expert advice for men
T-Shirt Fit & Fabric Guide
While there are no hard-and-fast rules to wearing t-shirts and undershirts, here are a few guidelines for sporting tees that will keep you from looking un-tucked and disheveled. Not sure that you need an undershirt? If you have ample amounts of chest hair or tend to sweat throughout the day, an undershirt will keep you looking well-groomed, prevent the dreaded pit stain, and give your shirts a longer shelf life. When wearing a tailored-fit shirt, we suggest an undershirt that is slim fit. Thin button-ups work well with undershirts that don’t shine through (think nude or heather grey) while white is more visible beneath transparent shirts. If you’re on the big and tall side, avoid the slim fit and opt for a t-shirt with a relaxed fit. T-shirts as outer wear can be stylish, but make sure the shoulder seams don’t hang below the shoulder and the fabric isn’t faded, stained, or torn.
Quality Fabrics for a Quality Fit
Most t-shirts are constructed using cotton, modal, and microfiber. While all three provide comfortable, breathable shirts, it’s important to know the perks and pains associated with them when stocking your drawers.
Utilized more than any other natural fiber in the world, cotton is a convenient, wash and wear fabric used in most t-shirts. Based on its natural composition and manufacturing process, it can control moisture, insulate, and provide hypoallergenic comfort. While used for making soft, breathable tees, it’s incredibly durable when wet--both a pro and con. According to The International Forum for Cotton Promotion, cotton can take up to one-fifth of its weight in water before feeling damp. However, once wet, cotton absorbs the moisture so you’re left wet and cold.
The exception to this is the innovative high-tech TransDRY cotton, spearheaded by Cotton, Inc., which treats cotton with a water repellent process found in performance t-shirts. For the 411 on performance fabrics with moisture-wicking properties that keep you dry longer, read Don’t Sweat It.
When shopping for t-shirts, look for premium cotton, remembering key players and points:
- Longer threads allow for extensive weaves which lead to finer, softer clothing.
- Egyptian cotton that is ESL (extra long staple) has the longest thread and is notably fine but not necessarily sturdy. Not all Egyptian cotton is ESL.
- Pima cotton has a slightly shorter thread for a thick weave used in more durable, long lasting cotton shirts.
- Supima Cotton is a licensed trademark owned by Supima. It is used to promote products made of 100% American Pima cotton to high-end retail outlets and is an abbreviation for Superior Pima.
- Ringspun cotton possesses a high count of thin fibers which are tightly twisted together for a smooth, strong thread.
- Mercerized cotton is treated with sodium hydroxide resulting in cotton that is stronger, smoother, and more lustrous than regular cotton.
Cotton & Polyester Blends
T-shirts made with 100% cotton are extremely soft and breathable. Add polyester, a considerably strong, manmade fiber to the mix and the shirt gains strength, durability, and longevity. Other benefits of polyester include its resistance to shrinking and wrinkling, as well as its ability to hold dyes well, making it an asset when blended with cotton. The con? When combined with cotton, the shirt is more susceptible to pilling and does not withstand high temperatures well. A matter of personal preference, a shirt constructed with pure cotton will offer a more breathable fit but will be less sturdy without the poly mix.
Luxuriously soft and silky smooth, modal has quickly established itself as a top-drawer staple due to its smooth, lightweight hand and water-absorbent qualities. The innovative fabric is made from 100% natural beech wood fibers for comfortable, breathable tees. Modal won’t fade and shrink like cotton, but it does have a tendency to pill and stretch over time. A sensible t-shirt choice, its silky texture makes hard water deposits less likely to form, keeping the fabric soft and smooth through repeated washings. Undershirts made from modal will likely have a slightly higher price tag, so if your wallet is on a diet, classic cotton is probably a wise choice. Because of the stretchy nature, shirts made from modal are typically more fitted than most cotton shirts. Modal isn’t constricting, but if you prefer a relaxed fit, opt for cotton.
Thinner than silk, microfiber t-shirts are synthetic and made of extremely fine fabric filaments, the most common being polyester and nylon. Infused with spandex, microfiber t-shirts are known for creating smooth, body-defining fits and sculpting contours. Lightweight and luxurious, they possess moisture-wicking properties used in athletic apparel. Because microfiber filaments can be packed so closely, they can prevent moisture from passing through, yet allow air flow.
Frame It. Fit It.
Three main t-shirt fits for body conscious style:
The “standard” t-shirt, regular shirts are less about length and more about style, featuring a cut where the sides extend straight down from the armpits. Designed for the average frame, regular fitting tees should neither be too snug nor oversized. It’s important to keep regular fitting tees in close proportion to your frame for an exceptional fit that doesn’t bunch.
While there isn’t a universal “slim” size, slim fit t-shirts have a more tailored effect, providing a modern, European-style cut that’s narrower through the torso and less roomy overall. Tighter than regular t-shirts, slim fit tees are constructed with the back panel fabric cut on a slight curve, bringing it in at the back and shoulders so it fits closer to the body. While slim fit shirts shouldn’t be skin tight on your frame, they should be fitted enough so you have room when you sit without any excess fabric bunching.
Big and tall shirts typically have side seams that range from 19-22 inches long with big shirts cut fuller in the waist. Tall shirts are designed for men generally over 6’2” and are not as full in the body. Often, men seeking a big shirt want a longer tail and should, therefore, increase a size. Each of our Freshpair brands provide a corresponding size chart for big and tall measurements.