The T-shirt under a shirt (and tailoring)
A couple of weeks ago, we looked at a relatively casual outfit - and how elements such as a baseball cap or bright knitwear could make classic menswear less formal, with some Ivy influences.
Today I’d like to talk about one element that I find just as interesting, and will probably provoke as many strong feelings as the cap. A white T-shirt under a shirt.
The fact this is controversial will seem ridiculous to many. There are few things more ubiquitous and ordinary than a white T-shirt.
But in classic menswear we are taught to avoid showing them, and with good reason.
First, it’s redolent of underwear when worn under a shirt. It’s a long time since the tee was just underwear, but there is still that suggestion, particularly in white.
Second, the material and lack of collar mean that a T-shirt nearly always looks more casual than a dress shirt. It lacks shape and structure.
If you’re wearing a shirt open-necked, it looks noticeably more casual if a T-shirt (or indeed a vest) is visible underneath. The same goes for knitwear, like a polo-collared sweater: compare my charcoal one here with a tee under, and then the Dartmoor here without one.
So if your goal is tailored elegance, a T-shirt is generally a bad idea. (If you do wear one, it would be better as something fully fashioned like knitwear.)
However, if the aim is to dress down tailoring, then I find a T-shirt rather effective.
The outfit pictured is already rather casual, given it involves a chambray shirt and a tweed jacket. But it is certainly made more casual by the tell-tale scoop of white tee.
And that effect would be more marked if the shirt or jacket were smarter - say a striped oxford shirt and a navy jacket.
I often wear a white T-shirt like this (only white) under my blue or blue/cream striped oxford shirts, and it feels relaxed and casual. Perhaps even a little vintage - redolent of the days when a T-shirt was just underwear.
I also find having a T-shirt under that oxford shirt makes it easier to wear tailoring with jeans.
In the pictures I’m wearing it with grey flannels and bespoke loafers - pretty smart. But if you wanted to wear jeans and slimline trainers then this would help that transition.
I’m aware that in the US, it is much more common to wear a T-shirt under a dress shirt (apparently for sweat-related reasons). But that often looks sloppy because the the shirt and other things it’s worn with are smart: there’s too much of a mismatch.
On the way into work today I saw a man wearing a shirt, open at the neck, with a T-shirt underneath. But the shirt was too smart. It looked as though he’d just taken his tie off. (He was also wearing blue jeans with black oxford shoes, which should have been a clue.)
This all makes a T-shirt a great piece to take travelling. Because it can dress down that oxford shirt, in the same way a navy knitted tie (also something I always take away) can dress it up.
This outfit and the recent one with white jeans and suede loafers were shot while I was in Paris for a week, earlier in the year. The tee and those two pieces were surprisingly versatile - one thing that spurred the two articles.
(In extremis, a T-shirt can also double the life of a shirt when travelling - you can wear the shirt once with the tee, once without.)
Real undershirts or vests are harder.
I love my Lee Kung Man undershirt from Bryceland’s (pictured here) - for its incredible functionality if nothing else. But it is more unusual, and more of a vintage look.
The same goes for vests - they can look nice and masculine, peeking out of an unbuttoned shirt. But they also have myriad associations, from old man to the wife beater, and flatter very few men worn on their own.
I do like unbuttoning one more button than usual with a T-shirt, though, as eagle-eyed readers might notice. There seems to be a fashion for unbuttoning almost to the navel, with or without a T-shirt. But I prefer smaller, subtler touches.
Other pieces shown are:
- Gun-club check tweed jacket, in vintage cloth from Sartoria Ciardi
- Chambray shirt from 100 Hands (prototype for an upcoming collaboration)
- Flannel trousers, in 13/14oz Fox, made by Whitcomb & Shaftesbury
- ‘Crompton’ loafer from Gaziano & Girling in hatchgrain leather
- PS Watch Cap (restocked last week)
- Nubuck tote from Frank Clegg (also an upcoming collaboration)
- ‘Extinction Rebellion’ pin. A personal show of support for something I believe in. Given how it went last time, I’d suggest we don’t get into a discussion of climate change!
Photography: Alex Natt
I find a very high v neck looks better; I’ve been wearing that look for years.
Also seems at odds with your comment on t shirts in your Madras post, where you say you seldom wear them under a shirt.
Thanks – I don’t usually wear them, this is an exception. It’s style, not function. For those in the US that wear them all the time under dress shirts, it’s the opposite, function not style.
You say in this piece that you often wear them. And in your reply above you say you don’t usually wear them and that this is an exception.
Which is right? I need to heed your advice on this please.
It’s just a question of interpreting ‘often’ and ‘usual’.
I find at the moment that I wear a look like this maybe once a week. I count that as often.
But it still means most of the time I don’t wear it. And particularly given my specific comparison – US friends who wear it every time under a dress shirt.
Your dichotomy function versus style can mate and create hybrids, look at the photograph James Bartley on his website Cosmic Switchboard. He’s a Californian who was employed for awhile by US military. Is his “T-shirt” function or style or both? Function may be for some to absorb sweat, for others comfort.
What brand of t-shirt are you wearing here?
See comment above – Hamilton & Hare seamless
Interesting that this is maybe one of the few times you are wearing close to truly tan shoes. Matches the jacket and the informality.
Thanks, though I would have described these as more a mid-brown? They’re not that pale or orange-y.
It is interesting, though, as I think the white T-shirt helps in wearing paler shoes – in line with this post that argued shoes things in the top half make a big difference there.
Also I find that wearing T-shirt will protect the shirt from underarm sweat and you can wear it a day longer.
Where do you go for your white tees Simon?
The best at the moment I’ve found is the tubular tee from Hamilton & Hare. It fits close to the body (I wear a small, which is closer still) but that’s what you need when wearing it under a shirt. It’s also stretchy, fairly long, and the lack of side seams makes it more comfortable.
For tees not being worn under shirts, I tend to prefer heavier weight ones, like from The Real McCoy’s, The Flat Head and others
Sadly The Flat Head have gone bust, so get their tees whilst you still can.
I was told they got bought out, and were a going concern again?
You’re right; looks like they’re going back into production.
Back on topic, I like the white t-shirt under the chambray shirt. I think the neckline of the t-shirt needs to be very thin for this look to work. The UES t-shirts I wear have quite a thick neck that would be too bulk for this to work.
Do you have any experience of Merz B Schwanen t shirts?
Yes, most of the thicker T-shirts, like UES, and mine from Flat Head, Real McCoys etc, aren’t much good for this.
I do like the Merz T-shirts actually, and recently tried them – Rivet & Hide have some here in London. The only thing I wasn’t sure about with them was the neckline, which is quite low, but that would be perfect under a shirt
I think you’re right that this article will stir up debate, but I would argue that’s one of the beauties of PS! I personally don’t like the look. When getting dressed I always think to myself, would this be good for work and then a social event on a weekday or museum/cinema and then dinner party on a weekend (as I hate having to change outfits during the day, unless it’s a prescribed dress code) and I just don’t see this outfit working in any work environment. It’s trying to say different things and ends up mumbling. That being said I do agree that a t-shirt under a shirt may have its use. It’s helpful with sweat, cold climates and can indeed double the life of a shirt during a trip. However, I think it should remain invisible, so either wear it with a tie or buy a v-neck. On a side note, McKinsey have done some interesting work on brands like Nike taking political stances, and they found that often, even if people broadly agree with the message, all they want from Nike is to sell then their trainers.
PS. Gutted about the pop-up and best wishes to you and the brands in these challenging times!
Thanks Nick, much appreciated.
Yes I agree that this look wouldn’t fit all those situations. It is a little more niche in that respect.
I think it would be particularly useful for someone that is in a more dress-down office, though, and wants to wear tailoring.
I like the look – and your point on dress down offices is spot on. I work in a FTSE 100 company in London, in theory very corporate environment, where it is exceedingly difficult to wear tailoring without standing out. Speaking as somebody fairly early on in my journey in tailored style, these looks can help men transition up gently. Going from t shirt/jeans to navy blazer/grey flannels can feel a big jump for us working in millennial spaces – but the looks Simon spotlights here are a good starting point in that process.
No Simon, stop it!
Whilst I have great respect for your knowledge, expertise, general taste and charm, I cannot but feel that this inclusion of white t shirts and baseball caps is part of an all too slippery slope.
It seems, to me at least, to be the sartorial equivalent of putting baked beans on a pizza, both wonderfull on their own but an abomination when combined.
Ha! I love the analogy Darryl.
Be assured, as mentioned before, this is not a slip in any one direction, but rather a broadening. I still wear very sharp tailoring, achingly beautiful shoes, and a perfectly arched silk tie. But I wear this as well, and want to cover it all.
I would have thought pineapple on a pizza a better analogy – there are those that love it, and then there are those right thinking people who believe it has no place in modern society.
I’d be interested to learn a little more as to why you think the undershirt would be more unusual/noticeable than this? I would have thought it a more subtle take on this approach, unsurprisingly perhaps because I tend to wear one similar to the Lee Kung undershirt in your Brycelands piece, albeit only with chambray/denim shirts that I own and typically not with a jacket over it. Perhaps it becomes too redolent of the lumberjack when worn this way.
Yes I think that’s it. There are just fewer people that wear an undershirt like that rather than a T-shirt. So it’s more unusual, and more susceptible to being associated with old situations or professions, like a lumberjack.
The advantage of it is that it does tend to be more hidden, though.
“…the sartorial equivalent of putting baked beans on a pizza…”
“I would have thought pineapple on a pizza a better analogy – there are those that love it, and then there are those right thinking people who believe it has no place in modern society.”
Thank you Darryl and Anonymous for a much needed chuckle this morning!
Apologies for posting twice, but realised this was a good place for a question I have. I have a db tobacco linen anglo suit and I was wondering whether you think that would work with something like the linen/silk t-shirt Drake’s are doing this season? Ie t-shirt and tailoring, with no shirt.
Personally, no I don’t think this generally looks good Nick. It’s the kind of thing that looks great in a shop window, but suits few men in reality.
However, I have also found it’s very dependent on body shape. Much more on that, than on style.
If you’re a well built guy, with strong shoulders, then this can work. But if you’re anything else (as I am), then it makes your neck look rather exposed and you look rather scrawny.
Most guys are much more flattered by a collared shirt than a T-shirt (often most noticeable when you look at them in profile) – and it’s something that is obvious too when you look at guys wearing crewneck sweaters on their own.
Very true about a collared shirt flattering most men more so than a crew neck collar. Wearing a t-shirt by itself really makes a lot of men look scrawny which is not a good look. For that to work well the man definitely needs to be in good shape with good muscle tone and strong shoulders.
Maybe a polo shirt would be better.
The T-Shirt under tailoring, when done correctly is very, very stylish in my opinion if especially if youre wearing modern enough tailoring and are youngish enough to pull it off. I say youngish because a 50/60 year old man and a 20/30 year old man, generally speaking dress/wear tailoring very differently.
For example, the gentlemen in Kilgour / Hardy Amies when those stores were still open on Savile Row carried the look off very well tall, handsome and in good shape.
How about a light grey melange t-shirt to soften the visual impact while retaining the vintage associations?
Personally, I find the grey looks a little too casual. I think white works better because it’s so clean and fresh. It’s also more flattering under a shirt or knitwear often – it provides a nice clean break between clothes and face. Something Audie brought up in our recent video with her
Excellent article Simon. I have bought some lovely UK made undershirts from a small company called Robert Owen. I prefer the deep V-neck so you can wear it unnoticed .
Thanks Mike. That’s obviously a different reason for wearing them than the one I’m discussing here, and not one I do, but nice to have the recommendation for those that do like them as an extra layer
I’ve been lucky enough to meet Paul Smith a few times. He’s a big fan of this look to dress down tailoring. That’s good enough for me.
Thought provoking and challenging the traditions but in a tasteful way. Another great post Simon
Does your carbon footprint due to vast # of clothes bought clash with extinction rebellion pin? Or do you justify that best quality has longer life etc?
It’s always on my mind, and I have done some work to work out the carbon footprint of what I do. The biggest issue is actually flying, particularly anything long distance. I was planning a trip to Australia for work this year, but looking at that analysis made me reconsider.
How has this aged haha, buying less I hope?
I’ve certainly been buying less recently, but I’ve also been giving away and selling off a lot of clothing (see sales on Marrkt.com). It’s been so nice seeing all the readers that have picked up my pieces and enjoying them all over again.
I’m interested in how you reconcile your support for Extinction Rebellion with the operation of this site? You promote Trunk Shows, including the Pop Up shops, which encourages travel by the artisan and/or the customer, possibly frequently by air. You travel to Europe and further afield to purchase clothes, attend trade shows and hold symposia. Whilst you support local craftsmen, you also encourage the purchase of clothes on an international basis, with the resulting carbon footprint.
How does this help reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025? (https://rebellion.earth/the-truth/demands/)
I just replied to one comment on this above. There are a few different questions there – one being how sustainable menswear is, which is something we’ve looked at in previous posts. In general, the answer is it’s pretty good, given things are made to order, use few plastics, and last a long time. Certainly it’s a small issue compared to womenswear, or cheap clothing in general. But the volume of purchasing is always the biggest issue.
Then there’s PS as a business, which as I mention in that comment above, I have been looking at. Flying is the biggest issue, as you say. I have been making bigger efforts to give away and re-sell clothing to cut down on waste as well.
Then last there is the personal side of it. We do OK there, given as a family we don’t own a car, have invested in efficient heating, and do small things like cut down a lot on single-use plastics. But there’s still more we could do.
As an American I hadn’t heard of ER until this post of yours. Interesting proposals they’ve got. Makes you wonder if we’d be better of living like we did 150 years ago… limited travel, no air conditioning, little electronics to speak of, few advancements in medicine, higher dependance on local seasonal food production (with increased susceptibility to famines). So much of what we enjoy now the use of fossil fuels gave us. But of course human greed has let to the exploitation of so much with energy having become so plentiful. The question then is, is the entire world willing to live like it’s 1870 again? While ERs end goals are admirable, if the whole world tried to achieve them I’d venture there would be more human suffering than human thriving, especially for those just trying to make do. As an engineer, nuclear seems the only solution if we want to keep some amount of modern comfort. Where I live we get almost all of our electrical power from a nuclear substation, which is nearly CO2 neutral, and keeps our electricity costs very low at 11 cents US per KWh. I can’t imagine what would happen to struggling families in my part of the world if electricity costs rose to 40 or 50 cents..
I do believe that we all must reduce frivolous wastefulness and do our part to reduce our impact. I try to buy clothes second hand when possible, ride my bicycle for local errands, and recycle all household plastics and metals.
Perhaps that’s a bit much in the way of spilled ink for a style forum on a very complicated topic, but you wore the pin and opened the door.
As you give thought to your carbon footprint, you may want to also consider your influence on your readership. Since reading PS, I for one am making greater efforts to buy fewer, but higher quality clothes in sustainable materials that I expect will last longer. It is far from perfect, as at times, the items mst travel further. However,I do like to think that it is making a small difference.
That’s lovely to hear Peter, thanks
I was kind of surprised by this article because I thought that maybe Simon was pushing way too far. But it all made sense in the 4th picture. The look is really spot on.
My problem with an undershirt is the fact that it affects the way the dress shirt drapes on the body to the point that I can almost always tell when someone is wearing an undershirt even if I can’t see its collar.
I believe the jacket make it works here because it makes this drape “problem” disappear.
Nice and unexpected article Simon! Well done!
I almost always wear a (white) vest under my shirt, mainly for “sweat reasons”, except when I wear white shirts, in which case I want to avoid the vest to appear by transparency. Showing the vest is for me a big no, which is why I used to wear crew neck vests when I was wearing a tie every day. For the same reason, I tend to favour v-necks vests now. I believe vests are great because they avoid the sweat to reach the shirt, which is a disgrace (especially when the shirt is not white), they bring some warmth in winter and avoid yellowish marks to appear in the underarms of the shirt. But in my opinion, they should never ever be shown…
Hi Simon, nice post. I’m not a fan of the look, but then also I don’t feel a particular need to dress down tailoring in this way.
I feel a casual shirting (e.g., denim, chambray or slubby linen), a coarser trouser (e.g., Stoffa cotton basketweave), and suede or textured-leather rounder footwear do the dressing-down job fine for my purposes. That said, I genuinely appreciate you broadening your scope.
A side question: when do you expect to launch the Clegg collaboration? Thanks.
It should be May I think – some delays with the leather.
I really like PS, it is insightful and provides new ideas on styling, design and exposure for a great range of artisans. I do however think that wearing an extinction rebellion badge and then asking not to open a debate, beggars the question why wear it?
Whilst I fundamentally disagree with the methods employed by ER, including their disruption to many hard working people (is it not better to stand for political office and help develop new technologies, rather than promote simplistic untenable policies) , I do respect your right to wear it, but you do need then to respect people’s right of reply.
Please take this in the spirit of free speech that it’s meant and as always best wishes, especially in these challenging times.
I can definitely see that, yes. I guess the badge is something I wear anyway, rather than specifically wore to show on this shoot. But perhaps there’s no dividing line anymore.
And yes you’re right, I don’t want to close off discussion about it. I find it really interesting (for example, I am one of those hard-working people that are very inconvenienced by the protests, but I welcome them even more, because personally I feel that only nonviolent protest is effective at spurring really strong policy response).
However, the responses we had last time were rather aggressive and more venting than anything else. It didn’t suggest a discussion would be that fruitful.
I guess, also, not everyone wants to read that kind of discussion on a style site. Though that circles back to me not wearing the pin perhaps.
I was definitely on board when you suggested to wear a baseball cap with casual clothing, but I really think that a T-shirt should only be worn either in bed, or under knitwear. If I wanted to dress down a sport coat/shirt combo, I’d simply wear the top 3 buttons unfastened (as you‘ve done in the photographs above, but without the T-shirt), or replace the shirt with a polo that has a proper cutaway shirt collar (I really like the ones from Drumohr).
I really like that chambray shirt and wearing a white tee under it is interesting. I’m not saying I like it, but I don’t hate it either. However, I wouldn’t wear it with flannel or any type of sharp trousers, only jeans, chinos, or moleskin. The type of jacket I would wear would be a Harrington or a suede bomber rather than a tailored one.
Nicely put. Thanks VSF
Will you have the chambray cloth available in just the fabric? I’d like that to take to the tailor. Thanks!
Yes, just the fabric for the moment
As a young engineer working in the southeast US, I often wear a crew neck white t shirt underneath a button down dress shirt as I like to be slightly more dressed up than what’s average for my workplace, and doing so helps to give a more casual look as you’ve shown. I also often go into manufacturing sites and having the white crew underneath gives a “I could take my shirt off and get my hands dirty if needed” look, which when working with hourly maintenance workers helps give me credibility. It’s definitely a workman’s look in my area and pretty common I would say.
Interesting, always useful hearing personal experiences from different places and industries.
I was surprised to see the political pin on your lapel. A case of elegance extinction. And isn’t it a little bit rude to bother everyone you encounter with your personal politics? Even today most people choose to dress message free and I am certainly grateful for it. Just my opinion, and if there were a pin for it I wouldn’t wear it (even on my pyjama).
Thanks Martin. Personally I don’t think most people I know talk enough about their political principles, if they have any. Certainly compared to friends in France or Germany, for example. And I think political debate in the UK is the poorer for it.
Simon, I was very disappointed to ascertain how academic careerists from Kentucky and New England, even those who have tenure, try to avoid political questions. Secret ballot is ascribed to Enlightenment, but secret societies was theme of JFK’s last speech. These “cultural lights” are careerists and cowards, and the heroes of honesty, the whistleblowers, overcome hypnosis. Wearing a pin is the start and can take guts.
Martin, isn’t it rude and authoritarian for you to try to intimidate somebody else who unlike you has the guts to express what he thinks about human society? You would fit in wonderful in any dictatorship. By the way, surely Simon would agree to Goethe’s answer to the question in his Märchen: Was ist erquicklicher als das Licht?
Very interesting what that pin stands for.
Marcus, as with many others what you’ve done is taken an extreme example from a very loose organisation of people, and tarred everyone with the same brush. Unsurprisingly, it’s also what The Sun does, as it makes better headlines
I appreciate that you published my comment and answered. We agree that we disagree. Enough with politics.
I get a lot of inspiration from PS concerning style and tailoring. And that is why I follow! Thank’s for your effort!
Oh good, always nice that politics doesn’t have to spoil everything!
This comment will not be popular, and it’s rather painful to write, but I feel the need to say that I am appalled to see you sporting an Extinction Rebellion badge. After years of studying and writing about this issue I count myself a sceptic, but I fully accept that I may be wrong, and that everyone is entitled to their views on this issue, and to protest in a peaceful way.
But ER are an organization that planned a drone attack on Heathrow airport which could have endangered the lives of thousands of people. How does bringing down airliners (not the intention I know, but it could have happened) help with the supposed climate crisis? They have also admitted to telling blatant lies (‘alarmist language is effective’ – Zion Lights ER representative) frightening people and traumatizing children in the process. They have blocked roads to hospitals and stopped ordinary working people getting to their jobs, thus jeopardising their employment (not everyone can choose their hours or work from home). They have caused criminal damage to private property, and even environmental damage (Trinity college lawn) in one of their stupider stunts. I suspect they are also converting very few people, just hardening the attitudes of the unconvinced. So their tactics are self-defeating.
You seem like a decent, principled person so I can only assume you either don’t know this; or haven’t really thought through what it is you are supporting.
Thanks Phil. I am aware of these points. One of the problems of ER is that it is not a centrally controlled organisation. It is a movement, and many things are done in its name that most people who follow it would not support.
I’ve really enjoyed this article and the previous baseball cap one Simon. Recently, since the article about the average PS salary and the dressing for a budget article (along with some strong comments), I wondered if I was perhaps not the write audience for this site. I’ve loved much of your writing but as a young professional at the start of a career earning £36000 and wearing the same jeans 4 days a week I was beginning to wonder if I was some how out of touch. I’ve found these recent articles reminded me of the best parts of this site, your calm and wide range in clothing, without judgement. Thanks for sharing this and I, for one, am enjoying this broadening into slightly more casual styles, I find it very relatable.
Nice to hear, thank you Daniel
What date do you think in April will the chambray be available? Any idea when white oxford, pink, and stripes will return?
Also for a first denim shirt, would you recommend the light or everyday denim for someone living in Los Angeles? Thanks
I’m afraid it’s a little up in the air, as it’s dependent on Italian production for the oxfords, and Japan/India for the chambray. But currently, the oxfords should be available in late April, and the chambray in early April. We’re still currently on track for that.
Oh hell no! Even as an American I find this to be a terrible look. V-neck t-shirts are the only way to go for casual wear and tailoring. I’m currently working from home with a deep v-neck under a brushed flannel shirt and selvedge jeans. Showing your undershirt is bad taste. Maybe, just maybe, a henley under a flannel while camping or hiking. Otherwise great outfit.
Great post, Simon.
And, do keep wearing that pin.
1. The terminological aspect: T-shirt and Undershirt. But I do not mean terminology, because clothes are worn by everybody, and everybody speaks colloquial language. Colloquial language varies according to region and generation (age). If everybody uses the words “T-shirt” and “undershirt” or only one, what is important is what they mean.
2. Geography varies. Obviously temperature in a huge country like US means clotheswear varies. Who wants to wear a T-shirt under a shirt where normal life requires air conditioning? So wearing a T-shirt under a shirt depends on weather.
3. History – look at the Surgeon General and his USMC MD colleague wearing T-shirts under their military shirts, standing next to President Trump on the stage to make TV announcements. Consider the influence of WW2 military uniform on civilian life and generations afterwards.
4. If male children begin at an early age to wear T-shirts under their shirts every day where the climate fits, imagine how these children might feel just wearing a shirt without T-shirt?
5. Now you can ask why WHITE? What factors contributed to this particular color?
6. Please bear in mind the possibility that T-shirts are worn underneath shirts when the shirt wearer wear a tie, and even a jacket, so you might not notice the person is also wearing a T-shirt. Of course “wife-beater” contour underneath a shirt worn with tie might be easier identified.
As an undergraduate in the late 1980s, I usually sported a white tee under my shirts. Back then, I thought it had a retro 1950s jazz/beat feel. As a result, however, it now has for me a retro late-1980s feel — which isn’t quite the same thing.
Thanks, that’s really interesting – given I’m a decade younger, and without those associations. I wonder whether these cultural associations will ever be as strong again, given how international communication is.
Wearing a crew neck t-shirt under an open-necked shirt has always looked slovenly to me. I understand that you’re trying to make a case that it dresses down a look, Simon, but I don’t find your argument persuasive. It always has looked slovenly to me and, to me, it always will.
Thanks Andrew, view and input appreciated
Ehhh, it’s ok I guess, but the middle layer seems to confuse things in my view, neither here nor there. (Maybe a forest green Oxford would be a little more harmonious?). A lot of discordant connotations come to mind with these fabrics — rocker, cowboy, English country gentlemen. Then again, maybe you’re just heading off to soirée with Mick Jagger and Ralph Lauren (where Prince Andrew has been disinvited, of course) . 🙂
A quality off-white (possibly textured) tee, or an all-over printed tee without that middle layer seems the more usual modern way that smart-casual line. Or a camp collar shirt — I think we’ve yet to see you in one under a jacket!
Thanks. I have yet to find a camp-collar shirt that really works under a tailored jacket – unless you’re going to wear the collar over the top, which always seems a little flash to me.
Historically the camp collar over the top does look a little flash, but I think in the current environment (filled with so many other much flashier /colourful things) it just looks a bit fresh and playful, if one skips the gold chain and the hair isn’t greased back. 🙂 I’m sure you’re the right person to expose a way of wearing it with subtle elegance.
Although I’m not at all a flashy Gucci-enamoured dresser, I like the camp collar because it seems to suit my body type, while not being overly formal. I have strong shoulders/collarbone, and my neck is not particularly long. (For the same reason, mock-necks, high collars, and turtlenecks tend to be cumbersome.) So, I’d say your main challenge to making the camp collar work is more that long neck than anything stylistic.
Thanks K, good point
I have been wearing V neck t shirts under my dress shirts for years as I feel it extends the life of my shirts considerably. Normally I go for Uniqlo Pima cotton ones they are long enough in the body and thin enough to not show under tailoring.
I decided to try this today. Under a PS Striped Oxford button down with the mandatory selvedges it looks rather good – a bit of updated retro (!) given a slim fitting shirt. Definitely different from the heady days of the 90s, wearing one with baggy blue RL Oxfords and loose chinos dreaming we had a beach house and a J class yacht.
Can’t say I get what the fuss is all about.
Best wishes to all. N
I prefer deeper V-neck undershirts with one button open on my shirt so the undershirt does not show. If I am looking to make a style point, I agree that a light knit layering piece works.
In the US, Ex-Officio makes nice fitting undershirts and briefs. Not sure if they are as available in the UK.
On the shirt, specifically the right side of the chest. Is the fit a little off / what causes that lack of smoothness (armhole too high)?
There might be a little pulling given the shirt wasn’t cut necessarily for a T-shirt underneath. But at the same time, it’s even harder to tell anything useful on fit from seeing a shirt like this, than a suit
Hi Simon. Yes I like it. This high low dressing thing, that’s how you call it right?… Is something I look for all the time. This is an extra option to make things a bit cooler or more casual. Great. Funny seeing this post now.. A few days ago I was watching the movie: Richard says good bye and I saw pretty much the same sort of thing and I thought that was inspiring. Now how about wearing a shirt on top of a roll neck sweater? I like that look too. Very seventies. Maby it’s something you already wear.. Cheers!
Yes, a roll neck under a shirt is a little more unusual, and so not something I’ve naturally taken to. I think it needs a particularly thin roll neck and a thicker shirt (like a western denim shirt) for it not to look odd – particularly when the jacket is removed, if it is.
I tend to prefer thin roll necks under things like shawl collar cardigans, for that kind of look
I believe as soon as you put on a suit jacket/blazer, you must drop the visible T. Bomber jackets, etc., are of course exempt.
This can be solved by using “V – neck” t – shirts.
George Clooney is considered a fashion icon, as is Tom Ford. They frequently are photographed in suits/jackets, without a tie, and no T – shirt visible. I am not sure if they use v – necks or simply go without an undershirt, but I do believe they set an admirable standard, and a visible “t” combined with an open collar dress shirt under a jacket is not something they wear.
Thanks for this post (and some of the thoughtful responses above) – the entire chambray (vs. more formal) shirt concept is something I have not quite worked out yet, but this reminded me of how it could look good. And it’s a welcome pleasant distraction right now.
Also – for what it’s worth, I’m impressed with both your willingness to wear the ER badge and your calm and considered responses above.
Regarding your personal footprint, I think there is a rational argument in favour of allowing ‘influencers’ (loathesome term, but accurate in terms of action/consequence) some leeway in travel emissions if their influence leads to a net reduction of emissions by virtue of their audience buying less but higher quality and more sustainable long lived products.
Thanks Peter, and I think you’re right on the last point. It’s just a shame it’s so hard to track that impact – it would help a lot with the reactions celebrities get from flying in to attend protests as well.
Please- wear a cravat, have a higher buttoning shirt in lieu of a tie. Anything but your underwear showing.
I’ve been frequenting your site for years and have found your articles to be very useful. I think it is THE best site for menswear on the web right now and I’ve used your guides for a lot of what I buy (although I can only afford much cheaper alternatives).
That being said, I have to say I completely disagree with you on this point. Showing a T-shirt underneath your shirt looks sloppy to me. I wear a white undershirt under my dress shirts everyday without a tie but always v-neck or the pullover types with buttons.
With just the Chambray shirt and trousers, I guess it looks okay because of the more casual look. It sends kind of a utilitarian image, if that makes sense.
But doing it with a beautifully tailored jacket and dress shoes looks off to me. Like going out of your way to draw attention with your clothes (affected is a word that comes to mind). I feel like it is unlike the looks that you normally promote (which I would describe as understated but elegant). It also feels weird to me that you’re wearing a tweed jacket with the collars up (because it’s cold?) but have your shirt open (it’s hot?).
Please don’t take this as a personal attack but just my 2 cents.
Cheers, and absolutely, I see that view entirely. A look like this is put forward as an exception, and as a result is going to be disliked by many because it goes against the perfectly valid reasons mentioned above.
It’s interesting you say you’ve been reading the site for years – I wonder, do you think there’s a risk that having written about all the established ways to dress elegantly, and explained and illustrated them, that too many articles only look at the exceptions to them, as here?
Do you think I need to find new ways to restate those fundamental tenets, from which these are interesting exceptions?
Now that you mention it, I guess I can see that. I guess someone who only looks at permanent style recently would only look at the “exceptions” posts. Which can bring them to the wrong conclusion that the exceptions are what you are generally advocating.
So yeah, a restatement of the fundamentals would be useful although I’m not sure how to do that without repeating yourself. Maybe something as simple as linking the old articles on a post about the “exceptions”?
Yes, I think that might be best. We do have the ‘Essentials‘ collection in the Style category – perhaps an expansion of that?
A question: I always wear a white t-shirt under formal shirt for work (with tie, t-shirt not visible). However, in summer I like to keep the top buttons open but in order to avoid sweat stains under arm pits, I like to wear a t-shirt with a deep neck. I haven’t found many and am still not 100 % happy with the deep neck t-shirts I have and was wondering whether you know of any good brand or have an alternative to combat this issue? Thank you!
I’m afraid I don’t James, no. In Europe, pretty much no one wears a T-shirt like this. They just wear normal shirts all year round, and I guess either sweat less, put up with the sweat, and/or take good care of the shirts so they’re not damaged in the long run.
There are lots of US companies that offer some kind of deep V, thin, skin-coloured solutions here, but they all look a little odd from this side of the Atlantic
“In Europe, pretty much no one wears a T-shirt like this”.
I beg to differ.
They are easily available at Calvin Klein, Sunspell and Hanes to name but three.
Sure, though I didn’t say you couldn’t buy them?
Certainly in the places I’ve worked, mostly in and around the City, it was rare to see men wearing T-shirts under dress shirts, unless they were American.
In New York, though, everyone did.
I think his question was not to do with how routinely they are worn, but more about if you had any suggestions as to sources for them here, as he was having trouble obtaining them. Hence my comment.
BTW, it is standard practice to wear an undershirt is humid climates, as it stops the shirts from becoming damp and therefore creasing.
Ah, yes OK thanks
HI Simon, I see many men wearing black tee shirts under their dress shirts. Is this ok?
It’s hard to say without seeing them, but I doubt that looks good. Perhaps it’s just done out of practicality, as it might show sweat and dirt less than a white one?
How about black tees or under shirts? Seem to be gaining in popularity
Not something I can see working well Sankar. Unless under a rather dark shirt.
When I have seen them worn, it is often dress shirts but with the aim of showing sweat and dirt less easily. Rather than style.
Sloan Bella, the Canadian psychic who lives in LA, on her live You Tube show yesterday described Taurus Rising in regard to T-shirts perfectly – that’s a big motive why Americans who grow up wearing T-shirts as undershirts keep the habit: they don’t like the feel of the texture of the shirt. They want the feel of the T-shirt on their skin. (Taurus rising natives are supersensitive to texture feel.)
PS: the colour of the T-shirt is another question.
I believe a formal count may be required, but I detect a clear poster trend against a visible crew neck ‘T’ under a shirt – especially when combined with a jacket…
And even some of those that admit they do it are sounding regrets at perpetuating a retro ‘80’s look that itself was a 50’s derivative…
I wouldn’t read too much into that ANM! Remember less than 1% of readers of a post comment…
I think the opening of the shirt is key. Opening that second button makes it all work. In the US, 90%+ of men with only their collar button open wear a crewneck white t-shirt underneath. They didn’t get the memo that a v-neck undershirt is what you need for this and so it looks lazy and somehow amateur. The v-shape that flatters us all has a nullifying stroke cut right across it – the line of the crewneck. But opening one more button says “this is deliberate, I want this to be part of the look” even though the v-shape remains compromised (I’d argue that the v-shape has dissolved quite a bit anyway, since the edges of the shirt are no longer taut even with only one more button open). And certainly opening a shirt fully, in warm weather, with a white t underneath is perfectly good. Better yet would be a Breton striped t-shirt.
All of the above deeply subjective, of course.
There seems to be quite an obsession with dressing down tailoring, as much as there is with “softness”. Some things work, some others don’t.
This one does not. It is a variant of the old Stanley Kowalsky thing.
If you feel cold wear a sleeveless cardigan under the jacket or an invisible v-neck undershirt.
If you have an issue with sweat use deodorant generously. And launder as needed.
In my own humble opinion of course.
It seems like a lovely tote bag Simon. Could you give us a brief preview of the collaboration with Frank Clegg? I’m currently looking for a tote bag like that.
I’d like to keep it a little under wraps, if that’s ok. Particularly because there are a couple of things we haven’t finalised yet.
Following up on this project, would you be able to share whether the tote will happen and, if so, when do you estimate it will launch? I’m looking for one so would not like to buy another if yours is nearing completion. Thanks!
Actually we’re expecting it at the end of the month hopefully, so not long. Do email [email protected] if you would like an alert when they are available
Just to follow up on this, any update? Thank you.
Not yet, but if you emailed the Support address you’ll get an email when there is.
Is chambray a summer shirt?
Chambray is not necessarily a lightweight material for summer, but it is often woven that way.
Lots of detail, if you want it, in denim and chambray chapter of our guide to shirt cloth
Great article! I always wear a t-shirt under a shirt, mainly for the reason that i tend to sweat quite quickly, therefore the additional layer underneath helps avoiding sweat stains in the armholes of the shirt. Furthermore, my undershirts are made from a soft wool of light cream color. Being made of wool, they help reducing bad smell if you wear your clothes the whole day and don’t have the opportunity to change during the day. Being of light cream color helps the undershirts to blend in better with everything else I wear, which is a lot of blue, brown and green. It creates a more mellow contrast with these colors.
As you point out, I would also avoid showing the undershirt when wearing formal or semi-formal clothing. But since I wear mostly casual clothing, I came to find that the undershirt showing underneath the shirt or also underneath a polo can create a very subtle casual effect. At least with my light cream colored wool undershirts. I also noticed, that the collar hem of the undershirt is very important. The slimmer and more subtle this hem is, the better the undershirt will blend in underneath the shirt.
Just read all the comments after coming here from this week’s article on the navy jacket and jeans.
May I offer a perspective from Japan where I am based? I would say almost everyone wears an undershirt or ‘underwear’ as they are called over here. They are the ‘de rigueur’ and it is more or less accepted that people wear them all year round. In the winter to keep warm and the summer to cool down. In the summer, the argument is based on the ‘wicking’ or drawing the sweat away from the body, enhancing evaporation and cooling you down.
In the last 4-5 years most of the large shops and retail chains have brought out tight fitting, light beige versions made of very thin synthetic fibre or synthetic/cotton/elastase mix and with low v-neck so that it doesn’t show with the top button undone. Uniqlo were the first I think, and it might hard for those people outside of Japan to understand how influential Uniqlo are. Once they introduce an item like this it is enormously successful and the concepts behind are rarely if ever questioned. Another added recent feature is the collar and sleeves are sheared and left unhemmed. This is done so as not to create any visible lines under the shirt. Even in the 35 Celsius temperatures and 70% humidity people wear them.
On a personal note, I do wear them to help absorb and wick away the sweat. Keeping down the stains is more to do with not having aluminium in your deodorant I have heard-which is harder than you think. As from odour control, merino wool (of course) does this in the winter and linen or linen/cotton mix will do the same in the summer. I have taken to wearing a lot of both of late not only for undershirts but for my entire wardrobe and found that even socks made with some linen keep me cool, comfortable and as a result, hopefully somewhat elegant.
I have no emotional response to the T shirt – it neither dresses up or down in my opinion – it seems to carry a hint of indecision – getting dressed in an ambivalent frame of mind.
Introduce a string vest and I might have a more polarised response.
I often wear a T-shirt under a casual, solid-colored shirt, very often chambray but often corduroy or a heavy oxford cloth. However, it’s always a colored T-shirt. A while back I bought numerous Mossimo T’s in a variety of beautiful colors and they’ve aged beautifully. I know a white T is making a different sort of statement, but for me it’s a missed opportunity. Adding another color to a few or more layers is a bit (a very slight bit, I’ll admit) like the custom of layering 12 or more kimonos in Heian period (8th through 12th centuries) Japan, known as the junihitoe.
(Off-topic, but I can’t resist: During the interval at some performances at the Noh theater in Kyoto, members of the ensemble bring out stacks of perfectly folded, impossibly thin silk kimonos in the most vibrant and beautiful colors imaginable, and dress five or six members of the audience in layer upon layer of these amazing garments. The combination of colors are of the sort I had never imagined (purple and orange, for example) and they are breathtaking.)
Interesting, thanks Thomas. To be honest I find it hard to think of a colour combination like that I would like, but it would be interesting to see.
At the least, I think it would be rather more casual? And so not quite as suited to tailoring perhaps
I was wondering if you have any recommendations when it comes to undershirts that are more affordable?
I don’t really wear undershirts I’m afraid, but when I do they are from Sunspel or Bryceland’s
You should check out the HK movie back to 90s, this style is quite common appearance, what a golden age
Great article. Often it’s these little touches that mean you can wear a jacket with its benefits (elegance, structure, style), but without looking overdressed and making those around you uncomfortable.
Other things I’ve found work well for this
– shirt in casual material (Oxford or chambray)
– try the t-shirt not in white, but in a dark or quieter shade (charcoal, washed-out pale grey, cold dark brown). My skin is darker so I think this helps, whereas otherwise the contrast of the white t-shirt to my dark skin makes it pop and draw attention (almost the opposite of the intended effect)
I also really like the shirts Drakes has in this season for relaxing the tailoring – check out their dark olive or grey needle cords.
One more tip i’ve found is footwear. Boots (like a Jumper, an EG Galway) or Chukkas especially seem to work really well for lending a jacket/jeans a more relaxed air, without anyone being able to immediately point as to why
I have seen a picture from Clutch Cafe with a Jelado work shirt in white chambray worn over a t shirt. But isn’t the shirt too unbuttoned? Or if the shirt would have been tucked in could it be worn the same?
I am looking for a casual shirt to wear under a denim jacket with some fatigues. I guess a white work shirt could do the trick? Any suggestions?
Thank you Simon
This link doesn’t work for me Michael. Could you insert an image into a comment?
That’s the picture.
Thank you Michael. I think that could be worn tucked in, yes, and I would do so. But if wearing it untucked, I think that’s not a bad number of buttons to have fastened. You want to keep it loose and casual
Regarding the outfit I am trying to achieve. Considering a pair of army green fatigues, snuff suede Sanders chukka and a denim jacket, would you consider this shirt? Or what else do you recommend?
yes, that sounds nice
I’ve always thought a white henley to be a good option in such cases; a white t-shirt to me always looks like somebody doesn’t know what they’re doing, as it interrupts the neckline we usually tend to appreciate in tailoring. Although I suppose with these levels of formality, a henley would certainly look too casual.
Yes I think that’s right on both counts Tim. It can look a little too casual or deliberately vintage/old-fashioned. Rather like the Brycelands ones – which I love, but it’s a certain look.
T-shirts are a particular, more American, more Ivy look under a shirt I think, though that association isn’t that strong with some people.
I like the pin. I wonder how many of the people objecting to it would object to a poppy or a cross.
I’m afraid it’s one of those late nights of fretting over what to wear for event again, Simon.
The idea of a T-shirt under a shirt peaked my interest as a potential de-formaliser. One google search later and I find myself with another great PS article brimming me with confidence for an outfit I have in mind.
Now for some much needed sleep.