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The case for the fashionable T-shirt: Make a statement with this simple garment

How to dress up a T-shirt so that you're always the best-dressed guy in the room

Men get ragged on for wearing T-shirts all the time. When the people you’re with dress up and you show up in a T-shirt, you can rub a lot of people the wrong way. However, just because you’re wearing a T-shirt doesn’t mean you can’t be dressed just as sharply as those around you — or even more so.

T-shirts get a bad rap; many see them as the lowest of men’s dress choices, with some even believing tees are only one step above underwear. But what if we told you that T-shirts are more than a men’s basic and can actually be the pinnacle of fashion? Here’s how you can take your T-shirt game from high school summer vacation to the king of street fashion.

Men's t-shirt
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Pay attention to the fit

Like many areas of men’s fashion, looking good in a T-shirt comes down to fit. Unfortunately, most men are unsure of how this wardrobe staple should fit. Don’t worry; we can make this simple for you. The rule of thumb here is to remember that it should be tighter in the arms and shoulders and looser in the torso.

When we say tighter, that doesn’t mean it should cut off circulation. Likewise, when we say looser, we don’t mean the shirt should hang off of you like you borrowed your father’s tee. The shoulder seams of men’s tees should land at the shoulder bones, where the shoulder ends and the arms begin. Of course, unless it’s made custom for you, that can be hard to find, but try to get as close as possible. If the seam rests too far over the shoulder, it can shrink the appearance of your shoulders, which is the opposite of what you want.

The arms should hug the biceps just enough to show off your work in the gym. They should sit about halfway between the shoulder and the elbow. If they’re too long, your arms will look short; if they’re too short, you’ll look like you’re channeling the 1950s. The torso of the shirt should fit looser but still hug your body. For a lot of men, this brings a little insecurity. Trust that there are plenty of brands that take that into account. Whatever you do, don’t try to compensate by getting a shirt that’s too big; it only makes you look frumpy and larger than you really are.

Men's t-shirt
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Be mindful of style

After the fit, the place most go wrong is with the style of the T-shirt itself. Of course, there’s a time and place for all T-shirts, but when you want to elevate that look, lose the graphics and brand names. Most of the time, graphic tees and those with brand names on the torso look more garish than stylish. Here are three ways to upgrade the style of your shirt: 

  1. Make it a V-Neck. While most tees are available in crew neck, meaning the depth of the neck is the same all the way around, the V-Neck provides a more stylish upgrade. This type of collar wraps around the back of the neck the same as a crew neck but meets lower in the front, forming a V. 
  2. Be sure the tee is a flattering color. Every man should get a color analysis done to know what color looks best on him. Warm skin tones will usually look better in reds, oranges, and yellows, and cool skin tones will look best in greens and blues. 
  3. Make the pattern subtle. While the coolest T-shirt is a vibrant and eye-catching color, patterns can make a tee stand out. Loud and chaotic patterns, however, do the same as graphics or brand names. Make the pattern subtle to add depth to your look. 
Men's t-shirt
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Remember to layer

The beauty of a luxurious tee is that it’s a perfect base layer to an ensemble. Whether you wear one under a cardigan in the winter or an open button-up all year round, tees are a great way to add another color to your outfit.

Another excellent layering option is to wear the tee under a sport coat. The coat dresses up the usual T-shirt and jeans combo, and the tee dresses down the sport coat. If you’re heading to a slightly upgraded casual event, throwing a simple sport coat on over the tee while everyone else is in a tucked-in button-up or polo will ensure you’re the best dressed in the room.

T-shirts for men have a bad reputation for being low fashion and not stylish enough for anything but the most casual events. If you follow these three tips, you’ll prove that reputation wrong and make yourself the talk of the event. You might even change everyone’s mind about the value of tees in the wardrobe.

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Mark McKee
Mark is a full-time freelance writer and men's coach. He spent time as a style consultant and bespoke suit salesman before…
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