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How to Choose an Undershirt
We’re all human, which means that sometimes we’re going to get a bit sticky and sweaty. Not only does it feel gross and smell awful, that sweat is also a major drag when it comes to fashion and simply looking good. Let’s face it—no one looks slick with a massive pit stain.
Keeping that sweat at bay is one of the main reasons we love undershirts. However, using an undershirt goes well beyond just keeping your pits dry. If you’re a person who wears tends to wear a shirt—and wants to look as sharp as possible—chances are an undershirt is for you.
What’s the Point of an Undershirt?
There’s more to wearing an undershirt than you might initially think. To pinpoint the main reasons, let’s start with a few easy questions first:
- Do you sweat?
- Do you want to look slimmer?
- Hoping your enhance your overall fashion sensibilities?
- Want to hide that Sasquatch-level chest hair?
- Want to feel cooler in the summer or warmer in winter?
I’ll take a wild guess and assume you said yes to at least a few of these questions. That means that an undershirt would make a perfect addition to your wardrobe.
Now for a little t-shirt history—though worn today as a universal casual fashion staple, t-shirts were actually initially created as the original undershirt. The first white plain t-shirts were actually first used by men in the Navy to keep their more expensive uniforms cleaner, and to provide an extra layer of protection from the cold winds and waters of the sea.
These days, with so many different styles and options, the outerwear and undershirt game has become infinitely more confusing. From black tie weddings to backyard barbecues, how do you know what’s appropriate, effective, and most importantly, looks dang good.
Fear the undershirt no more! We’re here to walk you through what makes an undershirt a great addition to your wardrobe, and how to make sure you’re doing it right.
Is There a Difference Between a T-Shirt and an Undershirt?
This is an easy one—YES! This doesn’t necessarily mean that any shirt labeled as a t-shirt on the rack can’t be purchased and used as an undershirt, but you shouldn’t be using them interchangeably. A shirt worn properly as outerwear is chosen using different parameters than the fit, cut, color, and weight of a great undershirt.
By purchasing tees specifically as undershirts, you’ll ensure that you’re keeping the rules (that we’ll dig into below) in check. In addition, keeping the undershirts under will keep your “good shirts” good much longer. Do you really want to let your favorite band tee take the brunt of your summer sweat?
Undershirts Should Be Unseen
When really deciding exactly which kind of undershirt to wear, do consider the most important rule of the undershirt: It should ALWAYS be hidden. This means that there is an extra level of thought and strategy when making that choice.
If fashion isn’t your forte, don’t let this intimidate you. Just remember: Cut, color, and fit. Once you get these three rules down, picking out the right undershirt will become second shirt nature.
There are three main cuts of undershirt: V-Neck, Crew Neck, and Tank, with each style of shirt coming in a variety of colors (which we’ll dive into next). Compression style undershirts are out there too, but today, we’ll just stick with the basics.
Let’s explain each of the three main undershirt styles more in-depth:
The crew neck is what you’d imagine for your most basic, standard tee. It has that standard circle-shaped neckline that we’ve known since we first knew what a t-shirt was. Simply put, if you’re brand-new to the world of undershirts, this is the perfect place to begin.
Whether you’re a fashion newbie or a fashion guru, crew necks are always a solid choice when you’re wearing any kind of shirt that you’re planning on buttoning up all the way.
For example, if you’re wearing a suit or tuxedo, a crew cut undershirt will work as it’ll be hidden under the high-buttoned shirt. Other crew neck long sleeve tees or sweaters may also work well with this cut.
However, if you’re looking to boast some of that sexy chest hair or ripped pecs—or you just notice that your undershirt is showing above the top of your shirt—it’s time to explore another option.
V-Neck undershirts are best used for when you want to wear a collared or button up shirt but plan on leaving some of the top buttons open. This allows for the undershirt to go unseen and allow your skin to be exposed.
Be careful to make sure the unbuttoned collar doesn’t expose the undershirt at all. If it still does, you may want to consider just ditching the undershirt all together.
Scoop Neck Tank
The tank is mostly ideal for that toasty summertime weather. The point of a tank is that you can wear a button up shirt and keep it completely open it you want to. Hot weather is the one exception to the “never show your undershirt” rule. If worn correctly, the tank actually won’t look much like an undershirt at all.
Because of the scoop neck, they’re also good for use if you’re self-conscious about your body hair, but don’t want the shirt to make you hotter than you need to be. Even with less fabric, a great tank undershirt can do a fantastic job as soaking up excess sweat.
When we think of undershirts, most of us immediately think: White. Though not always wrong, you’re not exactly right either. Remember, it’s an undershirt so it shouldn’t be seen. That means that depending on factors like shirt color and skin color, the best choice for you could be something else entirely.
If a shirt is dark or opaque enough where the undershirt can’t be seen, then white is often the way to go. It’s by far the most common and therefore easiest to find undershirt with tons of cuts, fits, and varieties. It’s also super easy to clean and bleach so you can get rid of those pit stains. With proper washing, you can keep wearing the same white undershirt for years.
Though not the most popular undershirt color, it probably should be. Unlike white shirts, light greys actually blend into the skin and top shirt much better than almost any other color for most people. Don’t believe us? Try it out.
It also takes more time for sweat stains to appear on grey shirts when compared to white undershirts as well. You may not be able to bleach it out like the whites, but it can still last a long time as you can easily throw it in the laundry with other darker colors.
We’ll admit that these skin colored undershirts can totally look a bit strange before you put your main shirt on. They’re also harder to find than the other colors. However, if you’re really looking to keep that undershirt invisible, you simply can’t beat a flesh tone undershirt.
Just find a color that most closely matches your skin tone, put on your top shirt, and viola—any sign of an undershirt will be nearly impossible.
If you’re wearing a very dark or opaque shirt, a black or dark colored undershirt is often the perfect choice. Though a white shirt might do the job, in case your undershirt decides to peek out a little bit here and there, a dark color will make it less obvious.
Do be careful when going the dark color route though as they do tend to get hotter faster.
Even if you pick the perfect cut and perfect color, you can throw it all out the door if you pick the wrong fit. If you add a poorly fitting undershirt to your outfit, you can expect scrunching, and bulk that’ll make it incredibly apparent that you’re hiding something under your tee.
To avoid this fashion disaster, make sure you choose and undershirt that fits snuggly around your torso. Any bagginess will show through. Also make sure to tuck it tightly into your pants to avoid any bunching around the midsection.
In short, once putting on your undershirt, it should be comfortably but completely conforming to your shape, while still allowing ample breathability.
The fit is also important when considering how much shirt weight you want to add. Thicker 100% cotton undershirts might be perfect for adding warmth during winter. During the summer though, you’d likely want to choose a lighter material, like a 50/50 blend, made to wick away sweat and cool you down.
Lastly, after enough wears and washes, even the best undershirts eventually start to stretch, sag, or stain past the point of bleaching. When this happens, avoid any fitting faux pas (not to mention the stench) by considering it time to toss it and buy a new set of fresh undershirts.
Should I Wear An Undershirt Everyday?
So now that you’re an undershirt expert, the real question is—should I make this a regular part of my wardrobe? Really, that’s up to you. Once they get into the habit, many people can’t believe it took this long to start using an undershirt. If it’s not totally your jam though, that’s perfectly ok too.
However, we do recommend at least have a few perfectly fitting one’s in your arsenal. Even if you only think you’ll need them a couple times a year, you’ll be thankful you have them when the time arrives.