The Humble Tee

There will always be things we take for granted in this life; adequate plumbing, access to almost anything, anywhere at the click of a button, the delicious pasties produced by many an artisan baker throughout the UK. (I like pasties if you hadn’t already guessed.)

Many of these things form a central part of our lives, with each being very important in its own way. For the most part, they are completely un-thought of – they’re just there, waiting upon our convenience. The same could also be said about certain elements of fashion. For example, jeans are a very common and well accepted part of any man’s wardrobe but I would bet that most of us don’t really think that much about wearing them, we just pull them on and as long as they go with the rest of our outfit, we’re ready to go.

This, in my personal opinion, is what has happened with the topic of this article; the humble t-shirt. Everyone owns one, we all wear them and I’ve no doubt a few will be at least 10 years old and still making regular outings – we just can’t seem to let go. We all have our favourite tee, gym tees or even tees that make up a big part of our more sartorially inclined wardrobes but I sometimes wonder just how much thought we ever truly give them.

Do we throw them on because they are easy fashion? Not technical or difficult, a casual item for when we can’t really be bothered. Or is there a lot more to the t-shirt than meets the eye?

The Casual Crusader

T-shirts are undoubtedly a very important part of any timeless capsule wardrobe, as we here at FashionBeans are keen to stress. They’re hugely versatile and as previously mentioned, very easy to wear, but I don’t think many of us – myself included – look much past the standard crew/v-neck, in plain colours. In this we are definitely missing a trick, especially in the ways we continue to wear them.

One of the best uses of a t shirt I have seen in recent months was by GQ’s best dressed 2012; Mr Tinie Tempah. His outfit at the Brits, as covered by Ashley Cover in his round up of the best and worst, was certainly up there with the best of them. Although I would agree with Ashley about the height of the neckline, the overall look is fantastic. With his mix of clothes he has managed to create something relaxed yet refined, fashionable yet classic – a great statement that I would very much like to emulate.

Tinie Tempah At The Brits 2012

New Ways To Wear

With this how to wear section I hope to inspire you to go in a different direction with your standard tees, wearing them in ways you might not have thought appropriate or even in situations where you decided they just wouldn’t fit. I would also hope to encourage you to try something totally new in terms of t-shirt style; pushing your tee selection to a whole new level.

The humble tee is an extremely important part of our wardrobes and it shouldn’t be underestimated.

Men’s T-Shirt Lookbook

The key with this lookbook is versatility. I wanted to showcase a variety of ways a tee can be utilised that you may not have thought about before, or in styles you may not have considered before:

Mens T-Shirt Lookbook

Look 1

With this first look I’m going to be re-creating the excellent outfit sported by Tinie Tempah above. With such a brilliant mix of razor sharp tailoring and classic colours with a modern and casual twist, it’s the perfect look for many a spring/summer event – from wedding reception to birthday party and even the odd sixth form ball, especially when the weather really starts to hot up.

In this instance the tee is simply replacing your standard shirt, so colour principles remain the same. A simple, understated white or grey tee will keep the focus on the look as a whole rather than drawing attention to one specific item. Mr Tempah made use of a fantastic Rake blazer in a rich midnight blue/navy. Sticking to a navy single breasted jacket will give the look a more formal appearance overall (more so than grey), but you could equally make use of the current double breasted trend to create a look with just a touch more pizzazz.

  • Rag & Bone Midnight Contrast-lapel Linen BlazerRag & Bone Midnight Contrast-lapel Linen Blazer
  • Selected Basic Crew T-shirtSelected Basic Crew T-shirt
  • Reiss Senator TrousersReiss Senator Trousers
  • Reiss HarpReiss Harp
  • Kg By Kurt Geiger WenhamKg By Kurt Geiger Wenham
  • Ray-ban Folding Wayfarer Tortoiseshell SunglassesRay-ban Folding Wayfarer Tortoiseshell Sunglasses
Look 2

With such variation in style, we would be foolish to just stick to the same kind of tee when putting together outfits. For another structured and more formal look, you could consider mixing your true formal wear with a long sleeve or Henley tee. Mix an oatmeal or cream version with a navy or grey suit and you have another great formal/casual hybrid that would once again work really well at a summer wedding or fancy party.

Leave a couple of buttons on the tee undone to relax it even more and go sockless with some Derbies, Oxfords or suede brogues. For those willing to try something even more different, how’s about mixing a tee with your new shorts suit?

  • Asos Slim Herringbone SuitAsos Slim Herringbone Suit
  • Sunspel Cotton Henley T-shirtSunspel Cotton Henley T-shirt
  • Topman Butler BroguesTopman Butler Brogues
Look 3

In honour of the fine weather we have recently been experiencing and for all those lucky buggers jetting off on holiday soon, I thought I would start introducing shorts to the lookbooks.

Keep it simple, keep it easy would be my motto with shorts (although I’m not a fan). Leave the cargo shorts in the cupboard (or the bin) and stick with clean cut, tailored chino shorts. I’ve no doubt you will have already seen, and are most like to see again, a fantastically large number of AllSaints tonic scoop neck tees flying around soon, worn with a pair of shorts and Toms/boat shoes – so go for something a bit different.

A long sleeve tee will give you an immediate edge, not just because it is a rarer style – mix in some stripes or a bold colour and you’re sure to stand out for the right reasons.

Avoid becoming a sheep with some proper, yet casual shoes, but remember your secret socks.

  • Striped T-shirtStriped T-shirt
  • Cheap Monday Kenneth ShortsCheap Monday Kenneth Shorts
  • B Store New Mario Leather Derby ShoesB Store New Mario Leather Derby Shoes
Look 4

For a relaxed look with a hint of attitude, look no further than one of our old favourites here at FashionBeans.

Crack out your leather jacket, throw on a white long sleeve tee, pull on your jeans and squeeze your feet into some shoes. Opt for an unfussy, casual style of footwear, but give it a twist – suede, statement colours or vibram soles are all great options. I think one of the easiest ways to inject some individuality into your looks is to do something out of the ordinary with your shoes – buy a style that others won’t have thought of and avoid all the old clichés.

  • G Star Long Sleeve T-shirtG Star Long Sleeve T-shirt
  • Selected Blackpool Leather JacketSelected Blackpool Leather Jacket
  • Topman Mason LoafersTopman Mason Loafers
Men’s T-Shirt Picks
  • Lazy Oaf Midnight Stripe Long Sleeve TopLazy Oaf Midnight Stripe Long Sleeve Top
  • Plectrum By Ben Sherman Colour Block Long Sleeved TopPlectrum By Ben Sherman Colour Block Long Sleeved Top
  • Topman Tmd Red Textured Grandad Topman Tmd Red Textured Grandad
  • Asos Stripe Long Sleeve Top With Chambray PocketAsos Stripe Long Sleeve Top With Chambray Pocket
  • Reiss Sheen Variated Stripe – Crew Neck Airforce BlueReiss Sheen Variated Stripe - Crew Neck Airforce Blue
  • Balenciaga Contrast-panel Long-sleeved Cotton T-shirtBalenciaga Contrast-panel Long-sleeved Cotton T-shirt
  • Selected Long Sleeve Climp TopSelected Long Sleeve Climp Top
  • American Apparel Knit Long Sleeve HenleyAmerican Apparel Knit Long Sleeve Henley
  • Allsaints Jenkin HenleyAllsaints Jenkin Henley
  • Ted Baker Twomila – Striped Henley TopTed Baker Twomila - Striped Henley Top
  • Long-sleeved Top With A Round Neckline Tarani By Boss OrangeLong-sleeved Top With A Round Neckline Tarani By Boss Orange
  • Paul Smith – Jeans 473l-752 White Raglan Sleeve T-shirtPaul Smith - Jeans 473l-752 White Raglan Sleeve T-shirt
  • Carhartt Heritage Grey Heather Waffle Marshall HenleyCarhartt Heritage Grey Heather Waffle Marshall Henley
  • Nudie Off White Ls Pocket T-shirtNudie Off White Ls Pocket T-shirt
  • Ps By Paul Smith Cotton Henley T-shirtPs By Paul Smith Cotton Henley T-shirt
Final Word

I am aware that I haven’t really created a comprehensive account of every single style of tee that you could wear, but I would hope that I have raised your awareness of an item we often take for granted. Most of us don’t really see past the easy to wear façade and plug away with them in the same way we always have – never trying anything new, never investigating the other options.

A Henley, long sleeve or any other tee for that matter would be a great addition to any wardrobe and will immediately make a difference to every outfit; sometimes it’s the small things that matter.

As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.