Let me be clear: I’ve got nothing against t-shirts. In fact, I love wearing t-shirts, especially during the spring and summer season. They are definitely one of my go-to casual options for the warmer months and something that I recommend all guys who are in shape to wear.
But sometimes a basic t-shirt just isn’t enough. Sometimes you need something a little more…polished?
Maybe polished is too strong of a word but I think you know what I’m driving at. While t-shirts are completely acceptable for casual situations sometimes you want something a little different that will separate you from the crowd.
That’s why in this article I want to go over five upgrades you can make to the basic t-shirt that will keep you looking cool for casual situations.
I know what you’re thinking, how is another style of style of t-shirt an upgrade to a t-shirt? It doesn’t make any sense!
You’re right, a v-neck t-shirt technically isn’t an upgrade but it is a better choice.
The big advantage of a v-neck t-shirt is that the cut of the shirt frames your face much better than a traditional crew cut t-shirt.
A v-neck t-shirt also allows you to show off a little male cleavage, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you’re in shape. Just remember to pick a v-neck t-shirt that isn’t cut too deep. The last thing anyone wants to see is your navel.
My recommendation is to look for a cotton/poly blend if you can as they tend to hold their shape much better over time.
Nordstrom currently has a nice cotton/poly blend option with that won’t break the bank:
For those of you who are aiming for a more rugged aesthetic with your style a lightweight Henley is a great upgrade to the basic t-shirt
A lot of guys think that Henleys are only suitable for the winter season, but that’s simply not the case. Henleys can work just as well during the warmer spring and summer seasons provided that you choose something in a lightweight fabric and weave.
A great feature of Henleys is that since they are form fitting by nature they do a fantastic job of highlighting your physique.
Not only that, but the customary three button placket on the front of the Henley is also perfect for framing and drawing attention to your face, which is exactly what you want your clothing to do.
One of my favourite Henley’s right now is the Slim Flagstone Henley by J.Crew:
The cuffs and hem on the Flagstone Henley are ribbed which is a nice detail. This makes it easier to pull the sleeves up a little if you want to go for an even more relaxed, casual look.
It’s unfortunate that J.Crew didn’t make this Henley in more colours (it comes in just navy or black).
Lastly, if you’re just not feeling the long sleeve Henley for whatever reason, you can opt for a short sleeve version instead. Banana Republic currently has a nice Soft-Wash Short-Sleeve Henley:
Ah, the polo shirt. Most men are not strangers to this option. The only problem, however, is that most guys are overweight and out of shape and have no idea what to look for in a quality polo shirt.
The key is finding a polo shirt that is cut well for you, free of obnoxious logos, and as collars that won’t wither away after a couple of washes.
I’ve gone through my fair share of polo shirts but among my favourites is the the Luxe-Touch Polo Shirt from Banana Republic:
Just don’t confuse the Luxe-Touch with Banana Republic’s standard cotton polo shirts (the ones with the goofy elephant logo on the chest), those shirts are crappy. The Luxe-Touch, on the other hand, is a great polo. It’s cut nicely, washes well, and is comfortable to wear.
And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Aaron over at I am Alpha M agrees:
The great thing about the Luxe-Touch is that Banana Republic routinely has them on sale and you can pick them up for less than $30.
The popover shirt is an interesting option. It’s not a shirt that you see too often and it does require a bit of finesse to pull off successfully.
As you can see the popover shirt is a short sleeve collared shirt much the like the polo. The big difference, however, is that the popover shirt has a deeper placket and stiffer collar more in line with a traditional button up shirt.
How do you wear a popover shirt?
If you decide to go with the popover my recommendation is to keep things simple and stick with a basic white option.
Casual Button Up Shirt
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t include the casual button up shirt in this list. It’s another familiar option, to be sure, but one that guys still seem to consistently mess up.
The key, as always, is making sure you know how one should fit.
Once you’ve got that sorted out the next big decision is choosing the right fabric and pattern. For the spring and summer season you can’t go wrong with chambray – a lightweight cotton weave usually made from blue and white yarns.
The great thing about chambray is that it gives you the look of denim but without the heavy weight.
For guys leaning towards a high contrast complexion (or have blue eyes) I recommend going with a blue chambray shirt.
Brooks Brothers currently has a fantastic blue Chambray Spread Collar Sport Shirt for less than $100:
On the other hand, for guys with a more muted or ruddier complexion (e.g. fair skin, red/strawberry blond hair) I recommend going with a salmon coloured chambray shirt.
And for those of you who don’t seem to look good in either option, you can always try one in grey, like the Clean Chambray Slim Fit Shirt from The Gap:
I love wearing t-shirts just as much as the next guy but sometimes a t-shirt just isn’t good enough. Occasionally you need something just a little better. The five options I’ve reviewed are all great upgrades to the basic t-shirt. And while any one of them can work well to ramp up your casual style, I’ll leave it up to you to experiment and decide which one will work the best for you.
Here’s to looking sharp!