So, you know where to buy the best white tee. But how exactly do you wear it? The most staple of your wardrobe’s staples is also its most versatile: it dresses up, it dresses down, it’s the blank canvas around which you can you build any outfit. But that range presents a wide margin for error – misjudge its fit or what your wear it with and you look less Marlon Brando, more Drink Marbs Dry.
To decode this seemingly blank slate, we’ve spoken to industry insiders for ways to wear the white tee, wherever you’re heading. It’s time to stock up.
Open Shirt + White Tee + Dark Jeans
Layering is an art. And the white tee should be its canvas, says Laurent Coulier, chief buying officer at Menlook: “Wear the T-shirt under an open casual shirt. There’s an element of tailoring involved, but the unbuttoned touch ensures your look is relaxed.”
Effortlessness isn’t the only benefit. “Staples such as a white tee and black jeans anchor colour and prints, so feel free to mix it up,” says Coulier. “Plus, several buttons fastened around the middle can provide a more continental option.”
Tucked In White Tee + Trousers
Smart-casual dress codes can be difficult to navigate. Let a white tee be your pilot. “Tuck a crew neck tee into a pair of smart, relaxed-leg trousers,” says Coulier. “It nods to 1950s menswear, but can be updated with a pair of classic sneaks and a neutral worker’s jacket.”
If you’ve not yet dabbled in wide legs, tapered trousers work too. Just make sure the tee is as snug (it helps if you know your way around a treadmill).
White Tee + Selvedge Jeans
James Dean’s go-to move has outlived him. But by updating your cuts, you can bite his classic style in a contemporary way. “Take it back to basics with a slightly oversized white tee and a pair of indigo, selvedge jeans,” says Coulier.
A slight taper slims your physique and keeps top and bottom in balance. “Turn up the cuffs a couple of times and finish with some Adidas Originals or Converse.”
For extra Americana points, roll your sleeves. “Not only does it grant a neater edge to your tee, it also makes slight arms look bigger.” Mid-tricep is the sweet spot. Dean never invited anyone to the gun show.
White Tee + Leather Jacket
Dean’s other uniform is the easiest way to introduce some edge to your wardrobe. But you need to tread the line between fire ‘fit and fancy dress, says Mr Porter style director Olie Arnold.
“There’s another side to 1950s dressing. Go for a crisp white crew neck underneath a classic leather jacket. Brands such as Schott offer a great fit with a nice balance of detailing – too few embellishments and your look is plain, too many and it can look overcrowded.”
White Tee + Black Trousers + Bomber Jacket
This season, the bomber transitioned from trend to menswear essential. And there’s nothing it works better with than another military veteran, the white tee.
“A midsize bomber jacket in black can add shape to your silhouette,” says Tom Courcey, editor at The Idle Man.
“A pair of black trousers adds a smart-casual balance, with the monochromatic colours tying your look together.” Especially if you stick to the murdered-out memo with black trainers or loafers. “It makes your tee the focal point.”
White Tee + Black Suit
Your weekend staple can put in an at-desk appearance too. “Wear a soft, high-grade cotton white tee with a well-cut dark suit,” says Freddie Kemp, stylist at Thread. “Wool offers texture and simple block colours contrast well with the white torso.”
As with the shirt whose shift it’s covering, fit is key. Your tee should be slim enough that there’s no billow over your waistband. Yes, you have to tuck it in. No, you can’t wear beaten up Converse. Leave the up-and-all-the-way-down look to McBusted.
White Tee + Camel Overcoat
Though the white tee works with monochrome, it’s also the perfect base when you want to brighten up, if you deploy it to anchor lighter hues.
“Wearing one block tone is much easier with a white tee,” says stylist Jenna Riddle. So, this autumn, let your camel overcoat take centre stage by throwing it over a classic black jeans and white tee combo.
White Tee + Printed Trousers
A white tee grounds print and colour across the board, but neither should be limited to just your torso. Thanks to heavyweights such as Gucci, Lanvin and D&G, prints are now big news south of the border.
Go for a boxy, square-shouldered T-shirt, left untucked. Its added breadth will balance out the print, which adds size to your legs: pattern repetitions look bigger as they fill spaces that are normally neutral. Then anchor the look with a sockless ankle and clean kicks.
White Tee + Denim Jacket + Contrast Jeans
A look as easy-to-wear as it is classic. The white tee’s workwear roots mean it pairs well with anything that could stand up to a day down a mine. But as ever, you need to nail the fit of your denim jacket: too tight and you’re in Libertines territory, too oversized and you’ll produce a top heavy (and usually weight-gaining) silhouette.
The perfect jacket is made from 100 per cent cotton denim. Not only is it hard-wearing, but it will remain crease free no matter where (and how) you stash it.
Finish the look with some jeans in a contrasting colour (the Texan tuxedo is still a look best left to Texans and early noughties Timberlakes). Try combining blue jackets with black jeans, and vice versa.
White Tee + Shorts + Bomber Jacket
A tee and shorts is most men’s default when the mercury creeps above 20C. But it’s such a simple combo that it looks, well, default. It also forgets that the sun doesn’t shine quite as hard on your skin after work as it does at midday.
The solution? A lightweight bomber in the same shade as your shorts (which are, it goes without saying, cut slim and finish just above the knee). With the jacket on, you can tuck your tee in without looking like every dad at a barbecue. When it’s hot enough to lose the top layer, lose the tuck, too.
House of Fraser