Look around the streets of the city you live in. Chances are you'll see men wearing baggy, loud or faded T-shirts.
This begs the question:
Can you look amazing wearing a T-shirt – not sloppy or basic? Or should stylish men reserve the humble T-shirt for gym sessions and yard work?
The reality is, you can wear a T-shirt and look great. There's a place for a T-shirt in every man's wardrobe. You just need to know the secrets to looking good in one that are hidden in the details. The T-shirt might seem like a simple garment at first glance but it's actually anything but…
That's why today I'm sharing with you the ten secrets behind how to look good in a T-shirt.
- Pay attention to the dress code
- Know your body type
- Nail the fit
- V-neck or crew neck?
- Select the RIGHT fabric
- Opt for solid & neutral colors
- Make sure your shirt is pristine
- Buy interchangeable
- Get it tailored
- Fold your shirt correctly
Plus, how to complement a great-looking tee with other clothes:
T-Shirt Tip #1 Pay Attention To The Dress Code
The most important part of wearing a T-shirt is knowing where and when it's appropriate to do so.
The reality is, many functions call for the good old suit and tie or at least a long-sleeved shirt with a collar. T-shirts are an option if and only if the event is casual.
Don't try to challenge the dress code and wear a T-shirt to the office or a friend's wedding unless you're specifically required to. It doesn't matter how good you look or how confident you feel in it. T-shirts have their own time and place, just like flip-flops or denim jackets. Always respect the occasion if you want others to respect you.
T-Shirt Tip #2 Know Your Body Type
Not everyone has guns like Chris Hemsworth or a chest like Dwayne Johnson. Those guys can rock T-shirts.
So, how to look good in a T-shirt if you're a mere mortal? You have to know the five main male body shapes and which one you are to gauge your chances of looking good in a tee. The harsh reality is that the first T-shirt you try on probably won't flatter all body shapes and sizes.
If you're a stout or relatively large man, you're probably aware of the extra weight in your midsection. A tight-fitting T-shirt won't hide this very well. If you're on the skinny side, a T-shirt might accentuate the leanness of your arms and upper torso.
A tee can still do a phenomenal job of making your body look good even without a muscular physique. But, it means you need to pay extra attention to tips 3 and 4.
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T-Shirt Tip #3 Nail The Fit
Fit is the most important part of the Style Pyramid. Everything builds off of this.
A good T-shirt fit requires two things:
- It must conform to your body shape.
- It mustn't cause discomfort or restrict freedom of movement.
Why should you care that much about the fit? Because fit is a core component of style. Clothes that correctly fit showcase your masculine figure while ill-fitting clothes hide it. It's that simple.
Spend time finding a T-shirt brand that works for your body type. Use the following guidelines as a checklist when trying out any new tee:
- Does the t-shirt fit you closely without tightness around your chest and waist?
- Do the shoulder seams line up with the ends of your shoulders? The shirt may be too loose if the shoulder seams are low, or too tight if the seams are closer to your neck.
- Do the sleeves cover about 1/3 of your biceps? If the sleeves cover more than half of your biceps or touch your elbows, they're too long.
- Do the sleeves lightly hug your biceps? Loose sleeves flap around and sleeves that are too tight can cut off circulation.
- Does the T-shirt subtly drape over your chest and follow the curve of your torso? It shouldn't reveal the outline of your stomach too much.
- Does the T-shirt go a couple of inches below your belt line, slightly covering your waistband? Ideally, it should be long enough for you to raise your arms without exposing your midsection. Do not wear one that goes all the way to your crotch area.
T-Shirt Tip #4 V-Neck Or Crew Neck?
There are two primary styles of T-shirt: V-neck and crew neck. Which is best?
V-necks look best on fitter men. The deep cut emphasizes and shows off a built-up chest. A V-neck creates the allusion of height and balances out a short neck or narrow face.
Crew necks are a better option for men with a thinner frame. This style doesn't expose your neck as much, they draw less attention to your upper torso, which is good if you haven't been to the gym in a while.
Which style should you choose? It's your call. Just remember not to expose your chest too much whichever style you choose. Stay away from the ‘scoop neck', extra-wide ‘boat neck', and plunging V-neck designs.
TIP: What about T-shirts with pockets? They add visual complication and the pocket fabric can stretch, becoming baggy over time. I suggest wearing them only if you're aiming to build up your chest.
T-Shirt Tip #5 Select The RIGHT Fabric
A shirt's fabric is a key factor in determining its quality. If you want to look amazing in a T-shirt, its material has to be awesome. Two T-shirts may be identical in design and color, but the one with better fabric will outperform the other by a wide margin.
As with all clothing items you shop for, always read the label on a T-shirt. I'm sure you check the price, but you should also look for info on the material. Tees are usually 100% cotton or a cotton-poly blend, but there are other special fabrics that might serve you even better. Check out a few of these:
- Bamboo: A soft and breathable fabric that gives the shirt a nice luster; primarily used for high-end clothes.
- Merino: A high-quality, fine-weave wool often used for more expensive men's shirts; a 100% merino t-shirt can stay odor-free for a full week without being washed.
- Jersey: A flexible, comfortable material made from a blend of cotton and synthetic fabric.
- Pima: The highest grade of cotton; resists pilling or fading and also becomes softer after each wear.
- Linen blends: Linen is considered the world’s strongest natural fiber; linen blends often look smoother and silkier than pure cotton. Caution: linen wrinkles easily.
- Stretch Fabrics: Lycra, Spandex or Elastane; popular for workout apparel, these fabrics provide a lot of resistance after multiple washes. They also maintain the garment's shape and make the shirt more comfortable to wear.
TIP: Whatever the fabric, don't get a T-shirt that's super thin or lightweight.
The problem is it might actually be an undershirt instead of a legitimate T-shirt. I also suggest not wearing synthetic performance fabrics except when you're running or exercising. Those fabrics tend to have a distinct sheen that makes them look slightly off, even in casual settings.
T-Shirt Tip #6 Opt For Solid & Neutral Colors
Men normally can’t go wrong with dark, neutral colors. These tones will complement the widest range of complexions. Narrow down your options to the list of colors below when in doubt.
- Gray: Gray (especially ‘heather gray') has a way of matching up well with the majority of clothing combinations. Gray gives you the freedom to go brighter or darker in terms of the whole outfit. It also enhances your physique if you're well-built.
- White: Plain white T-shirts are the foundation of many men's wardrobes. Be extra careful with white though because undershirts often come in the form of white crew necks.
- Navy: Navy blue is preferable to black during the daytime. This color also works for monochrome looks when you pair the T-shirt with dark jeans.
- Black: Black can be a versatile option for darker outfits. Just be aware that black T-shirts may fade over time to a worn-out gray color.
I recommend beginning with the colors above but it's still okay to experiment with bold stripes and alternative colors. Just check that it looks flattering on you, works with the rest of your outfit and you feel confident in it.
Check out my guide below for the proportion of colors I recommend you start out with and I go in-depth here on what color shirts a man should own.
Bonus Tip: If in doubt, stay away from T-shirts with graphics or XL-sized logos. Keep T-shirts as plain as possible to avoid distracting people from the rest of your outfit and your face. Less is more.
T-Shirt Tip #7 Make Sure Your Shirt Is Pristine
T-shirts are an inherently casual item of men's clothing so you want to avoid shirts that lower the formality even further. This typically means aging or decoloration and it can be deliberate or accidental.
Some fashion-forward brands release pre-faded shirts for a lived-in look. Avoid dressing like a hipster by opting for a pristine, brand-new shirt. Your favorite band T-shirt from ten years ago might share the same look from genuine heavy wear. Stains and holes are also a natural part of a T-shirt's life.
It can be tempting to stick with the same old shirt. You're attached to it and it might even bring back fond memories. However, you need to remember the first tip which is keeping the occasion in mind. The truth is even going to the mall or running errands is worthy of a clean, crisp shirt. You never know who you will run into.
Your old T-shirts don't need to go to waste. Save them for garden duty or cleaning the car and when they are truly beyond hope turn them into rags for shining your shoes.
T-Shirt Tip #8 Buy Interchangeable
The final thing to keep in mind when choosing your T-shirts is ensuring they are compatible with the rest of your wardrobe. No item of clothing exists in isolation and building an interchangeable wardrobe is key to saving time, money and wardrobe space.
When you want to look good in a T-shirt the most important aspects to keep in mind are texture and color.
Most T-shirts will be produced in plain, smooth cotton with no discernible texture for someone standing at normal talking distance. I recommend not varying from this norm because it will distract from the texture of other items of clothing such as a wool jacket or flannel overshirt.
The louder a color or pattern is, the less interchangeable it becomes. This is why sticking to neutral, versatile colors like white, gray and blue will be a good foundation for most men's T-shirts.
T-Shirt Tip #9 Get It Tailored
Every shop that sells men's clothes will sell a T-shirt. This is a blessing because every man's body will be slightly different and require a different fit. Embrace the variety on offer and try on as many T-shirts as you can. Get the best T-shirt you can find instead of the first one you come across in the mall.
Find the one that fits you better than any other and in the highest-quality fabric.
Not every T-shirt is made equally. This might take some time but it is worth persevering to make sure you get a value-for-money shirt that makes you look great.
No item of clothing will ever fit you perfectly off-the-rack though. This is where a good tailor comes in. Get a good-fitting T-shirt tailored and you will have a better fit than 99.99% of other men.
Why buy the best-fitting T-shirt you can find if you're going to have it tailored anyway? It is important because the smaller the adjustments a tailor has to make – the quicker, cheaper, and more natural-looking the adjustments will be.
T-Shirt Tip #10 Fold Your Shirt Correctly
Now you have the perfect T-shirt you need to preserve your investment. Here's how to avoid creases and strange bulges in your shirts in six easy steps:
- Lay your shirt face down and smooth out any wrinkles.
- Imagine a vertical line running down the center of the shirt and then fold it in half along this line so the opposing sleeves touch. You should now have something that resembles a T-shirt cut in half.
- Fold the sleeves back and over the body
- Fold the whole garment in half again, from top to bottom.
- Now fold the T-shirt in half one last time.
- You now have a compact, crisp and clean fold. Quick and easy!
Check out how to properly fold a t-shirt in two seconds in my article here.
BONUS Tip – Don't Accidentally Buy An Undershirt
An undershirt is not a shirt – it's underwear. ‘Undershirt' means ‘under your shirt' just like ‘underpants' means ‘under your pants'. And like your underpants, your undershirt shouldn't be visible.
Because undershirts aren't designed to be looked at, they usually come in plain white or a light gray. They're also made with a thinner fabric, usually cotton or microfiber that tends to look uncomfortably sheer and clingy as an outer layer.
Your undershirt's main purpose is to serve as a sweat rag. It absorbs sweat and keeps your outer clothing dry. It can also keep you warm in winter.
How To Look Good In A T-Shirt – Outfit Ideas
Finally, let's look at how you can incorporate T-shirts into different outfits. There is no one way to look good in a T-shirt but here are some stylish suggestions to get you started.
Wear a vest
Wearing a vest is a good way to add maturity to your look. People tend to associate vests with older men who are wealthy or have good taste.
So if you’re trying to catch a woman's eye, it helps to have the perfect vest on for more sophistication. Make sure that your shirt is tightly tucked under the vest.
Good tucking will keep any shirt fabric from ‘ballooning' in little puffs from the bottom – which tends to draw more attention to your waist.
Put a sports jacket on
You can add more ruggedness to your look with a good-quality sports jacket.
Some features that make them very stylish are the ticket pockets, arm patches, and pleats. They accentuate masculinity – and we can trace it back to their origin as a gentleman’s sporting attire.
To match up a jacket with your shirt – the first thing you should pay attention to is the collar. There should be some similarity between the jacket’s collar shape and the shirt's neckline. You can refer to this guide to choosing the right sports jacket.
Wear dark, well-fitted jeans
Denim has this uncanny ability to make your whole outfit sexier – including the shirt you have on. So find jeans that complement your body type.
Pick dark blue because it’s the most versatile, and you can use these pants to dress up/down based on the occasion. Take your style a step further by turning the jeans into a dark wash pair.
You can produce a darker hue and pattern through vintage wash, stone wash or acid wash. This helps prevent the jeans from looking too faded – which is good for men who wear them regularly.
How about a whole outfit for you to try? Whether you need something for summer strolls in the park or something a little edgier to highlight your masculinity, check out the following 3 outfit suggestions for how to look good in a T-shirt:
#1 How to look good in a T-shirt – casual summer style
Here's how to look good in a T-shirt with just a quick upgrade from sportswear and sneakers:
- Heather gray T-shirt
- Flat-front shorts
- Leather boat shoes (with no-show socks)
- Wayfarer sunglasses
#2 How to look good in a T-shirt – the rugged classic
A combination that makes you look like a real badass:
- White T-shirt (This is a good opportunity for a V-neck)
- Dark indigo denim jeans
- Rugged leather work boots
- (Leather jacket optional)
- Aviator sunglasses
#3 How to look good in a T-shirt – sleek and casual
Wondering how to look sharp on a casual night out?
- Black V-neck T-shirt
- Black or charcoal gray trousers
- Polished leather dress boots
- A sports jacket (if you're stout or thin) to build up the upper torso
Bonus Tip: Can you tuck in T-shirts? My advice is to leave a T-shirt untucked unless you're layering another item over it eg. a sports jacket or a casual button-down.
If there is one lesson I can leave you with it's that T-shirts can be incredibly stylish if you know how to wear them. A well-fitted, carefully selected T-shirt can make you the best-dressed guy in the room at a casual event. Never think that a fancy suit and tie is the only way to look good.
So you've got your t-shirt style down to a tee, but do you know how to style a button-down shirt and look great doing it? Click here to discover how it can be done.
Click below to watch – 10 Golden Rules For Rocking T-Shirts (Stop Looking Sloppy!)