No one sees your undershirt but it can still make or break your outfit because it has a significant influence on your clothing's fit and your comfort.
An undershirt – or lack of – can determine whether you look stylish or sloppy. Wear the wrong undershirt, and you'll feel self-conscious all day. And if you skip the undershirt, you risk unsightly sweat stains. In this article, I explain how to wear an undershirt properly.
You will discover:
- What Is An Undershirt?
- Should I Wear An Undershirt?
- What Kind Of Undershirt Should I Wear?
- Does The Color Of Undershirt matter?
- Men's Undershirt Fabrics
- How Should An Undershirt Fit?
- Can I Wear A T-Shirt As An Undershirt?
- Can I Wear An Undershirt Alone?
What Is An Undershirt?
Before we get into how to wear an undershirt, let's get the basics out of the way.
An undershirt is a base layer, so no one should see it. Meaning, showing your undershirt is showing your underwear: not stylish.
A good men's undershirt should be tight-fitting and slightly stretchy for your other clothes to hide it completely. It should also be lightweight to avoid visible lines or looking bulky.
A brief history of the men's undershirt
Undershirts, as we see them today, came out of the US Military. Many branches wore them under their uniforms for added protection.
It provided a bit more warmth, and it was great for absorbing sweat and protecting the more expensive clothing on the outside.
If you go back to Roman soldiers and look at Chinese soldiers, they wore undershirts. Frequently, they were just fabric draped around the body, but they served as protection for their expensive garments.
Also, the clothing during that time was less, and they were all handmade. So it was easier to change out that undersheet than to change and go and wash all your clothing.
Should I Wear An Undershirt?
The purpose of an undershirt is to minimize sweat and deodorant stains on the rest of your clothes. It extends the life of dress shirts because it allows them to stay cleaner. You can wash them, say, every other time or every three times you wear them, rather than on every single wear.
It also makes dress shirts and suits look neater by providing an extra layer below a light dress shirt, hiding your nipples and chest hair, so they don't show through.
Long-sleeved and thermal undershirts specifically adapt a dress shirt and trousers or a business suit to cold weather. This perk is a good trick for making your wardrobe more interchangeable since it'll allow you to wear similar outfits through more seasons.
You'll most likely want to go without an undershirt in sweltering weather (an extra layer on your core organs is not what you need in the middle of July). The rest of the time, wear one.
What Kind Of Undershirt Should I Wear?
- Tanktop: Also called ‘The Wifebeater' – this undershirt has no sleeves, so it doesn't protect your outer layers from sweat or deodorant stains like others. Its best use is to serve as another layer when you tuck the outer shirt; it keeps your nipples from being seen through the shirt.
- V-neck: A valuable addition to your undershirts. You can wear it under almost anything without being seen. In addition, the collar dips into a “V” at the front of the neck, allowing you to wear a dress shirt or polo unbuttoned at the top without being seen.
- Crew neck: This shirt extends all the way up to your neck, laying flat around the neck. The crew neck is the most common undershirt. It's also the origin of the modern t-shirt.
- Long sleeve: For thermal purposes and closer to the union suit. When you live in colder climates, the long sleeve undershirt can take the place of long thermal underwear.
- Compression: Handy for the guy who feels a little self-conscious around the middle. The compression shirt will mold the body slightly by hugging tight and keeping you tucked. It also promotes blood flow and assists in recovery after a workout, so whether you work out or not, compression is a good fit.
- Specialty Undershirts: Made to help wick away moisture to absorb sweat. And if you sweat a lot, go check out the Undershirt Guy. Just do a Google search, “undershirt guy,” Tug. He's put out tons of great information on this.
Does The Color Of Undershirt Matter?
In a word – yes. Wear an undershirt that's close to your skin tone. It doesn't need to match exactly, but if it actively contrasts with your skin color, your undershirt will be very visible under your regular shirt.
A dark-gray, brown, or black undershirt blends in against darker skin tones. If you have a lighter skin tone, light-gray, beige, or white undershirts will work best for you.
Men's Undershirt Fabrics
Undershirt fabric should be relatively thin and stretchy to prevent it from showing through the outer layer. Again, you have a wide choice of good options:
- 100% cotton – durable and trustworthy. Go for higher-quality cotton like Egyptian or Pima cotton if possible.
- Stretch modal blends – a combination of cotton and synthetic fibers that create a smooth look and stretchy feel that retains its shape.
- Merino wool – you can wear this fantastic material for over a week without smelling. It comes in lighter weights (under 190 gsm) for warmer weather too.
- Modern technical fabrics – are specially designed with sweatproof or moisture-wicking properties.
How Should An Undershirt Fit?
Your undershirt should be close-fitting with small armholes to prevent wrinkles and allow it to absorb sweat under your arms.
Don't get one that's TOO tight – it shouldn't be uncomfortable. The ideal fit conforms to your body as closely as possible without restricting you.
Make sure it's long enough to stay tucked in and make sure the neck opening is about the same size as your dress shirt collar. You especially don't want bunching around your neck: not only does it look bad, but it'll annoy you all day.
As with most clothing purchases, you get what you pay for. Cheaper undershirts are often baggy and cause unsightly bunches of fabric around your waist.
A well-fitted undershirt smooths out your torso, so your shirt lies flat across your body. It can also help to mask any extra weight you're carrying.
Can I Wear A T-Shirt As An Undershirt?
In general, no. T-shirts are thicker and looser, and they will show. An exception is when you're bundling up in the winter, and your t-shirt disappears under thick layers. But at that point, it's more efficient to wear a thermal or henley instead.
Can I Wear An Undershirt Alone?
Not a good look. Today's mass-market undershirts are tighter than t-shirts and cling to your body. Even if you have the physique to pull it off it, looks a bit desperate for attention. It can also mess with the proportions of your outfit, making your legs look awkwardly large, especially if you pair a thin tight top with thicker and looser jeans.
The last reason not to wear an undershirt alone? You can't wear an undershirt under it to absorb sweat.
With the undershirt understood, click here to discover the full history behind underwear and find out what men's underwear looked like in the 1800s.