One of the most common questions I get…
is about undershirts.
Should they show? Or not show?
The quick answer?
It's personal preference.
But a more in-depth answer?
Let's look at history.
Back in the 20th-century shirts were always considered underwear.
It was never exposed in public.
Men always covered their shirts with a jacket.
As t-shirts became popularized by celebrities…
the undershirt took its place.
No doubt, the undershirt has a key function.
By providing a sweat buffer, this inner layer protects your favorite shirts from sweat and deodorants stains.
An undershirt prolongs the life of your shirts, by protecting them from stains and odor-causing bacteria from your body.
Investing in a quality undershirt is a low-cost option to ensure your shirts last longer.
But despite its benefits, an undershirt can spoil a stylish outfit if it is visible.
In my personal opinion, it's almost like your underwear is showing.
1. A Visible Undershirt Breaks The Visual Line
A common style mistake is showing the white triangle of undershirt fabric that is visible when you unbutton your shirt.
Avoid showing the lines of your undershirt or revealing the top when you wear your shirt unbuttoned. The visible fabric breaks the smooth visual line that you want to create between your head and toes.
If you leave your collar unbuttoned, opt for a deep v-neck undershirt. A well-cut undershirt is not visible in the collar area even when the top two shirt buttons are unbuttoned.
Crew neck undershirts are visible under your dress shirt whether buttoned up or not because of the high neckline.
Avoid crew neck undershirts.
The crew neck undershirt showing under a collar is a casual look that most people associate with uniforms at a car service center.
The only time you can wear a crew neck undershirt is when you are wearing a tie and don't plan to take it off.
Are tank tops a better option? Because of their lower neckline, tank tops are hardly visible. However, they do not offer protection for your shirts against armpit sweat.
T-shirts are also a poor choice as an inner layer. The thicker fabric results in clearly visible sleeve lines and bulk that shows under the shirt. If you prefer wearing a t-shirt, choose one that is thin and fitted. A V-neck is preferable to a crew neck where the collar can easily show.
If you prefer wearing a t-shirt, choose one that is thin and fitted. A V-neck t-shirt is any day preferable to a crew neck where the collar can easily show.
2. The Wrong Size Causes Unsightly Bunching
If you decide to wear an undershirt, make sure it fits closely and has small armholes. The wrong size can feel rather uncomfortable and constricts your movement. If it is not long enough, it comes untucked easily.
A well-fitted undershirt smooths out the torso so your shirt lays flat across your body.
The brand you pick matters. All undershirts are not created equally and yes, you do get what you pay for.
The quality of an undershirt is easily detected in the fit and fabric.
Know your size.
- Too big undershirts cause bunching. You have shreds of white cloth peeking from underneath the sleeves of your short sleeved shirts, resulting in a very sloppy look.
- If they size is too small, you end up feeling constricted. If your undershirt is simply a torso-liner so to speak, the ideal fit would be one that literally conforms to your body as closely as possible while still allowing you freedom of movement and comfort.
Many of the low-cost undershirts tend to be thick and boxy rather than thin and body conforming.
Due to the boxy style, these shirts run short. Many men need to purchase one size larger in order to allow enough length to properly tuck the undershirt in.
Regardless, these shirts are still not long enough for most men and ride up throughout the day causing even your fitted dress shirts to puff out around your waist.
Lower quality undershirts add bulk under clothing, especially in the arms and waist. This can create unfair and unsightly “love handles” as the extra material bunches together when the undershirt is tucked into the pants.
To get the right fit, ensure that the undershirt opening should approximately match the size of the shirt collar it is worn under so that both visible chest hair and visible undershirt are minimized.
As for fabric, thinner, higher quality cotton or stretch modal blends (a combination of cotton and synthetic fibers that create a smooth look and stretchy feel that retains it shape) are best. It hides your nipples, chest hair and skin imperfections that could show through a lighter colored shirt.
3. The Wrong Color Stands Out Under Your Shirt
A contrast created by your undershirt under your dress shirt can be very distracting.
Ideally, your undershirt should match the color of your skin so you do not see the outline of the undershirt on top of the shirt.
This may seem odd at first but even underneath a white shirt, a skin-colored undershirt will be less visible than a plain white T-shirt, especially in the area between skin and T-shirt, and around your biceps and collar.
If skin-colored undershirts aren't an option then white or gray are the next best options.
Skin tones vary greatly and there is no easy way to buy skin-colored shirts.
Pay attention to the color of the undershirt so that your favorite dress shirt is not lost in the visual contrast created by two different colors.
Undershirts also tend to be generally dirtier than the outer layer.
Don't wait until your favorite undershirt turns yellow before discarding it. They tend to look unsightly when the color fades and you've put them through the laundry a thousand times. Use them as a rag to clean your car or shoes.
Should you always wear an undershirt?
Not necessarily. The general exception to the rule is when wearing a t-shirt. The fabric of the t-shirt performs the same function as an undershirt.
Stylish men prefer not to wear an extra layer under their shirts. A visible undershirt ruins an otherwise classy and elegant appearance.