A Buyer’s Guide to Basic T-Shirts

mens basic t shirt street style

Understated style and basic T-shirts go hand in hand with each other, but do you know all there is to know about how to buy and wear a basic tee? Keep reading below for the low down on your perfect t-shirt.

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That old faithful we call the T-shirt has been working hard for us for years, taking centre stage during the summer months, and making one part of a great layering combo during the colder winter months. Though the T-shirt began its life as an underwear piece, it’s fair to say it has well and truly come into its own over the years and is now a staple in every wardrobe with a simple jeans and T-shirt look being one of our most successful yet understated outfit choices.

Here we take a look at all the best plain T-shirts for men, the best T-shirt brands for men, and get the low down on high-quality T-shirts… because why would we want anything less?

Best T-Shirt Brands

Buying a T-shirt is something we very rarely put much thought in to; instead, firing a few into the online shopping basket last minute once we realise that the holes in our current collection have probably had their time now.

We don’t usually pay much heed to where we buy them either, which is mistake number one, so find a brand that works for you and your shape, and stick with it. There are some great T-shirt brands out there and especially here at The Idle Man, but below we have picked a few of our favourites from high street to high end to set you off in the right direction.

man navy chinos and striped t-shirt
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

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Sunspel: Sunspel uses 100% Egyptian cotton and have been making tees in England for decades, therefore priding themselves on knowing a thing or two about creating one of the softest T-shirts.

Lacoste: The classic French tennis brand, Lacoste, continues to make quality T-Shirts for both on and off the court. Lacoste is without a doubt a brand that you need to have in your wardrobe

HUF: Modern skate design meet well-crafted fabric. HUF have been creating high-quality clothes since the late 80s and their commitment to bringing us affordable T-Shirts with slick designs hasn’t faltered.

Only & Sons: A brand built on simple Scandinavian style and outstanding craftsmanship, Only & Sons deliver high-quality T-Shirts for a reasonable price.

The Idle Man: Well we couldn’t ignore ourselves could we? Our own brand T-Shirts are affordable and incredibly well made, meaning you can afford to wear them in the pub or with a blazer at dinner.

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Dickies: Dickies has been cemented in men’s workwear since the 1920s. In this time they’ve created T-Shirts that are perfect for the every day and for your wardrobe.

Champion: The pinnacle of sportswear: Champion have been making quality sportswear since the 1910s. This passion for quality attire has spilt over into their durable T-Shirts. Think old school designs with a modern twist.

The North Face: Extreme durability personified. The North Face is a brand that knows your T-Shirts need to withstand anything. Whether you’re scaling Everest or your stairs after a night out, The North Face has got you covered.

Armor Lux: Committed to providing T-Shirts that stand the test of time, Armor Lux have been creating high-quality clothing since the 1930s and show no signs of stopping either.

Soulland: Having only formed in 2002, Soulland is a newcomer to the fashion game. Their youth does not, however, mean inexperience and they continue to create fresh designed T-Shirts with incredible quality.

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Best Fitting T-Shirts

The fit of a T-shirt is the single most important thing when it comes to picking your purchase; too long and baggy is not flattering no matter what your shape and size, and let’s just avoid too tight tees at all costs, please.

A classic option usually falls to athletic fit T-shirts and men’s fitted T-shirts that only skim the body and still leave room for movement. The bottom of the tee should skim your hip, whilst for the best-fitted T-shirts, the shape of the torso will feature a slightly tapered in the waist and a square shoulder. Sleeve length is simple; never should they be longer than half your arm, but similarly don’t let them creep up too close to your shoulders guys, as a cap sleeve is not a good look. A T-shirt that we think is a classic may look good on one guy, but could completely flop on another. This is where the above point about finding a brand that works for you is key.

best grey t-shirts for men
PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man

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The aim of basics or capsule pieces is that they are timeless, versatile and relatively neutral. Other T-shirt shapes can work, however, these would be more ‘fashion’ or trend pieces as opposed to classics. An oversized, longline T-shirt is a little edgier and can work well if teamed with the right stuff and if it suits the wearer’s natural style. It’s always easy to tell if someone isn’t comfortable in what they’re wearing, so stay true to you and you will exude style and confidence.

Types of Necklines

The classic neckline when it comes to T-shirts is the crew. Rounded and pretty high at the collar bone, this neckline is great for the slimmer guy who wants to give off the impression of a slightly bulkier upper body and wider shoulders. A V-Neckline is another popular shape and unsurprisingly does the opposite to the crew. The v neck is perfect for the guy who wants to elongate the neck if it’s a bit on the thick side or if you are slightly lacking in the height department.

Other necklines such as the scoop or deep v are less popular but still widely available, and are again more of a trend than a classic. Our advice for a confident fail-safe look is opting for one of the classic necklines above.

Best V Neck T-Shirts

Although not one of the more popular styles, V-neck t-shirts can be cool if they’re worn properly. We’d recommend white V-neck t-shirts if you are going to go for this style. Marry your V-neck with a blazer and some trousers for a formal look.

mens blazer v-neck t-shirt sweatpants original
PHOTO CREDIT: Lookastic

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Best Plain T-Shirts

Plain T-shirts are a staple in every guy’s closet; they are a true capsule piece. Why do we love basic T-shirts so much? The answer is that, although basic, they go with so many different pieces and can slot in simply with almost any look if done correctly. They are so easy too…and who doesn’t love easy?

Best White Tee

Is there such a thing as the perfect plain white tee? We think so! And even just owning one means you’re pretty much there- it’s all about styling it right. White T-shirts can often exude rugged manly style, with the likes of icons like James Dean and Steve McQueen making them popular fashion statements all on their own. This is the ultimate choice in T-shirts.

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Best Basic T-Shirts

Basic tees get their name from being, well…basic. This involves subtle simple styles, plain designs, and neutral shades. Tones like black, white, grey and navy all fall into this category and are your go-to T-shirt must-haves before you even think about anything else. Bright colours and bold patterns can wait, it’s all about fashion’s timeless pieces.

Plain Coloured T-Shirts

Coloured T-Shirts are a wonderful thing. They have the ability to lift your outfit out of the dark and create a textured look. Below are our top choices for the coloured tee.

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Types of Fabrics

It is easy to assume that T-shirts are all made from the same fabric. However, they are not and there can be a huge difference in the quality you get.

BestHigh-Quality T-Shirt

The higher the natural fibre content, the better the quality of the item. Cotton is one of the most popular natural components we see in T-shirts today, making it more breathable yet more fragile too. T-shirts like this work well under blazers and suits for a laid back luxe kind of vibe. If you’re after something of great quality but a little more durable, opt for a cotton blend tee.

If it’s a luxurious feel that you’re after, pure cotton fabrics like Pima cotton are your best bet. This fabric has a buttery texture which is soft to the touch and feels amazing on the skin. The natural origins and baby soft feel obviously come with a hefty price tag though, so if you’re not willing to shell out for a good quality T-shirt of this standard, then a cotton blend or synthetic option may be more up your street.

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Best Cotton T-Shirts

We’ve picked out a casual outfit featuring one of our favourite cotton tees of the moment, in keeping with the basic theme.

Styling A T-Shirt
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

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Cheap T-Shirts for Men

Elastane can feature quite prominently in T-shirts, and a poly-elastane combo can be the best choice if you’re shopping on a budget, or if you are an active guy who will be putting the tee through its paces. Having the stretch of the elastane content helps to maintain the shape of your shirt, and gives that extra room for movement for the sportsmen. The cheapest option available is the polyester and cotton blend, however where you might think it lacks in quality, it makes up for by the fact that it creases less, so is more wearable and equals less ironing…what are you waiting for?

What to Wear with Your Plain T-Shirt

A plain T-shirt, by the nature of its name, suggests that you have a blank canvas to work with, which is what all artists like to start with before a masterpiece happens, right? Use your plain tee as the starting point, and build your outfit up around it; are you planning a layering look? Or do you have a statement piece that will really pop once teamed with the plain shirt?

mens charcoal blazer black t shirt black trousers black loafers-min
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

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Trousers

For a casual yet classic look, jeans are always your go-to with a T-shirt. ‘Jeans and T-shirt’ does sound like the most boring thing on earth to a lot of people, but make sure it all fits correctly and bring your personality to the party and all eyes will be on you. If channelling a more preppy vibe, chinos are a nice change from jeans and will always work with a T-shirt. Try popping an open shirt over the top to enhance the look even more.

Joggers, in my opinion, are lounge wear only and shouldn’t be seen outside of the confines of your own home. A tee and jogging bottom combo can look really chill though, and nothing can beat being super comfy, can it? Let’s say you’re looking for a laid back luxe vibe; something pretty smart but you don’t want to look too try-hard. How about teaming your plain T-shirt with some formal trousers and a blazer, and work the casual suit ensemble?

mens cropped trouseres white t shirt converse
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

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Shoes and Accessories

Here the possibilities really are endless! If you’ve gone for jeans with your tee you could go for super casual with a pair of plimsolls, desert boots, or high tops. If chinos are more your bag, opt for espadrilles, loafers, or boat shoes; this look is a great option for summer. When doing the suit thing, you can go one way or the other depending on your own personal style. Keeping it formal with brogues or some kind of loafer would work a treat, but if you’re keen to go as casual as you can, pairing the outfit with a trainer does work too if done right.

Belts and watches always give the impression that a guy pays attention to the smaller details and knows what he’s doing. If you want to propel this look from basic to chic, then make sure to include these accessories. The styles really are down to you and your preferences though; if you kept everything else subtle, maybe go for a showy timepiece like the one below to make a statement.

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Ways to Wear a Plain White T-Shirt

Layering

Layering isn’t as daunting as it sounds, just keep it simple. Go for the simple layers like we mentioned earlier, such as an open shirt for adding a further dimension to the basic tee. You could also add a jumper, sweater, cardigan or hoodie for extra warmth and extra style points.

Depending on the time of year, try adding a chunky scarf and a coat too. As far as layering looks go, my personal favourite right now is a T-shirt and thick bomber jacket with a pair of slim jeans, making sure a little of each garment is on display.

mens bomber jacket white t shirt jeans style
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

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Formal

Who’d have thought you would ever see T-shirts and formal wear in the same sentence? Here we are though, and it’s a great look to work if you dare to be bold. We can honestly say this look isn’t necessarily for everyone to try. However, it really isn’t as scary as it seems either, so if you’re a little intrigued then give it a shot! A simple but well-cut suit and a plain white or black tee is a head turning statement. If you fancy yourself as the next Tinie Tempah, take it up a notch with bold coloured suiting to show the world you mean business.

Smart Casual

Smart casual can mean a whole host of things and is probably the most common dress code we strive to achieve. A fine or chunky knit worn over a basic tee instantly smartens up your look without going overly smart.

mens bomber jacket white t shirt blue jeans white trainers
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

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Celebrity Inspiration

Tinie Tempah

I think we all know Tinie always smashes it in the style stakes; he’s just got that special gift of being able to pull off anything and make it look good. Here is our case in point; never mind just pulling off the T-shirt and suit look which is difficult enough for most, he takes it a step further with an orange suit! Mr Tempah… we bow down to you.

mens street style tinie tempah blue suit t shirt white trainers
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

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 Ryan Gosling

This guy may be one of the coolest actors on the planet, with women swooning over him 24/7. He is also great at nailing off-duty style. Gosling keeps things relaxed and really knows what he’s doing when it comes to layering fashion.

ryan gosling mens fashion dog tooth coat white t shirt
PHOTO CREDIT: The Hollywood Reporter

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A Buyer’s Guide to Basic T-Shirts

  • Brand – there’s a whole variety of brands that make plain T-shirts, so don’t be afraid to shop around.
  • Fit – slim fit is more of a go-to and baggy can work if you’re creating texture in your outfit.
  • Neckline – crew neck is the only way, V-necks can be worn but make sure the V isn’t cut too deep.
  • Colour – neutral or pastel, a pop of colour in the summer but black and white are safest.
  • Quality – you might have to pay more for a quality T-Shirt but it will last.
  • Event – plain T-Shirts can be worn anywhere, don’t be scared to wear them to a dinner or the pub.
PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man

On That Note

The basic T-shirt is a must-have for any man, so stock up and build up your collection. They are the hardest working and most versatile piece you will ever own, so mix it up and don’t always wear them the same way. If you’re comfortable (and boy, you will be) then you will look and feel good too. Sometimes less is definitely more.

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