The tucked-in T-shirt

Friday, October 30th 2020
Share
||- Begin Content -||

When I was a teenager, nothing seemed more sad or old than wearing a T-shirt tucked into trousers. 

Granted, the style of the day was loose, grunge-inspired clothing, with oversized flannel shirts and baggy knitwear. But it was also a question of personal style - after all, the 90s are back now in full force, and checked flannel shirts are everywhere.  

Back then, I had no interest in elegance, no desire to appear intelligently dressed or well put-together. I just wanted to wear whatever Eddie Vedder was wearing. 

Today my aims are rather different, and the shape that comes from tucking in a T-shirt is more appealing. 

After all, it flatters the body in much the same way a collared shirt does: the waist is defined, the torso is shorter, the shoulders appear bigger proportionally.

It’s not as flattering as a fitted dress shirt, as no shape at the natural waist (usually the slimmest part of the body), and the T-shirt’s length might mean you’re more likely to get the material spilling out of the trousers. 

But it's still a more complimentary shape than an untucked tee - perhaps akin to the difference between a buttoned and unbuttoned cardigan, or a fitted overcoat and an A-line raglan. 

It also emphasises the fit of the trousers in the hips and seat - which will hopefully be flattering too. 

I think this rationale goes a long way to explaining why it would seem natural for a man of my parents’ generation to tuck in their T-shirt. After all it’s what you do with a regular shirt, and that looks good - so why would a tee be any different? 

I tested this theory with a couple of older acquaintances recently, and they broadly agreed. A couple of them also suggested that in their minds, their cultural reference was an older, military one - of the tee as underwear, and always tucked in as a result. 

That was how, of course, the T-shirt first came to prominence, being worn by the US navy in WW1, ex-soldiers after WW2, and then popularised in the 1950s by the likes of Marlo Brando and James Dean. 

Despite the naturally flattering aspects of a tucked-in T-shirt, I do think several things are needed for it to look good. 

The first and probably most important is the material. Most modern T-shirts use a lightweight cotton that just doesn’t drape well - there’s no substance to it when it hangs on the body. 

The best place for heavier weights is the Japanese brands and related offshoots. The Real McCoy’s, Nigel Cabourn, and shops (in London) such as Clutch Cafe, Son of a Stag and Rivet & Hide that stock smaller imports. 

My current favourite is Warehouse & Co, which is where the two T-shirts shown here are from (Lot 4601 model, via Clutch). I also have a couple of nice ones from the Armoury collaboration with The Real McCoy’s. 

These T-shirts use not just a heavier material, but a longer-staple cotton and circular knitting, which also give the tees softness, body and often a slubby texture.

The downside to this style is that the T-shirts are a little heavy to wear under a smart crewneck. Fine with a big sweatshirt, a shawl-collar cardigan, or a casual jacket - but not the kind of neat cashmere sweater you’re used to wearing with a smart shirt. 

So that necessitates two separate types of T-shirt for different uses, unfortunately. 

Another thing that I think makes this look much more flattering, is the fit. It shouldn’t be too tight in the body, but often is better when tight in the sleeve and collar. 

I normally wear a size Medium in T-shirts (with a 39-inch chest) but sized up with the Warehouse ones to a Large. That bigger size gives more fullness in the body, but is unlikely to look big and floaty, because it’s cinched at the waist. 

Most of the brands mentioned above use this style anyway, with a fuller body, shorter sleeve and higher collar, because they’re consciously mimicking the 1950s cut. 

In fact, while I’m pretty sure this style simply looks more flattering, part of me is unsure how much I’m influenced by those fifties images. It’s unnerving sometimes how much our ideas  are nothing more than particular cultural references. 

A couple of other, more minor points. First, don’t sweat about how much the T-shirt comes untucked. That way lies menswear madness. 

Just tuck it in, perhaps putting more fullness towards the back if you want, and leave it. At the most, raise your arms so enough comes out of the waistband to allow normal movement. And don’t worry if some comes untucked entirely - this is not fine clothing; a little untidiness is fine, even desirable. 

Second, pay particular attention to the collar: it’s the thing that’s most likely to make a T-shirt unflattering. Of course, that's the same with a collared shirt too, but there's even less to play with here. 

If you have a shorter or bigger neck, you’ll likely want a lower or more open collar; vice versa for a longer or thinner neck.

One reason I like these Warehouse ones is that the collar is quite high at the front, although ideally it would be a little higher at the back as well. 

Overall, a T-shirt is less forgiving than a collared shirt. It’s one reason we love classic menswear, after all: there is so much more potential to shape, hide and flatter. 

So there will definitely be readers who find this look doesn’t work for them. There will also be others who look better in this style than I do.

And, there will be tailored outfits that flatter me more than this. 

But as a casual style, I like it, particularly under a casual jacket like a blouson, where having a defined waist visible under an open jacket is definitely nicer. (Though perhaps not a leather jacket - that would be too affected for me). 

P.S. - Personally, I wouldn’t apply this rationale to tucked-in knitwear, despite how trendy it apparently is in menswear.

Yes, you get the same flattering shape, but knitwear just wasn’t designed to be worn like that, and it looks it. A T-shirt was. 

Other pieces pictured:

Photography, Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
96 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
tim

I won’t be tucking my T shirts in any time soon!

I’m just wondering if you (or any readers) have experience of custom T shirt makers Son of a Tailor http://www.sonofatailor.com

I’m thinking of trying them out, and am hooing for some reassuring first hand experiences.

Colin

I’ve used them Tim, although a while back. I found them useful to get round the fact that most off tge shelf t’s have baggy neck lines and too short sleeves. Quality is great in both the standard and heavyweights, with no deterioration/fading after multiple washes. Aside from the standard colour range they do more limited runs of seasonal colours, currently some nice autumnal green and brown options. The only issue I’ve found with them is that the custom sizing (using my own measurements, not their algorithm) has been a little inconsistent. I think this is partly due to the fabric not being pre-washed for shrinkage, prior to making, thus they build tolerances into your measurements for this. I’m going to try them again shortly, will comment if any change

tim

Thanks Colin. A useful review!

Robert M

I’ve tried them, yes, but my aim was mostly to get pullovers and a sweatshirt because my arms are too long for RTW. I can confirm what Colin said, but for t-shirts I still prefer Sunspel (if you like them thinner).

Simon Thomas

I’ve used them and find them excellent. I second the comment that you may need to go slightly bigger but not by much. They are also make a big push on sustainability and reducing waste. The knit ware is also really good. Thoroughly recommended.

Phil

Hi Simon,
what an interresting post. But I´d add, that the first condition for a flattering look is a flat belly. One sees it unfortunatelly rather often on guys that have a little or bigger belly and are wearing Tees, that their button belly is pressed against the cloth and this circle becomes visible. It would be even enhancend with the shirt tucked in.

CJ

Entirely biased as I’ve been doing this with my t-shirts for several years, however, I don’t think I’ve become fussy yet over the shirt composition to dictate whether I tuck or don’t tuck. Normally it’s just length as (I wear XL for my shoulders) the overall body length assumes I’m carrying a belly. But I think my confidence from wearing in this way is for the exact reason you mentioned re: military references and also because it then becomes a base layer on which one can easily add a chambray shirt, flannel etc.

Sam

Love tucked T-shirts. My favorite affordable one (haven’t tried any more high-end types) is the oversized Uniqlo U model. Quite heavy, not too long, very boxy, and with a chest pocket. Not a generic cut but that’s why I love it.

I got a brushed shetland last year from the Shetland Woollen Co. It’s quite long (72cm) and for some reason it doesn’t fold in on itself nicely, so I do end up tucking it in, although it is quite a look. In retrospect I should have returned it. Next stop: Rubato…

Anonymous

Try Asket t-shirts. Fantastic fit and quality at a great price.

Tamaki

Hi Simon,
Thanks for another lovely post. Tucking in short sleeve polo and t-shirt always give me mixed feelings, specially because it does give me strong memories on how my grandfather would do it.
A point that think is important factor for me as a pro for tucking in is the top-bottom proportion. I feel that normal t-shirts when untucked makes the torso way too long and disproportionate to the legs. I think this is one reason I quite like the aesthetic of the t-shirt from The Anthology, since it can be used untucked but keeps a shorter torso proportion. What do you think?
Cheers and wish everyone a nice weekend

Tan

Second the point on proportion. I have short legs so tucking in shirts / t-shirts are necessary for me. It is also the reason why I tuck in my knitwear.

I’d love to have a nicely proportioned look untucked but curse my genes.

Tan

Hi Simon. It’s mostly that I find most things I wear, be it a t-shirt or knitwear when untucked, is a tad longer for my personal likings of what proportions to demonstrate. Big emphasis on personal – I’m sure most people won’t comment too much on the length of most tees or knitwear I own.

As a secondary note on t-shirts, do you have any opinions on t-shirts made using the loopwheel method? I believe that the brands you have mentioned are made via circular/tubular knitting but I’m not going to claim any deep expertise on this matter.

Anonymous

My car cost £196k, the average value of one of may many watches is £7k. But £75 on a T-shirt? Nah!!

Robert M

Merz B Schwanen’s 215 range is also lovely for heavy t-shirts. I bought one to try and at 220 grams it actually is much heavier than the one you’re wearing here seem to be – and lovely in colder weather. But maybe it’s just the photos not conveying the weight of the material. Unfortunately I’m too tall to wear mine tucked in!

Anonymous

I always tuck in. The only problem I get is getting too hot.

zo

paragraph 3 – are you saying eddie vedder is not intelligently dressed!? i must disagree! you should google how PJ style has evolved as they’ve aged, its pretty interesting. big PJ fan here as you can tell.

Rik

How was amazing was Ten? Truly an album that’s stood the test of time. A masterpiece

zo

off topic, looking at your Nat King Cole insta story highlighted below. interesting to find skinny lapels and skinny ties in the 1960s. im surprised, i thought they were a more recent thom browne, hedi slimane thing.

Sebastian Flynn

I think you’ll find Simon it was actually just a left over from war time rationing, all clothing was cut trim to save fabric. Spawned the counter culture of the oversized zoot suits.

Jacob

Hi Simon,

What brand of chinos are you wearing in the picture above?

Best,
Jacob S.

Alex

Simon – I don’t know what it is says that you could write so many words on the simple tucking in of a t-shirt and that I could happily read them, but it is what it is, I suppose!
Given that the less substance there is to any article of clothing the less forgiving it will be (on a scale of swimwear to overcoats), I feel you might have missed the most important point for looking good in a t-shirt (tucked or untucked but the former being even less forgiving) is being in reasonable shape. I appreciate this might be somewhat outside the remit for PS, but unlike almost any other outfit or clothing usually discussed, there’s not really hiding an excess of lunches consumed or lack of weights lifted!

Kev F

Having hit the 60+ year age another factor in wearing T-shirts or any collar-less top is the dreaded wrinkly neck showing. Not a good look and thus collars on shirts are desirable – polos instead of t-shirts.

Alexander

Interesting thoughts as usual, Simon. I am one of those people that feel uncomfortable when a t-shirt or any casual shirt is tucked in. It is not easy to point the finger on the reason why. Maybe this fabric around my lower belly that could show excess belly fat in an unflattering way makes me uncomfortbale and prevents me from relaxing (altough I am not in bad shape, thats not the point). A tucked-in shirt feels natural and totally relaxing for me with my tailored trousers. That is because the rise is high enough (just at the hip bone). But with my jeans (Levis 502) and chinos I cannot pull off the tucked-in look. When the cut of the shirt is right (f.e. short enough, anywhere around mid-crutch) it feels much more relaxed to me when (t-)shirts are untucked with my casual trousers. Maybe exploring higher waisted casual trousers could change my mind some day.

Ajbjasus

Jeans better with a belt I think Simon.

They also need to be relatively low rise so you don’t look like a middle aged american

Emerging Genius

This article is going to stir a bit of controversy. And I don’t believe this article is going to change anyone’s preconceived opinion.

Tshirts probably shouldn’t be tucked in unless worn in their intended state as underwear given the very casual nature of them

Al

Nice reading, as always. On a side note: Eddie Vedder and PJ were a huge inspiration or me too. We got a VHS of their unplugged from a german friend and we played their songs in our live sets way before Ten was released or known here.

Ryotaro

Love this look, though I agree with others that it helps to have the figure for it. (Unfortunately I do not). May I ask where the chinos are from?

SidtheKid

Nice short post on a very practical matter. Thank you! Funny, I just asked my wife for her opinion on the T-Shirt last weekend, and one of her comments was that if a man does that, he should omit a belt. Even when wearing jeans or casual chinos. What are your thoughts on that?

Everlane makes a nice premium weight T shirt in heavy cotton. It starts off tight, and after a few wears and washes, it stretches in the correct places (chest, mid back) to offer a flattering asthetic.

One last question – can this tuck work for casual Henley tops as well? Long sleeve in particular (short sleeve henleys I always leave untucked for some reason).

Cheers

Joseph

Another guy here, who always wears jeans without a belt and opts for a more relaxed look with tucked-in shirt leaving the empty loops readily visible.

Have been interrogated a few times over the years with, “Forget to wear your belt?” questions, I certainly agree there exists “no historical reason why jeans would have to be worn with a belt.”
Such inquiries always caught me off guard and stumbling to reply, “These jeans fit fine!”

Found it interesting to learn that originally Levi’s blue jeans didn’t have belt loops until added in 1922. They had suspenders buttons sewn into the waistband and a cinch strap and buckle in the back. With no loops or buttons they fall into a visually weird “no mans land.” So, answer to give in the future will be – “Historically, guys didn’t wear any belt with jeans!”

Tommy Mack

Interesting point about men wanting everything “finished off” I wear a belt with pretty much all my casual trousers (which since I sadly have little reason to wear tailoring these days is nearly all the time.) Partly I like the feel of the extra purchase even if the trousers are well fitting but also, I feel it looks unfinished without.

I tuck in pretty much everything (except knitwear – can’t understand that trend) partly cos I’m pretty short so most Ts and shirts tend to look a little long if left untucked. Shorter T shirts and polos I won’t tuck, along with a few casual shirts whose cut means they look more flattering untucked but generally “tucked with belt” is my default. Maybe I’ll try experimenting with beltless tucking this spring/summer!

Andrew Hughes

Thanks for another interesting article. I wear Real McCoys t-shirts and leave untucked.

Mark

Simon, please add me to the untucked side of the ledger. In my opinion, this only looks good under two conditions: you have a very well-honed body and posture with NO belly, and you are in your youth. I put this in the same catagory as skinny jeans. As soon as you lose either advantage, you are unwittingly enrolled in the “Trying Too Hard” club.
Besides, a slim but looser fit murmurs that you have a good physique rather than shouts it.

Ben

It comes and goes, but tucking in’s definitely back in fashion: https://www.gq.com/gallery/the-tucked-in-t-shirt-is-going-nowhere

I don’t do it, mostly because I don’t like the way the poof above the belt-line looks, but I don’t mind seeing it on others. With regard to the button-down-shirt comparison, I do think there’s something about the sleeve length that make the latter more tuckable; I don’t tuck in my short-sleeve button-downs either. The points about the shorter torso and more defined waist are significant; I hem some of my untucked Ts for those reasons. A flat stomach is mandatory.

More tangentially, the salmon-denim color combination is a turn-off. It’s quite visceral, in fact. There are only a few colors in Ts worn alone that I find agreeable with blue denim: white, navy, gray and maybe oatmeal. I don’t know what that’s about.

Scott

The tucked in tee has the annoying tendency to gather around the waist. The effect makes the waist look larger than it is and shortens the torso. So, the untucked look is actually much more flattering in my view, provided that the tee isn’t too long. That’s why I wear Sunspel tees which have the perfect length.

Peter K

I don’t mind the tucked in look. The trouble I have with good quality t-shirts is the cost.

I grew up on a farm and t-shirts were very much work wear. I find it hard to pay very much for a shirt I associate with getting spattered with mud and cow dung.

That said I have some t-shirts wearing out and see that Naked and Famous denim (a Canadian company) have some nice loopwheel t-shirts at a better price (CDN$ 41). I might be able to swallow buying one to start.

Philipp

I’m quite happy with wearing German Army t-shirts (they are indeed actually rated as underwear as soldiers wear them under the field blouse) tucked in – in my opinion they check all the boxes you named above and they cost just a few bucks.

Russ

I highly recommend ‘Son of a Tailor’. The cotton and mohair garments are good value for the price and I’ve now bought around 10 items through their website. The trick is to buy the high collar T shirt, which elongates the upper torso and to adjust the fit algorithm with your later purchases so you eventually get to the sizing you want. In my humble opinion, Simon, what you’re wearing in the photos could well do with some improvement and I think Son of a T would help. Try the roll neck mohair tops too.

Ben

BY FAR the most important thing in this article is the Eddie Vedder aside – wouldn’t have figured you for a Pearl Jam guy!

Noel

Thank you for your thoughts Simon. I agree with pretty much everything that’s written on this article, particularly that weight is key: it doesn’t work with most light t-shirts. I only have one such heavy t-shirt because they seemed difficult to find (I actually bought another identical one because of how much I liked it). A quick search for “Warehouse & co” revealed a physical store in Söder here in Stockholm that sells them so I might check them out.

The only issue I find is that some of my peers think the look is odd, and it’s hard not to be affected by the views of those around us at times, even when we think they’re mistaken (I’m in my early 30s).

Noel

Would you apply the arguments here to long sleeved t-shirts?

Anonymous

I find that for this look, a wool T-shirt looks best. For some reason, looks dressier than cotton.

James

For anyone looking for other good makers of tees — some underwear some outerwear: Oscalito, Boglietti, Cagi, Calida, Merz b Schwanen, Alpina Intimo, Lisanza Uomo, Maglificio GI.CI.PI., Fraly, ISA Bodywear, Derek Rose, Novila, Hom, Petrone, Perofil, Hanro, Zimmerli.

Josh

I‘m all for the t-tuck, and especially with a mid-to-high rise trouser to maximise the waist cinch. This has been brewing in fashionable terms for a while, I feel. Anyone who has caught the Queer Eye reboot on Netflix will be aware of the ‘French Tuck’ (tucking the front only, like a kind of enforced sprezz-tuck). The french tuck is perhaps a little forced but the proportion enhancements are the same. Also intrigued by your reference to the 1950s’ cultural focus. I’ve recently realised that a lot of style and editorial content that really grabs me at the moment seems to have a distinct 50s flavour. I can’t decide if it’s having a moment or is just, somehow, timeless compared to decades before and since.

Nico

In the 2000’s I went crazy about A&F tees (it was the muscle / rugged / Adirondack era then, not the current comfy / soft / laid back one). I had been raised in the tucked – in school, but they seemed to call for some matching distress. I took to tucking them in for the fit look, then randomly pull out some hem at the side. I guess it was some unconscious intuition of sprezzatura long years before I knew of the word or the concept.

Jason

According to Edwina Currie, it was John Major rather than Eddie Vedder who was the biggest proponent of the ‘Tucked Tee’ !
Congratulations on the tattoo removal. Was it painful ?

Jim

grab/try VK Nagrani Ts asap. Best Ive ever had for quality, comfort and fit. And, now, a steal with inventory liquidation.

Nico

Are the 90’s back in full force? I seem to have missed the over extended shoulders, Winchester shirts and power ties.

Marvin

Good read thanks. Think I’m part of the tucked-in camp!

Regards the neckline of T-shirt’s, do we know of brand(s) that hold a high line to the rear of the collar?

AJ

I think a tucked in t shirt is nice with a jacket or cardigan or zip up of some sort and nobody would even think it unusual at all but it is hard to do on it’s own as per the photos for this article. Same for polos. For this reason I really like polos and t shirts with ribbed waistbands and pleasingly there seem to be a few more options on the market for these recently.

Anonymous

Hi Simon, this is off topic, but I’m the proud owner of you Everyday Denim shirts. They are great, so well done. Given the cost, I usually have them dry cleaned. How does this compare to hand washing in terms of the longevity and long-term appearance of the garment?

Michael Powell

I wear Ts around the house, or out in the yard when I put the dog out. I haven’t worn a T-shirt away from home in 15-20 years. When it’s warm enough, I wear one of 16 polo shirts (one black, one white, one green, one purple, 12 shades of blue or red) if I need to go anywhere. All the polos are of one solid color.

Tom

Interesting you say that you’d never wear with a leather jacket as too affected… I own a Lewis Leathers jacket (I guess like a classic motorcycling jacket) and as it hits fairly high on the waist a lot of fairly standard t-shirts can look a bit off with it as they descend below the hem – even more so when zipped up as it’s quite trim.

I guess as it’s a ‘vintage style’ and tucking a t-shirt in is a old fashioned way of wearing tees, maybe the two pair up reasonably well.

Jason

Thanks Simon for discussing tshirts! I wear tshirts more than anything, as most American men do, so it’s nice to read some suggested brands to check out in the comments.

I would avoid slubby or heathered tshirts, they don’t look good.

Would you wear a tshirt with a tailored sportscoat? I’ve seen several pictures of you with a polo shirt and sportscoat but I don’t think I’ve seen one with a tshirt. What are your thoughts?

Do you have any thoughts on color? One of my biggest challenges with wearing quality tshirts on an everyday basis is that most brands of heavier tshirts offer only the very boring ‘colors’ of white, black, and navy! Margiela tshirts have great colors but their quality has gone down so I don’t bother buying them anymore.

Samuel Schuler

Dear All,
I do not have any t-shirt, I have underwear shirts that I wear under a shirt, certainly I do not wear any t-shirt the way shown on the pictures above. Honestly speaking, this is surprising yet disappointing, why you, Simon, would write such an article. It really does not matter a thing if tucked-in or not. No one ever should wear such a t-shirt unless in bed for sleeping. I am quite radical about it, and everybody should be. We cannot be serious about cut, fit, fabric and then suddenly discuss whatever has been discussed in the above article. Deeply disappointing truly. I think t-shirts should have no place in such a blog whatsoever.
Regards,
Samuel

Miles

Dear Samuel,

I’ve been thinking about this comment since you wrote it. On the one hand, you’re right. We all look better in a uniform of collared shirts. We can point to the past, with the many rich traditions in tailored clothing, and exclaim that people looked better because they dressed more formally all the time. On the other hand, your view is a very narrow one. What I don’t like about it is that it doesn’t embrace the lived experience of many millions of people who feel good and comfortable in a T-shirt in public.

I find that this website does its best to fold in what looks good in our current mode, contextualize it, and elevate it where it can. Whether it succeeds in this mission is entirely up to the reader. But this measured approach captures the attention of more people. If it had your “radical” view, it would likely alienate readers, pushing them away from the more formal world that you ultimately want. At the end of the day, a simple tucked in T-shirt may be a pathway to dressing better in the future. It certainly was mine.

Best,

Miles

P.S. You’ll also note that Simon does take hard stances on what looks good now and then. You just have to read between the lines some. Ultimately, this implicit messaging does a lot more to affect reader’s views than any explicit messaging ever could.

Anonymous

Would you also wear this with pleated trousers and knit/fully fashioned t-shit? I like your piece on casual chic and would like to know how this could fit that style.

Anonymous

Got it, so how would you recommend wearing a knitted t-shirt as a stand alone piece, as opposed to under a jacket?

John

Following this article i recently purchased one of Informale’s t-shirts and tried tucking it in with medium rise trousers/shorts; i am completely converted, and looks far better tucked-in. Thank you Simon!

Simon, can i ask if you stand by your decision to take a size L in the Warehouse and Co. t-shirt? I too have a 39 inch chest and a very similar build to you, and the size M seems more appropriate. Did you try an M? Also, have you noticed any expansion/shrinkage with washing/wearing?

Many thanks.

Ben

Great post on Tees Simon!

While you are having size L for warehouse 4601, may I ask what size you have for the real mccoys one?

Thanks!

JJ

Simon, just saw Clutch Cafe’s IG post showing you wearing their new Allevol t-shirts. How would you compare them to the Warehouse one you’re wearing here? Thanks.

Matty

Hi Simon,

How do the Warehouse tees compare in terms of size to the Allevol ones? I recently bought one of the Allevol in a medium and like you find it a little tight across the chest but generally a good fit. I prefer a tighter fit generally as I prefer my efforts in the gym to get noticed 🙂

Thank,
Matty

Matty

Thanks Simon