tried that and it cost me $90 to get my shower drain professionally unclogged. I’m simply suggesting that when you put on a v-neck tshirt and it looks like you’ve got on a jet black alpaca sweater underneath, you just gotta consider that some people you come in contact with have a very strong gag reflexe that could potentially ruin your getup.

        Is it OK if I wear a crew neck t-shirt on top of the v-neck or would that not work?

        Oh wait. You put the crew neck tshirt on first and then the v-neck over it. That’s it. So glad we had this talk!

        Cheers.

        • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

          Ha! Point taken. You should Nair a V-shaped area on your chest, so you can still utilize the V-neck shirt while maintaining most of your chest hair (and minimizing the amount of manscaping needed).

          Just kidding. If it’s like that, then no harm sticking with a standard crew neck. If you’re ballin’ out in Europe where (I think) chest hairz are more widely accepted, then maybe try the V-neck there.

  • John

    My first choice (and favorite undies) is the Tommy John T-Shirts and Underwear. They are pricey but worth it in the Texas heat. You do get a discount if your order in bulk. Pair them with my custom shirt from J Hillburn and I’m good to go for a sleek custom fit look with no bulge. My second choice is the fitted underwear options from Jockey (@Target) for a cheaper price point.

  • Paul

    What about an undershirt underneath a v-neck sweater? Would you go with a v-neck or crew?

    • WideEyesTWBlog

      I’d say crew neck, I think a v-neck sweater looking like you had *nothing* underneath would be awkward. However, in this case I wouldn’t really consider it an under-garment as it would be intentionally visible, so I’d go for a traditional tee.

    • Kory Leach

      I like ribbed tee’s under a v-neck sweater if I’m not wearing a collared shirt. It aids in having it’s own texture. That’s just my opinion though.

  • Ed

    Skip the white undershirts and stick with heather grey. It does a better job of matching any skin tone than white. A tip to help keep the undershirt tucked in is by tucking it into your underwear waist band. Doesn’t sound cool but it’s not meant to be seen so who cares.

  • Stacy Crash
  • http://www.themodestman.com/ Brock

    Not gonna lie, I stick with the plain ol’ wife beaters. These things are great – they don’t show under a button up shirt, they absorb sweat, and they leave your arms uncovered (which is nice if you wear slim fit shirts with narrow sleeves). It’s always bad when you can see the outline of short sleeves under a man’s white button up shirt.

    The only thing they don’t do is protect your arm pit area from stains. They also don’t last forever, but what undershirt does?

    I’m telling you, get yourself into some old school wife beater style tanks, especially if you don’t like v-necks.

    -Brock

    • Garret

      Brock. I could not agree more. I switched from crew necks to wifebeaters two years ago and now where them under everything long sleeved (suits, sweaters). They’re comfortable, cooler temp wise, and I wear custom shirts which are thicker so except for white they generally don’t show when I take my jacket off. My question is, do you have a brand recommendation? I currently wear Alfani from macys but am looking for something new.

      • http://www.themodestman.com/ Brock

        Hey Garret,

        I have Fruit of the Loom, Jockey, Hanes, etc. But my favorites are probably Nautica. They seem to last longer, and they’re a little thicker. They’re not much more expensive than the others… check em out!

        -B

  • Chris.

    Hanes slim fit undershirts are perfect – white, long, and fitted. Made a huge difference in how my shirts look because there is no more billowing fabric under my top layer. Online only Hanes.com

  • Stu

    Has anyone tried the new version of the “CORE” shirt from MOS (Ministry of Supply)? I bought one just before they changed the shirt and it’s super comfy but a bit billowy for under slim fit dress shirts, they said the new version is designed as a more “form fitting undershirt” which sounds perfect. Price is about $28.

  • http://www.fashionmetric.com/ Morgan Linton

    So I’ve held-off on wearing undershirts for a long time…this article might have just changed that. Thanks for the inspiration as always! Hmmmm, maybe we should add undershirts to Fashion Metric?

  • Eric Buzby

    I recommend checking out Mr. Davis. It’s a new start-up company originally funded by Kickstarter and exceeds all of the criteria above.
    http://mrdavis.com/?ref=5217b0b6301f1d020000000e

  • Luqman

    Hey, I’ve been searching for an undershirt to wear that will serve the following purposes:
    1) Be fitted to my body
    2) Prevent swear from showing on my dress shirt
    3) Has a v-neck that is deep enough to enable me to wear a sport shirt with
    the first 2 buttons un-done, without showing the undershirt…
    DRASTICALLY IMPORTANT!!! lol

    I’m hoping the brand that you’ve recommended, Tommy John, will satisfy what I’m looking for. In your post, you said that you currently wear them. Most importantly, do you recommend this shirt to satisfy the 3rd point that I mentioned?

    • Ryan Brady

      >first 2 buttons un-done

      No. Just no.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Good question, not sure. @WideEyesTWBlog:disqus would have to answer that one…

      @ryan_brady:disqus why not? I always wear my shirts with two buttons undone, the collar + the next one down. If you leave that second button buttoned, it feels like you’re being choked. Might as well keep them all buttoned and rock the air tie.

  • Jesse T Szynal

    Adam, Esquire had a pretty good option: http://www.esquire.com/blogs/mens-fashion/jt-invisible-undershirt-0713

    Seem to cover a lot of the concerns men are having in this post – Low neck with sleeves for sweat protection and lengths that stay tucked.

  • Luqman

    In reference to my previous post, I purchased a deep neck undershirt from Tommy Johns and it is a perfect solution for all of the things I mentioned before.

    • Luqman

      Deep v-neck

  • Jesse T Szynal

    And definitely not $40/each.