The search for the perfect classic t-shirt can be daunting. In fact, as a men’s stylist, it’s one of the things I get asked about the most. There can be no harder working item in your closet, and when all other sartorial choices fail, a perfect tee is really all you need – on its own, as a casual layer, or even as a way to make a suit a little less stuffy.
There’s essentially three styles I gravitate towards. One, I’ll never not love that perfect Brando style cut. Not too long in the body, not too long in the sleeve. Snug in all the right ways, with a look that suggests you may be hiding a hair comb somewhere. As an alternative to that cut, I like a tee with a little room or scoop in the neck and a little more slouch in the body. This style can be harder to get right, but tends to have a more effortless feel, which is never a bad thing. The third style Is a more elevated tee that almost feels like a knit – it usually entails some sort of a luxury ingredient such as a stretchy bamboo (and often comes with a luxury price tag to match). This one is great for wearing under a more structured suit without sacrificing a certain air of formality. It also looks great on its own, tucked into a great pair of trousers – no jeans here, please. The first two styles are best paired with your favorite denim.
Lastly, as a good rule of thumb – I tend to stick to t-shirts in whites, creams, navy, charcoal (less “Euro” than black, though black is OK too depending on the look) or other classic, darker shades such as olive greens. Generally speaking, if you’re not at the gym, a game, or on a skateboard – no graphics are best.
Having tried essentially every brand and style out there, I’ve come to have a handful of go-to brands I can always rely on to do deliver in the tshirt category. Below are my current favorites.
Vintage guru Kelly Cole has been nailing the perfect 50s cut for ages and just recently brought the classic staple back.
ATM makes both a great classic cut in a really soft fabric and the rare pocket tee I actually like, not to mention a perfect long sleeve.
This is probably my main go-to brand for just a super classic no-fail cut and it’s a lot of my clients’ favorite.
Buck Mason has a slightly overwhelming array of t-shirt styles, but in fairness I like them all. And while I don’t usually love a thicker tee, they make one that has a great vintage look to it. I’m also a fan of their curved hem tee just to spice things up.
Giorgio Armani tees come with that heftier price tag but it’s the most perfect of luxury tees, which works great when you’re looking for a dressier and more elevated option to pair with a formal suit. I’ve even been known to pair these with a tux.
Meriggi is a more recent discovery for me, and I find myself going to their linen tees over and over again. Here’s hoping they’ll come out with a white version soon, but I’m a big fan of the two colors they do make. The linen gives it that more relaxed, less fitted feel and looks great layered under jackets, on their own, or with a more relaxed suit.
Our favorite mens store anywhere, The Optimist, also makes their own brand of truly perfect classic tshirts. They have two styles, the David and the Joey, though we are partial to the latter for it’s perfect 50s style cut. Though not usually a giant fan of henleys, theirs is the exception as it’s incredibly flattering.
Hiro Clark has several styles we love. Their classic tee is more of that iconic 50s cut while the jersey tee has a little less structure and is my favorite of the brands. For a cool, longer, slouchier style they also have a great larger cut. Besides great tees, they also make easily my favorite sweatshirts.