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The humble t-shirt is the workhorse of your wardrobe. You can dress it way down with a pair of sweatpants for a day lounging on the couch and binge-watching a show. It never looks out of place at a casual outing, paired with jeans and boots. And you can even dress it up for a fancy dinner downtown with an oversized blazer and tailored trousers. It is a dependable and versatile garment that enjoys top billing in your wardrobe – always at an arm’s reach.
So why are people often so flippant when choosing the right t-shirt? Why don’t we pour the same energy and attention into finding the perfect tee that we would when, say, we shop for pants?
Let’s change that. In honor of your wardrobe’s most versatile garment, this post examines each element of the humble t-shirt to offer an authoritative buying guide.
The first element to consider when choosing the perfect t-shirt is material. Most t-shirts feature sweat-inducing polyester or wrinkle-prone cotton. But look past these two ubiquitous materials, and you’ll find a world of possibility: hemp, bamboo, linen and wool.
The overall finest material for a t-shirt is probably merino wool, which ticks off all the boxes. A merino wool t shirt is sweat-wicking, breathable, wrinkle-resistant, fast-drying and antibacterial. In other words, it keeps you dry, cool, photo-ready and free of any unwanted odors.
The fit can make or break a t-shirt. If it’s too big and boxy, it can appear sloppy. If it’s too tight, it can look like it was ripped on the rack of a mid-2000s superstore. Ideally, you want a “goldilocks” fit, somewhere between oversized and clingy.
And drape is another consideration. The best t-shirts have some structure without being entirely stiff and unforgiving. The material you choose will inflect the overall look and feel of the final garment; again, merino wool provides a delicate balance of structure and drape.
Color preferences are ultimately subjective. No one’s here to talk you out of a lime green t-shirt or a printed band tee. On the other hand, you want to optimize your t-shirt’s strong suit: versatility.
To ensure your tee is as versatile and complementary as possible, choose neutral colors like black, grey, navy blue or the classic, all-America white t-shirt. The benefit of a neutral-colored t-shirt is that you can pair it with just about any other garment. You can add splashes of color for a wild night on the town or muted colors for more formal events.
Ethics and Sustainability
The last element to consider has nothing to do with appearance, but it’s nevertheless a critical part of being a responsible consumer: ethics and sustainability.
Research clothing companies before you buy from them. Are their factory practices defensible? Are they committed to sustainable fashion? If you’re buying a merino wool t-shirt, is it mulesing-free and cruelty-free? These are a few questions to bear in mind as you hit the fitting room.
Hopefully, this short style guide inspires you to stock your wardrobe with the perfect t-shirts.