You’ve almost certainly got one. If you’re smart, you’ll have about five on a perpetual rotation in your wardrobe. But what are the best ways to wear a white T-shirt?
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. That range brings with it, however, a wide margin for error, too – misjudge the fit or what your wear it with and you look less Marlon Brando, more off-duty David Brent.
To decode this seemingly blank slate, we’ve spoken to industry insiders for ways to wear the white tee, wherever you’re heading.
Open Shirt + White Tee + Dark Jeans
Layering is an art. And the white tee should be the canvas, says Laurent Coulier, head of menswear 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 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. This could just as easily be a black T-shirt, but white is classic.
“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. Finish off with a pair of black trousers and add 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. That will make your tee the focal point.
White Tee + 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. But you can wear a pair of smart white trainers such as Adidas Stan Smith.
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 + Chore Jacket
A must have jacket for all year round, the chore coat is a wardrobe essential, and natural pairs perfectly with a simple white tee underneath.
Opt for a light coloured jacket so the contrast up top isn’t too severe, and wear with darker trousers or jeans for a balanced look. Leave the jacket unbuttoned so allow the white to pop underneath and keep the T-shirt untucked for louche, off-duty style.
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 + Hoodie + Trainers
For more of a streetwear inspired get up, a hoodie, tee, jogger and chunky trainer look is the way to go. Keep things tonal with both navy up top and below, and match the socks with the T-shirt for a synchronised feel.
You could go for a pattern or logo hoodie showing allegiance to your chosen brand or sports team, or opt for a more pared back look that’s perfect for lounging around or heading to the gym.