There’s a good reason that we all still wear the white T-shirt. Though it’s often overshadowed by suits and other pieces in a man’s wardrobe, it’s something he can wear with anything. Beyond that, it’s classically American. Its short style history traces it back to off-duty military uniforms, quickly becoming a favorite of day-laborers. It also became an inherent part of the identities of celebrities like Marlon Brando and James Dean, who seemed to adopt the understated-cool look and attitude as their own.
“The white tee is a wardrobe staple that’s simple and fresh,” says Catherine Chow, founder of Welcome Stranger. “It’s a fun piece that can be customized — a canvas for any everyday look you want to create.” Chow explains that no matter the price, it’s about how the tee is worn. “Tucked, untucked, sleeveless, oversize, fitted, layered, or alone. Take it from basic to luxe.” Wearing it is one thing, but choosing the right shirt in the first place is another. Chow says you should pay attention to the silhouette and fabric of the tee you’re about to purchase. But luckily, a T-shirt is fairly forgiving, even if you don’t snag the perfect one the first time. And when you do, Chow says it’s a go-to you can tailor to your own style. “Ultimately, it’s a versatile piece that can look good on everyone.” Here, five pieces to upgrade your everyday style.
Best Crew Neck
Welcome Stranger 8-oz Bison Tee
Wearing a white tee alone, whether it’s with denim or chinos, makes a statement. It’s cool, comfortable, and subtle—and most importantly, easy. But you shouldn’t have to pay a fortune for a decent option. This slim-cut 8-oz option from San Francisco–based shop Welcome Stranger stands on its own, and is structured and heavy enough to hold its shape after eight hours of wear and tear. [$55; welcomestranger.com]
Best Pocket Tee
Levi’s Vintage Clothing Chest Pocket T-Shirt
You can dress up a pocket tee, but it doesn’t have to be covered by a button-down. A leather jacket will do just fine. But leave the lightweight fabrics to your undershirts, and instead grab this reliable option from Levi’s Vintage. A reissued favorite of Brando, it’s structured and durable enough that the pocket won’t fall open should you actually want to use it. Just make sure it hits you at the right spot on your chest. [$86; farfetch.com]
Apolis Standard Issue Organic V-Neck
You can wear a white tee with anything in your closet, but a V-neck is a quick way to dress up this simple style moment. Don’t want to wear a tie? Toss on a blazer, and you’re good to go in almost any situation. And if you can find a V that’s soft enough without looking cheap, you might just find your new daily uniform. This military-inspired piece from California-based Apolis features sophisticated stitching along the collar and Apolis’ signature red logo always having your back. [$34; store.apolisglobal.com]
Gold Label Roundtree & Yorke
Whether absorbing sweat in summer or covering up when it cools down, most men like a layer underneath their best dress shirts. This style from Roundtree & Yorke is soft and light, thin enough to disappear when covered, and easily tucks in without coming undone or bunching up on your sides. Even better: It’s not a huge investment to buy a few more when you’ve outworn them, which, trust us, takes a while. [$34 for 3-pack; dillards.com]
Buck Mason White Short-Sleeve Henley
American-made, this short-sleeve Henley from the new masters of men’s basics, Buck Mason, adds some dimension to a typical white tee. The sleeves hit lower than your standard short-sleeve number. Wear it alone or throw on a jacket and leave it unbuttoned. It’s a versatile piece that’ll be tough not to become your new go-to. [$45; buckmason.com]