Every T-shirt – no matter how good it is – eventually gives up the ghost. Whether it’s made from high-quality mercerised cotton, or treated with a groundbreaking fabric-preserving technology, no tee lasts forever.
Which is why, if you want to extend your tees’ lifespan, you need several of them: more T-shirts equals less wear per tee, which means they don’t get knackered so fast.
But what if you don’t have the cash to sink £50+ a pop into luxury styles? What if you want to build a fully stocked wardrobe without a) putting yourself in the red and/or b) buying discount tees that fall apart after a few wears?
Meet the high street five; the affordable brands fusing quality and affordability to offer T-shirts that won’t bankrupt you, or blow up after their second wash.
The world’s best-known value fashion retailer might be getting flak for the unwieldiness of its huge offering, but, to pay the e-tail giant its dues, you won’t find this much choice anywhere else.
With almost 2,000 options in its own-brand T-shirts category, ASOS has a cut, colour and fabrication for everyone. As long as you’re prepared to trawl for a few hours.
Admittedly, ASOS won’t be winning any prizes for the quality of cotton in most of its designs (softness gives way to a chalky stiffness after as little as one wash), but if you’re looking for a very specific colour in a very specific cut, chances are you’ll find it here.
Best for: Lots of choice at unbeatably low prices.
How much? From around £6, usually less with promotional discount codes.
Just what did we do before Uniqlo? Probably spend more. Only to look worse.
Since launching in the UK in 2001, the Japanese retailer has revolutionised our wardrobe basics, not least the T-shirt, offering up 100 per cent cotton, supima cotton and moisture-wicking, quick-drying polyester styles for a mere song.
Uniqlo’s two main draws are the flattering drape and the softness of its designs, and while you might not find an especially expansive array of options, there’s nowhere better to pick up classic crew necks in versatile colours like white, navy and black.
Best for: Quality fabrics.
How much? From £4.90.
Marks & Spencer
Textile tech isn’t the sole preserve of the Japanese. Although formerly known as your mum’s favourite place to shop for blouses, household British name Marks & Spencer is getting in on the smart fabrics game too.
Its tees – starting at just £6, and available in over 20 colours – feature StayNew™ technology, an innovative enzymatic bioblasting treatment that keeps your tee smooth, free from pilling and ensures its colour won’t fade.
As well as a Regular fit, M&S carries a more slim-fitting Tailored option and a Big & Tall fit for blokes outside the standard size ranges.
Best for: Innovative fabrics at an unbeatable price.
How much? From £6.
As well known for its tees as for its T&A-heavy advertising, American Apparel’s risqué campaigns weren’t the only thing to get tongues wagging when it first opened its doors on London’s Carnaby St in 2004: its ethical manufacturing methods – a refreshing tonic to fast fashion’s abuses – were just as headline-grabbing.
Made entirely in LA, American Apparel’s ‘SweatShop-free’ tees are crafted from soft cotton by garment workers paid up to 50 times more than the competition. They’re also cut slightly slimmer and longer, making them ideal for leaner guys.
What’s more, American Apparel is landfill-free, uses solar panels to offset as much as 20 per cent of its electrical usage and recycles almost all of its manufacturing waste. All of which doesn’t come this cheap anywhere else.
Best for: Slim fits in fine jersey cotton, and a clear conscience.
How much? From £14.
There are limits to a plain tee – as versatile as a good one is, sometimes block-colour styles just skew too boring for a stand-out look.
Which is where high street stalwart Topman comes in. Knit tight into the fabric of British menswear, Topman has pioneered forward-thinking design for men since its founding in 1978, establishing initiatives like Topman NEWGEN Men to support designers including Astrid Andersen, Lou Dalton and Matthew Miller.
It’s this focus on design above all else that informs the retailer’s T-shirt offering, with a slew of original printed and slogan styles the push the humble tee into all-new territory.
Best for: Printed and slogan tees.
How much? From £7.