The best men’s style essentials do more than what’s expected of them, and they perform in a reliable manner just about all the time. Take the humble, hard-working henley. When done the right way, in durable, high-quality fabric, it can function as a base layer–or the centerpiece of multiple outfits.
Through my college days in Michigan and modern days aplenty in Brooklyn, I’ve had an immediate affinity for the henley. It was instantly appealing as a base layer, what with its customizable button placket. It was an easy layer to throw on with a chambray shirt (and it still is), and it works wonders underneath a trucker jacket when it comes to easygoing style that still shows off some effort. The list goes on from there.
You can dress it up just a touch, or wear it dressed down with jogger pants. You can throw one on underneath a shirt jacket or your favorite denim jacket–or a soft-shouldered wool blazer. The best ones even flatter your body and add a dash of rugged appeal on the daily.
A henley is a reliable style option for the chillier months in its own right, with a look that flatters plenty of guys. When you consider an option approved by the rugged design masters at Huckberry, the bar is raised even higher. And when that option comes in performance-focused merino, as this one does, you’ve got a top contender.
How long do you think your henley shirt can last? Can it withstand repeat wear across a grueling three-day weekend? Huckberry seems to think so, as its Proof line blends the best of rugged workwear with reliable modern fabrics.
Huckberry even says they’ve taken the shirt around the world without missing a beat, and in my experience, the merino fabric performs wonderfully. It retains its shape, it wicks away moisture, it looks polished and it comes in a wide range of colors for day-to-night style.
Perhaps it’s the way the button placket of a henley frames your face, or perhaps it’s the crisp appeal of the deep Navy colorway, but all the proper details come together quite handsomely with this near-perfect Taylor Stitch take on the henley.
I’ve found that the fabric is sturdy without being overwhelming, and surprisingly supple – the cuffs and waist hem tend to bounce back after a long day’s wear, and the color never seems to fade. Of course, its Heavy Bag fabric is also eco-friendly.
The San Francisco company’s blend of upcycled cotton and recycled polyester is both sustainable and substantial without overdoing it, with a sturdy hand feel ideal for teaming with other Taylor Stitch essentials (try it with a waxed field jacket or shawl cardigan).
AETHER Apparel was founded at the cutting edge of sleek, city-ready style and off-trail functionality, which is why its merino henley is one of our favorites. Merino is a natural performance fabric, made to resist odor and provide breathable moisture-wicking capability all the while.
I’ve worn this particular henley repeatedly underneath a flannel shirt – topped by only a light denim jacket, since the merino regulates your temperature – and I’ve also teamed it with a corduroy blazer for a blend of high-low style. Either way, this henley shines through – the material is excellent, the buttons are sturdy and the fit is flattering.
It’s durable yet soft, able to be layered beneath a denim jacket or a cozy flannel shirt, and best of all, built to last. AETHER’s option checks all the right boxes and looks stylish all the while, especially in a classic Bone or Navy color.
If any brand knows the benefits of an ultra-warm, dependable base layer, it’s Filson. The company’s Pacific Northwest heritage shines through to this day, with gear and designs that refuse to take no for an answer.
Dependable 12oz. Waffle-knit cotton offers an extra shot of insulation on frigid mornings, while the two-button extended collar is a heritage design detail. Wear this one to stoke the fire on a brisk cabin morning, or use it as a base layer for an early-morning day in the field – it won’t let you down.
Bonobos made its Jetsetter line for the guy on the go, focused on stretch, comfort and crisp style from coast to coast. This henley lives up to the name, and then some.
While some henleys are made from thick waffle fabric for insulation, this piece uses a blend of soft pima cotton and moisture-wicking DRYTEK material for a breezy feel. Take your pick from Slim or Standard fits in a range of sizes, and consider picking up multiple colors to round out a globetrotting wardrobe.
Remember what we said about the best men’s henleys coming in all shapes and sizes, so to speak? Well, here’s a soft organic cotton option if minimal, eco-conscious style is your main priority.
Especially in sleek Black, it’s the kind of henley to pair with other subtle fashion choices, like a black moto jacket and grey jeans (don’t forget black moto boots, of course).
Sometimes, straightforward style is the name of the game, and Everlane’s no-frills designs – particularly one of the best men’s henleys – check all the right boxes.
It’s a beautiful thing when you can trust a flagship brand to do more than one thing exceptionally well, as with L.L. Bean and its penchant for crafting outstanding cold-weather classics in multiple categories.
For less than $35, you’d do very well to pick up at least one well-made L.L. Bean henley, developed from soft jersey-knit cotton that won’t shrink or fade over time.
An astounding 12 color options give you plenty of choices no matter your style preference, while sizing options (Regular or Tall) offer something for everybody, too.
Free Fly first made waves as an ideal gear pick to wear for a day on the water, be it fly fishing or a day out on the deep sea (which is how I first discovered the brand). Its fabric both protects you from the sun and keeps you cool (even its long-sleeve pieces). This durable henley is well-suited for dry land in particular, perhaps as you grab a cold beer after a day in the sun.
I’ve found the brand to be particularly useful as a base layer on day hikes, and yet the collar and overall design stands up to more casual pursuits beneath my trusty waxed trucker jacket.
Colors like Heather Black wear well with shades of navy, grey, olive, maroon … you name it, and the right henley can get the job done.
When you obsess about quality fabric and cool silhouettes, the rest tends to just fall into place, as with this slub henley from James Perse.
The lightweight cotton fabric makes this an ideal layering pick beneath a rugged denim shirt or a thick-knit cardigan, but touches like a baby cover stitch at the bottom hem make it edgy and eye-catching enough to wear on its own with olive chinos before temperatures really plummet. It’s a classed-up basic that’s not so basic after all, and your investment will surely pay off.
The design of a henley, on the surface, can’t be changed much. There’s the front button placket to provide more coverage or ventilation, and there are touches like ribbed wrist cuffs for a secure fit.
Buck Mason went a couple steps further, first in its use of soft, breathable pima cotton, and then with the use of a curved hem that flatters the body. They weren’t the first brand to revamp the henley, but they might be the most beloved, and this henley is exhibit A. It’s especially flattering with the brand’s shawl cardigan or its perfectly faded jeans.
If it’s the details that make the difference when it comes to the best long-sleeve henleys, then Outerknown certainly knows the details (at least, in my personal experience).
The Kelly Slater-founded brand focuses intently on sustainability every step of the way, and in this case, that means using Regenerative Organic Certified pima cotton for softness. Oh, and an eco-friendly mindset. Plus, the three-button henley design is utterly classic, and we think Slater would approve if you rock this on a cool, coastal morning.
Some are made of fabric like breathable merino, others use thick-knit waffle construction, and still others incorporate organic cotton into the mix. You also might find options that blend cotton and spandex for stretch.
In my experience, merino wool is a wonder fabric of sorts, with moisture-wicking and anti-microbial properties in spades. That makes the henley an ideal choice for more active cold-weather pursuits, but it’s also a great alternative for days on the go. I prefer to wear a merino henley when traveling, because it’s got a touch more style than a plain T-shirt, and because merino fabric is comfortable as can be.
Either way, I’ve found there’s no wrong way to go with a henley. In my opinion, it’s the kind of piece every guy could stand to wear more often, especially as you look for casual-yet-useful pieces for colder weather.
Our favorite henleys stand the test of time, thanks to dependable construction, cool colors and comfortable fabrics, to name but a few stellar attributes. To learn about some quality men’s henleys, all you need to do is keep scrolling through the top selections.