Ah, the humble T-shirt. Is there anything it can’t do? Well, obviously, yes, there are loads of things it can’t do but sartorially speaking, probably not. Dress it up with tailoring for an evening out, or pair it with joggers and a few dollops of spilled salsa, much to the disgust of your significant other, for an evening in. The point is, this wonder garment is one of the most versatile items in your wardrobe.
And right now, designer T-shirts in particular are having something of a menswear moment. Loud logos from baller brands are trending hard, but it’s about more than sleeveless stunting. The fact that the T-shirt is a staple is a reason to spend more, not less.
Yes, it’s financially tempting to visit a budget chain and pick up a bin liner full of plain white tees, but doing so won’t actually save you any money in the long run. Once you wear them you’ll realise that your nipples are clearly visible under certain light, they fade easily and will soon be relegated to the pile of clothes you keep for doing the DIY in.
Investing in a few high-quality designer T-shirts from respected names may cost you a little (or a lot) more, but those premium materials and superior construction will be evident the moment you slip one over your head.
So, what should you be buying?
Classic, understated designs will never fall from favour, so if you want to keep things clean and timeless then these are what you want to be aiming for. Paying for a brand name may hike up the price significantly, but spend the extra cash and you’ll be more likely to find a flattering fit, meaning more wearability and bang for your buck in the long run.
“A good quality plain T-shirt is an essential for any man of any age,” explains Damien Paul, head of menswear at high-end clothing retailer Matches Fashion. “We all think of the likes of Steve McQueen or James Dean when we reference a plain white tee – it’s a timeless piece, a no brainer. The bonus is you can wear with a suit, jeans, chinos, shorts. It never feels old and that is very much part of the charm.”
Alternatively, if you’re not scared of throwing yourself at the odd fashion trend, give the big logo thing a go. Huge brand logos on T-shirts are a big deal at the moment, with esteemed houses such as Gucci leading the way, flanked by trailblazers like Off-White and Vetements.
“The ‘logomania’ trend continues,” says Paul. “Rooted in the ’90s [revival] and a signifier of conspicuous consumption, I think the appeal has been helped by the fact that logo tees ‘pop’ on social media and are popular with musicians.”
Yes, some of these T-shirts may cost more than a two-week all-inclusive holiday to the Canary Islands, but if you’ve got the money to burn then we’re not here to judge.
And, while there may be no logical reason for spending in excess of a ton on something that probably cost less than your morning coffee to make, there are dozens of completely illogical ones. And aren’t they the best?
The Best Designer T-Shirt Brands To Buy Into Right Now
Leading the logomania trend is historic Italian trendsetter Gucci. The respected label has been one of fashion’s hardest hitters since its creation in the 1920s and has long counted some of the biggest names on the face of the earth among its style disciples.
For unadulterated luxury, show-off prestige and that iconic green and red colouring, there’s no-one that comes close right now.
Comme des Garçons PLAY
Rei Kawakubo’s future-shaping Japanese label has earned itself a reputation as one of the most forward-thinking names in fashion. However, if you’re not quite ready to leave the house dressed like a grey turd with a ripped-up Brillo pad on top, Comme des Garçons’s PLAY line is a good starting point.
CDG PLAY features the iconic ‘bug-eyed heart’ motif and is known for its simple staple pieces, as well as bold logo T-shirts, making it the perfect way to nod to high fashion without looking like a total cabbage.
Streetwear may be the new face of haute couture but it wouldn’t be where it is now if it hadn’t been for an enterprising Californian surfer who goes by the name of Shawn Stussy. His eponymous brand quickly became known for its logo T-shirts and bold graphics and it almost single-handedly sparked the movement that has infiltrated the upper echelons of fashion.
Expect heavy branding, graphics, bold colours, tie-dye and script logos aplenty.
Known for its rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic and military styling, Balmain is – and has for a very long time been – one of the hottest brands in fashion. The label has been doing things on its own terms since 1946 and has earned admiration from some of the most iconic names in entertainment in the process.
In recent years, the Parisian fashion house has been closely associated with the big logo trend, blowing up its instantly recognisable typeface and putting it to premium hoodies, T-shirts and much more.
It may be best known for keeping your plums housed to the highest-standard, but American label Calvin Klein is good for many more things besides top-notch underwear. With Belgian tastemaker Raf Simons at the helm as chief creative officer, the beloved brand is moving in a bold new direction but the classic designer T-shirts have remained pretty much unchanged.
It’s the go-to for sleek branding, quality fabrics and nineties nostalgia.
Encapsulating everything there is to love about Parisian style, A.P.C. has been serving as an impeccable example of the city’s fuss-free credentials for more than 30 years. Famed for its premium quality wardrobe staples, the brand has become the go-to for clued-up consumers who don’t feel the need to go overboard with their outfits.
This is the stripped-back, simplistic style that the French do better than almost anyone.
At almost 100 years old, Spanish label Balenciaga is one of the most esteemed names in high fashion, something which is evident in its ability to consistently remain one step ahead of the curve. In recent years, the brand has dominated street style galleries and runways with its Demna Gvasalia-designed chunky trainers and logo-laden T-shirts, thereby cementing itself as the hottest trailblazing brand in the world.
Shop here for cutting-edge styles, tongue-in-cheek graphics and bold branding. Just don’t expect it to come cheap.
Founded by Japanese designer Kenzo Takada, French fashion house Kenzo is known for its jungle-inspired designs, use of vibrant colours, striking patterns and ostentatious branding.
Logo sweats and tees have become something of a calling card for the brand’s ready-to-wear range, making it the perfect place to pick up a statement T-shirt that gets you noticed for all the right reasons.
Fashion designer and street style favourite Alexandre Mattiusi set up AMI with the goal of dressing real men in real clothes, as opposed to creating pieces solely for the runway. Today the French label does just that, providing a reliable source of easy-to-wear classics and timeless styles at prices that aren’t completely unrealistic.
Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that Vetements is doing something right. The boundary-pushing design collective has been at the forefront of fashion for several years and that’s something that doesn’t look set to change anytime in the near future.
The label’s T-shirts have seen Vetements hit headlines across the globe – most notably when it sent Gosha Rubchinskiy down the runway in a DHL top – but if you want a slice of the action, you should probably ring your bank and warn them first, because this level of crazy doesn’t come cheap.
Founded in 1978, Versace may not have been in the game for as long as some of its contemporaries but in a relatively short space of time it has managed to establish itself as one of the leading names in the game and a force to be reckoned with.
Well known for its signature Italian opulence, Versace is no stranger to a big logo or two. Expect heavy branding, next-level quality and plenty of compliments from fellow T-shirt lovers.
Founded in California during the 1970s, Patagonia has forged a reputation as one of the best outdoor performance apparel brands there is. It’s also one of the coolest, meaning you’re just as likely to see it rocked by fashion-savvy city types as you are hardened explorers.
Plus, with a focus on sustainability and keeping things green, you can feel good about wearing one of its iconic P-6 logo T-shirts. This is clothing with a conscience.
Consider the nineties resurgence and it’s hardly shocking that Tommy Hilfiger’s iconic flag logo is flying high once again. Tommy was a staple fashion fixture two decades ago and with a little help from the vintage resellers of the social media generation, is now leading the charge once again.
Expect block colours, bold fonts and nineties styling. Plus extremely reasonable price points mean that adding some Hilfiger to your rotation won’t leave you bankrupt.
Virgil Abloh is one of the most influential men in fashion and a lot of that is down to the success of his label, Off-White. The recently appointed Louis Vuitton creative director started his brand out in Milan in 2012 and it has since gone on to produce some of the most hyped-up items around, playing a key role in high fashion’s adoption of streetwear. Its T-shirts let you splash that white-hot branding about as cheaply as it comes. Which is not to say they’re anything other than nosebleed expensive.
Preppy, all American label Ralph Lauren is without a doubt one of the most recognisable fashion brands on the planet. With a product range incorporating everything from sportswear to tailoring it’s no wonder RL has such a diverse following. However, the item for which the NY-based imprint is best known is a simple, collared polo shirt.
Your wardrobe is bound to have one or two, so they might as well come from the label that popularised them in the first place.