If we had to come up with a menswear hall of fame of sorts, the type of pieces that stand on their own, that stand the test of time, well, where to start? You could name a select few picks (polo shirt, classic blue jeans, oxford shirt), but the plain white T-shirt is more than deserving of that first draft pick, so to speak.
At first, I was a bit skeptical about a white T-shirt – it’s just a plain tee after all, right? Wrong indeed, my friends. It’s a blank canvas that’s truly timeless, with the history and pedigree to back it up. And I’ve found that the best plain white T-shirts use excellent fabric, cool cuts and thoughtful design touches.
There’s a reason the plain white T-shirt continues to serve as style inspiration and as a useful layer–or solo star–through the years. The T-shirt has functional roots aplenty, as an undershirt in the military, for one. A plain white T-shirt is as simple as it gets: It goes with absolutely anything, from dark blue denim, a la James Dean, to olive chinos and a khaki cotton blazer.
And it’s been closely intertwined with rebellious movements–again, thank Dean and Marlon Brando–and also cemented itself as an all-time style classic. Heck, think of Top Gun: Maverick–does anybody look better in a plain white T-shirt than Tom Cruise? Steal a bit of that inspired, classic and looks-great-on-anyone style with my picks for the best plain white T-shirts.
The best menswear essentials are the ones that consider the thoughtful details. As far as T-shirts are concerned, that means dialing in soft fabric and a perfect fit: In my book, that’s what Forty Five’s Supima Crew Tee adds to your wardrobe. Better still is the great price, which gives you leeway to buy a couple tees at once.
You might think it’s hard to screw up the plain white T-shirt, but it’s even more difficult to perfect the plain white T-shirt, and you could say that’s what Forty Five has done.
Part of the in-house lineup at online men’s retailer Huckberry, Forty Five was born out of a desire to make the perfect tee (similar to how 45 RPM records housed one perfect single).
I’ve been a fan of the brand since these tees were launched, and I’ve found its T-shirts to be textured yet soft, with the kind of long-lasting construction that doesn’t stretch out or fray.
Between the supima cotton fabric and the relatively tailored fit–plus a garment-washed finish for softness–it’s hard to argue with what Huckberry has dreamed up.
For me, this brand was a game-changer as far as white T-shirts are concerned, particularly when you consider the fact that the brand is trusted by the James Bond franchise to make everything from stylish polos to (in my experience) ultra-soft classic T-shirts.
Speaking of: The aptly named Classic T-shirt deserves a place in your wardrobe, especially considering this tee is made in England from 100 percent cotton.
The best plain white T-shirts actually aren’t so plain after all. Take this Taylor Stitch tee, with a cool natural color. That color comes from blending cotton and hemp for a cool texture that elevates it above a white undershirt.
The fabric has also been garment-washed for a super-soft feel, but the real kicker might be how well this stylish T-shirt fits.
Like a classic buttondown shirt from the famed San Francisco brand, this T-shirt comes in chest sizing, so you can shop with confidence knowing that this tee will prove flattering on its own or layered.
The coolest men’s style picks can transport you to a distinct time and place, like the shores of a sandy beach or lake. It seems that’s the approach that Faherty takes when designing its perfectly faded, sun-kissed and garment-washed flannel shirts, stretch chinos and men’s shorts, not to mention this expertly designed pocket tee.
Casual essentials get an extra dose of cool when done by Faherty, and this premium tee is worth the slightly higher price tag. The Off-White color is also anything but boring.
When you’ve got the urge to trade in your Vuori performance tee for something that’s a touch more easygoing and ready for a day working from home or a summer weekend around town, there’s the Tuvalu Tee.
The natural pima cotton fabric delivers a soft touch, while the use of interwoven fibers from wood pulp and seaweed delivers durability, stretch and sustainability all the while.
It’s also made with UPF protection for more functionality than your standard cotton T-shirt, making it the perfect pairing with Vuori’s famed stretch performance shorts – particularly for a lazy day at home.
The best plain white T-shirts do things a little differently than your run-of-the-mill offerings, and James Perse knows that all too well.
That’s precisely the reason you’re investing a bit more dough into this one, which features a garment-dyed finish for softness right out of the box, plus a classic fit. Feel free to wear it with black jeans on its own or underneath a black leather moto jacket for an edgy take on a timeless look.
There’s just something different about the J.Crew approach to crafting the best men’s basics, including the plain white T-shirt.
In my experience, the brand makes it easier than ever to get stylish essentials for every season, from rugged chambray shirts to expertly washed denim and well-designed T-shirts.
They’ve been a staple of my wardrobe for well over a decade, and hopefully, that’s the case in your closet as well. If not, keep it simple with one of the best plain white T-shirts.
This tee has been pre-washed for plenty of softness, and things only get better from there: Take your pick from three fits (Classic, Slim and Tall) to find the one that’s just right for you, and be sure you’re wearing it with plenty of J.Crew-approved classics.
A few suggestions, for starters, might include J.Crew’s famed chinos and some timeless Vans canvas sneakers, but the world is your oyster here.
Leave it to Todd Snyder to take something as straightforward as the white T-shirt and amp things up considerably–100 percent Turkish linen fabric is the main difference here. In fact, it’s hard not to become a fan of the famed modern American menswear designer when he manages to make something as subtle as the white T-shirt into a tried-and-true daily essential. Fabric and fit are the key here.
Think of it like a welcome change of pace from slightly heavier T-shirts, and note that the fabric has some nice depth to give it plenty of cool styling potential.
Because it’s Todd Snyder’s best basics at work, this is one tee you could even rock with a lightweight khaki linen suit this summer–or beneath a shawl cardigan in the colder months.
Buck Mason obsesses over classics like the T-shirt, drawing inspiration from the past – often touching on military-inspired designs in the process. They’re also not afraid to tweak timeless designs to make them fit for the modern man, as with the process of adding a flattering curved hem to this buttery-soft Pima cotton tee.
The fabric is essential, but the curved hem elongates your torso, while that Pima cotton has some nice, visually interesting depth – pair it with Buck Mason’s rugged jeans for an all-American look.
Plain white T-shirts continue to get more modern than ever in terms of fabric and construction, an impressive feat for an essential that’s been around for decades.
MANGO uses recycled polyester (essentially, repurposing other textile waste) to craft a T-shirt that drapes handsomely on its own or beneath a lightweight navy blazer.
The rounded neck is designed with a cable knit so it doesn’t stretch out or pull over time, and the fit is tailored enough to wear with olive chinos or hybrid trail shorts for backyard bonfires.
AETHER Apparel normally designs gear that’s highly technical and trail-ready – yet sleek enough for the city at the same time. It’s a tricky balance to strike, and from time to time, the brand also turns its attention to old-school style moves, like the plain white T-shirt.
They haven’t cut any corners, using premium 100 percent cotton, AETHER chain-stitch detailing and a split hem for a dash of visual interest. It’s an everyday tee that’s a cut above the rest, quite literally.