Is there anything more versatile than a T-shirt?

Jeans, maybe. But, like shopping for denim, finding a tee that fits just so is a task nothing short of Herculean. Faced with rails, shelves and product pages heaving with a mind-bending array of fits, fabrics and finishes, it’s alarming how fast something that should be straightforward turns into a full-blown identity crisis. After all, one man’s perfect T-shirt is another man’s practically unwearable.

Which is why we’ve compiled some fail-safe tips for finding your glove fit – from the length that keeps your midriff under wraps to the colours that complement the rest of your rotation. Tee-rrific.

(Crew) Neck It

Obviously there’s more to T-shirts than the classic crew neck. But we’d wager that nine times out of ten a time-honoured crew neck trumps the neck-elongating, cleavage-baring weirdness of a V-neck. Unless of course your name’s Danny and you split your time between supersets, spray tans and taking excessively hashtagged selfies. In which case, we’re sorry, but you’re too far gone.

(Related: The pieces no man should have in his wardrobe)

A well-fitting crew neck frames most necks, chests and sets of shoulders far better than a V-, scoop or boat neck; there are, of course, exceptions to every rule but that is most definitely the rule.

A Fighting Fit

Born as an undershirt with the sole purpose of soaking up sweat, the T-shirt has come a long way from its humble origins. The way it should ideally fit, though, remains much the same.

“The fit of a T-shirt is really important when picking the perfect one,” says Laurent Coulier, Chief Buying Officer at Menlook Group. “And fits vary. Currently an oversized block is on-trend for the summer season but ultimately I would choose something you are comfortable in. A T-shirt that sits nicely against your torso is a staple for your wardrobe.”

So what exactly does “sits nicely” look like?

The SparksNotes version is that a T-shirt should highlight the part(s) of your upper body you’re happy with, without drawing attention to the part(s) that are still very much a work in progress. Which means:

  • Your tee should strike a balance between fitted and skin-tight; err too baggy and you’re doing yourself no favours-slash-maybe wearing a nightgown? Steer too tight, though, and you’re – depending on your build – either a) a dead ringer for someone who’s just walked off a porn set, or b) The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy. Not ideal. There’s no hard and fast rule apart from that the perfect-fitting tee sits as close to your body as possible without stretching.
  • The length of your tee shouldn’t sit any higher than the top of your hips, nor finish below them; this will ensure you can raise your hand without turning your tee into a crop top.
  • Sleeves (whether rolled or regular) should hit around the halfway point on your upper arm, neither billowing nor bracing. Unless you’ve got exceptionally long arms, in which case you can get away with sleeves that fall about an inch further.
  • Shoulder seams (i.e. the point where the sleeves of your tee meet its body) should ideally align with the point where the curve of your shoulder ends.

(Related: Learn how to dress your body shape)

How a T-shirt should fitZara 2015

Material Concerns

Now you know how the ideal tee fits, it’s worth talking the stuff it should be made of too:

“In the search for the perfect T-shirt, the first point of consideration should be the fabric, as this is fundamentally the building blocks of the garment,” says Coulier. “I personally prefer cotton as it generally makes for a long-lasting, durable T-shirt. Egyptian cotton is considered the best due to its longer fibres.”

Poly-cotton or fully synthetic materials work well to wick away moisture and retain their shape, thus earning their place in your workout wardrobe, but 100 per cent cotton tees invariably look and feel better for anything that’s not exercise.

“Look for something premium, in a nicely weighted cotton,” says Sam Smith, Fashion Editor at oki-ni.com. This is where many men go wrong, mistaking a tee’s thickness for its quality. The opposite is, in fact, true, with the highest quality cottons – mercerised, combed, ring-spun, pima, supima and Egyptian, for example – being lighter, thinner, durable and more lustrous.

While it’s true that you’ll want a certain degree of thickness to wear your tee as easily with tailoring as a pair of jeans (lighter, sheerer styles serve you best at the beach rather than the bar), too-thick tees often don’t drape as well as their welterweight brothers.

In summary, swerve synthetics in favour of superior quality cottons, making sure your tee’s fabric is light enough to sit well and feel comfortable, without coming up Ricky Martin levels of sheer.

  • James Perse Crew Neck Cotton-jersey T-shirtJames Perse Crew Neck Cotton-jersey T-shirt
  • Nn.07 Pima Cotton-jersey T-shirtNn.07 Pima Cotton-jersey T-shirt
  • Selected Homme Pima Crew Neck T-shirtSelected Homme Pima Crew Neck T-shirt
  • Club Monaco Williams Cotton-jersey T-shirtClub Monaco Williams Cotton-jersey T-shirt
  • Oliver Spencer Loungewear Supima Cotton-jersey T-shirtOliver Spencer Loungewear Supima Cotton-jersey T-shirt
  • Uniqlo Men Supima Cotton Crew Neck Short Sleeve T-shirtUniqlo Men Supima Cotton Crew Neck Short Sleeve T-shirt
  • Sunspel Slim-fit Cotton T-shirtSunspel Slim-fit Cotton T-shirt
  • Reiss Kansas Cotton T-shirtReiss Kansas Cotton T-shirt
  • Uniqlo Men Supima Cotton Crew Neck Short Sleeve T-shirtUniqlo Men Supima Cotton Crew Neck Short Sleeve T-shirt
  • Comme Des Garcons Shirt X Sunspel Crew TeeComme Des Garcons Shirt X Sunspel Crew Tee
  • Reiss Bless T-shirtReiss Bless T-shirt
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Two-pack Stretch-cotton Jersey T-shirtsPolo Ralph Lauren Two-pack Stretch-cotton Jersey T-shirts

Colour

Key to upholding your T-shirt’s status as the workhorse of your wardrobe is buying one in the right colour. And by ‘right’, we mean versatile, enabling you to wear your tee with as much as your wardrobe as possible.

White

White is iconic. Worn by the likes of James Dean and Marlon Brando – the men who first gave the tee the unfussy appeal it retains today – the white T-shirt works with all skin tones and sits well against pretty much every other colour you’ll want to wear it with.

(Related: Find out which colours suit your skin tone)

Men's White T-Shirt OutfitMango Man 2015

Grey

Grey, especially grey marl, comes a close second, gelling well with most other hues and capable of bridging the smart-casual gap.

It’s not, however, one for the prolifically sweaty, as its colour draws a lot of attention to moisture stains. You’ve been warned.

Men's Grey T-Shirt OutfitZara 2016

Black

Not, for most, as versatile as white or grey, a classic black tee still deserves a slot in your rotation – whether for finely tuning your rock-infused ensembles or giving things a slight Beatnik bent. Also a staple for head-to-toe monochrome getups.

Men's Black T-Shirt OutfitMango Man 2016

Navy

Finally, navy – menswear’s mainstay hue – brings some colour to the table without sacrificing styling potential. Particularly good for teaming with tailoring or an all-blue tonal approach to your off-duty wear.

Men's Navy T-Shirt OutfitMango Man 2016

Everything else is fair game for experimentation, but know that bright yellow and lilac probably won’t cut it as the cornerstone of your wardrobe. That said, if you’re going to dip your toe in the technicolour, a tee is a much more sensible access path than a pair of trousers or a suit.

Final Word

Has this guide tied up all your tee-related concerns? Or is there still ground to be covered? Which brand would you deem top dog when it comes to tees?

Let us know below.