From its humble beginnings as standard-issue Navy gear to Marlon Brando and James Dean, the Hanes five-pack, and three-figure-price-tag designer iterations, the men’s white T-shirt has been a staple of the classic American wardrobe. And yet the perfect white tee is hard to find — a V-neck just a few millimeters too deep runs the risk of lasciviousness; a thread count too low and you’ve freed the male nipple. So we asked twelve guys to weigh in on their favorites, and muse on the best of the best men’s white T-shirts. (Including five different styles of Hanes.)
“There will always be something so satisfying about the clingy, cheap Calvin Klein V-neck white T-shirts my mom used to get me in three-packs from Costco … So much of my daily time is consumed by fashion, but as much as I can’t wait to wear a new Thom Browne blazer or Yohji Yamamoto drop-crotch linen pants, I get the most joy out of putting on one of those T-shirts when I’m at home, bumming around on my day off, cooking, doing everything I love that doesn’t involve any performative aspect of fashion.” - Nick Santa-Donato, Barneys New York Sales Associate
“My favorite white T-shirt is a simple crewneck made by Save Khaki. Their tees cling or stretch more than a department-store brand and wash very well. It’s like a pretty traditional silhouette that fits perfectly after one wash. I like the seam of the shoulders to hang past the end of shoulders just a little bit. It’s a narrow, tapered fit. Something I can feel comfortable wearing to the gym or to a restaurant.” — Abie Cohen, private wealth adviser (and husband of the Man Repeller)
“I have a ton of these t-shirts, and they’re so soft now because I’ve had them for nearly a decade. I actually even prefer them now—the older and softer, the better. I love that it hugs my chest a little to make it look bigger, and it’s a little tight in the sleeves too and short enough to make me look tall. It only just goes past the waistline (I’d wear a cropped tee if I could).” - Joey Kuhn, film director, Those People
“My new favorite T-shirt line is Sunspel, an old-school British luxury line with insanely high craftsmanship — great fit and fabric — while not being as expensive as it could be. I also like Wings + Horn, which has extremely soft cotton shirts, and my embarrassing secret is that my undershirts are all from that ultimate dad brand, Lands’ End.” - Ken Chen, Executive Director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop
Ken’s other favorite ‘dad-brand’ tees are only $20 each.
“My favorite white T-shirt is a V-neck; Polo is my preferred brand, and slim cut. I like that one because it’s form-fitting, fits nice, it’s not too long — just the perfect T-shirt. The Polo logo isn’t in the usual place; it’s on the lower side, so it’s more subtle, which I don’t mind.” - Teddy Wright, Receptionist at The New York Review of Books
“I usually wear a small Fruit of the Loom V-neck, tagless, 100 percent cotton — sort of the missionary position of white T-shirts. My mother sends me away with a pack of them every year as a Christmas present. Knowing that she’ll always come through, I can put in requests about size and style, but the brand is out of my hands. I blush to say it, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever bought myself a white T-shirt.” - Ryan Harrington, Editor at Melville House
“A Dri-Fit shirt absorbs perspiration pretty well, so it won’t get drenched if you’re playing tennis out in the sun for, you know, eight hours. Boast was giving them to me for a while — and working at country clubs for many years, you wear all white … But my favorite white T-shirt is a Hanes crewneck that I got probably ten years ago. It feels like it’s the item of clothing that most feels a part of my body. It feels like [I’m] myself in a T-shirt. Did you want someone to say that? Well, it’s on the record.” - Alex Stoler, Tennis Instructor
“I put on a white T-shirt pretty much every day of my life as habit … Hanes is my go-to brand. One of the allures of the white tee is that, because it comes in a five-pack, there is a level of consistency and the comfort of knowing you can have the same thing whenever you want it. I think a big reason why I subconsciously wear them is because it’s part of me being a bit old-fashioned. My dad, who was born in 1930, always wore a white T-shirt every day. I appreciate the history of it, and they’ve always had a sort of James Dean appeal of being casual and comfortable, but still cool.” - Walter Binger, Owner of Empanadas, Son! Restaurant
“Lately I’ve been going for cheap and simple Hanes ComfortBlend. I have big shoulders, so a lot of other brands really gird the pit and flare out the sleeve for that flouncy look I’m not going for. Ideally I like the neck stretched out, like someone tried to strangle me or chased me down at recess. It still gives you some clavicle action and a little character to boot. It’s sexier. There are a lot of expensive scoop necks out there that get near this aesthetic but most of the time look too manufactured and delicate.” - Jacob Muselmann, Model and Editor
“I only buy white T-shirts as undershirts now (I drink too much coffee and usually while walking, so I just kept ruining them immediately). I’m a big fan of the Hanes Tagless tee. It’s a shame, as I am a huge James Dean cultist and when I was younger was fond of the white T-shirt with a rolled sleeve. But a coffee-stained white tee is really awful.” - Alexander Chee, Author of The Queen of the Night
“The best white tee has been a hotly debated topic among my friends. As a skinny dude, I’ve been loyal to the small Hanes V-neck for years. I still have the body of a gawky teenager, so my goal is to find something long and narrow. American Apparel is the only slightly nicer shirt that I’ve tried. The shirt is undeniably softer, but I don’t think it fit significantly better, the price was far too high, and I don’t feel great about walking into an American Apparel store.” - Tedros Abraham, Legislative Aide for Senator Jeff Merkley
“I love this tee because it’s got a wider neckline, so you get some collarbone action for when I’m feeling a little sexy. I like to keep the sleeves rolled, and it’s also this perfect shade of white (not too yellow or blue), so it goes with basically anything I’ll put over it. I’m pretty skinny and tall, but it somehow manages to fit snugly—hi, pecs!—and still be long enough even after I take it out of the dryer.” - William Scott, Makeup Artist
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