If I were to peek into your closet right now I’m willing to bet that I would find at least a few – if not a dozen or more – cotton t-shirts. That’s because the cotton t-shirt has become an indispensable wardrobe item in contemporary men’s casual wear, which is rather interesting when you consider its humble origins.
The history of the t-shirt dates back to the early part of the 20th century when the United States Navy first began issuing crew-necked, short-sleeved, white cotton undershirts to be worn under men’s uniforms. These t-shirts were in fact an evolution from the earlier one piece Union Suit of the 19th century.
The purpose of the Union Suit and the t-shirt was to serve as undergarments for men of industry. These garments were easily fitted, easily cleaned, and inexpensive. They were essentially seen as pieces of underwear and meant to be worn as purely functional items.
However, this all changed after the Second World War. It became common for veterans to be seen wearing their uniform trousers with t-shirts as casual wear. Gradually the look became more popular until it was solidified as quintessentially cool by Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of t-shirts myself and so I’ve always encouraged guys to branch out their casual wear options.
But I must admit that sometimes a simple t-shirt is the best option, especially if you are in great shape. The problem is that most guys wearing t-shirts today get it completely wrong.
With that in mind, in this article I want to discuss two straightforward principles that will have you looking more like Brando and less like K-Fed when wearing a t-shirt.
Principle #1 – Ensure that you have the proper fit
When it comes to men’s style fit is a perennial issue. The fact is that the average guy wears his clothing too baggy and this is readily apparent when it comes to how he wears his T-shirts. I see guys walking around all the time literally swimming in their t-shirts. Unless you are purposely trying to go for an urban feel this is not a good look.
A proper fitting t-shirt should fit snug (not tight) through the torso. It should also be just long enough that it covers the waistband of your jeans. Lastly, the sleeves of your t-shirt should hit right around the midpoint of your biceps. Take a look at the following picture as an example:
Notice the fit of the t-shirt on the left. Look at the length of the sleeves and the excess fabric through the torso. He is literally being swallowed up by his t-shirt. Now compare this to the picture on the right. The fit is literally night and day. This individual is clearly in great shape, but you wouldn’t know it if he wore his t-shirts like in the image on the left. This should be a real eye opener for guys that are in shape. Buy t-shirts that fit!
Principle #2 – Say no to gaudy
Over the last several years I have noticed that t-shirts have gotten gaudier and gaudier. I see guys walking around all the time wearing loud t-shirts with obnoxious, designer logos. This look screams douche bag. Avoid it at all costs.
Same goes for t-shirts of your favourite sports teams, bands, colleges etc. These novelty t-shirts are fine to wear while painting the house or working out, but should not be worn as legitimate pieces of casual wear.
Lastly, a trend I’ve been noticing more and more are the deep v neck t-shirts. I would also advise guys to avoid these types of t-shirts because they look just plain weird on men. You can call me sexist all you want but showing cleavage should only be within the purview of the female gender in my opinion.
Now, if you are going to wear a v-neck t-shirt (which I highly recommend), make sure that the v-neck is not too deep. The purpose here is to have the shirt frame your face, not set you up for a nip slip.
Lastly, for those guys still completely confused here are a couple of examples of guys doing it right:
So the next time you reach into your closet to grab your favourite t-shirt, ask yourself “What Would Brando Do?” (WWBD). In other words, does the t-shirt meet the criteria of good fit and simple design? If so, then you are well on your way to t-shirt mastery.