We in 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 undershirts.
The gut reaction from most guys here is, “What’s to think about?”
You throw on a white tee, or any other neutral 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 bit more to it than that, and picking out a good undershirt is important for a few reasons:
- 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.
- 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
shirtdrapes, to your ability to stay sweat-stain free; once again, your bottom layer can make you or break you.
What To Look For In An Undershirt
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: Undershirt 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
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 T-shirt sticking up from under my collar, like a thong riding up the butt of that girl in the trailer park?
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
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.
Bottom line, go for the V-neck.
2. Undershirt Fit
Your next biggest priority is to find something that fits your body like a glove. A loose
You can have the most perfectly fitted, custom cut dress
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
3. Undershirt Length
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
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. Undershirt 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
You’d think that a white undershirt would blend best with a white dress
Thus, instead of blending in, a white
Instead, you can try to match your skin color, but I just go for something with a slightly darker shade (a light grey
Best color undershirt? For light to medium skin, heather grey seems to work perfectly. If you’re darker-skinned, try a charcoal or black undershirt.
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
The Best Undershirt(s)
In a completely unsolicited and entirely whole-hearted endorsement, I give you the Tommy John Second Skin Deep V-Neck Undershirt.
Phew, what a mouthful, but really, it’s the perfect undershirt. The
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
These undershirts are available through Tommy John as well as Nordstrom for $40 each.
Other Undershirts To Buy
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.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve been so happy with my Tommy John undershirts that I haven’t tried 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.
Editor’s note: My favorite undershirt by far is the Tri-Blend Deep V-Neck in Heather Grey from RibbedTee.
It’s super lightweight and fits slim, but the body is long, so it stays tucked in. The heather grey color is perfect if you want your undershirt to be invisible (hint: you want your undershirt to be invisible). –BC
The Regular Tee
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
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 Supima 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.
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
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
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
Check out Tommy John’s Tank Top undershirt here.
To wrap it up…
Keep the neck low, the
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!
This post was updated Oct. 17, 2017