Men’s fashion is constantly evolving but some pieces are so practical they withstand the test of time – cue the undershirt. Choosing the right undershirt and subsequently wearing it correctly isn’t as straightforward as picking up some white T-shirts and calling it a day.
In order to navigate your wardrobe, read on to learn why and how to properly wear an undershirt.
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What Is An Undershirt?
Centuries ago, clothing wasn’t as readily available or comfortable as it is today. One solution to constantly washing the already sparse clothing were undergarments. The undershirt of the middle-ages is conceptually the same as the shirts we’re familiar with today. Their purpose is simple, act as a means of protection between the body and other clothes.
During the 19th century, men looked to the union suit to safeguard their outerwear from body odor and sweat. Union suits are one-piece undergarments that cover all or part of the legs and chest. The idea was originally in use for women but came of use for men in the blue-collar working class. This way work uniforms could be worn multiple times saving them time and money on necessary laundry items.
Over the years the undershirt has seen it’s share of changes. During WW1, soldiers became tired of the miserably hot and sweaty uniforms. They would often be stuck without a means to wash their uniforms and the prototype of the modern undershirt was born. The adaptable T-shirt style undershirt could be worn outside of their uniforms on hot days and used to keep them warm during cold days.
The T-shirt style undershirt became popular after popular actors such as Marlon Brando, and James Dean began to wear them. Between soldiers sporting them on as a means to stay cool and heartthrob actors that were cool wearing them in public the undershirt actually gave birth to the modern T-shirt.
Of course, undershirts still hold a valid purpose in our lives that a regular T-shirt can’t compete with. These thin, lightweight undergarments can extend the life of your clothes and keep you comfortable at the same time.
When to Wear an Undershirt
There’s no hard and fast rule as to whether or not you need to wear an undershirt. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference. But it isn’t ideal to have copious sweat stains or have to spend time and money laundering your clothes.
If you’re going out to the beach or planning to spend time outside in the heat, ditch the undershirt. The added layer will insulate your body and more heat isn’t what you need.
However, if you’re planning on sporting a suit and tie, or have a nerve-wracking event to attend, then an undershirt will be your saving grace. You’re going to benefit from wearing an undershirt if you’re one of the millions that suffers from hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, you’ll want to consider an undershirt to ease your mind.
Compression shirts can also be worn as undershirts. If you’re looking to hide your pecks or love handles, then compression shirts might be up your alley.
RELATED READING: Business Casual Men’s Attire Guide
Types of Undershirts for Men
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Undershirts come in varying colors and styles that each serve a separate purpose. Some are better for keeping your dress clothes free of stains while others can help keep your body looking shapely. It all depends on when you’re wearing an undershirt and what garments you’ll be wearing overtop of them.
When it comes to common modern-day examples of an undershirt a T-shirt variant is often what comes to mind. An undershirt may look like a T-shirt but they’re going to be thinner and more breathable than regular T-shirts.
You can find them in V-neck or crew neck shirts. If you’re planning to wear a fully buttoned dress shirt or a sweater then crew necks are your best choice. They will cut along the neckline and won’t show any lines through the material of the outerwear. V-neck shirts are good options if you’re wearing a partially unbuttoned shirt. This way your undershirt won’t show.
Ribbed Tank Top –
While tank tops are technically undershirts, they don’t offer the same benefits as other styles on the market. Unlike the versatility of the T-shirt style, tank tops are somewhat of a one trick pony.
Tank tops feature short, almost nonexistent, sleeves and large armholes. Because of this they can’t offer the wearer as much protection against sweat as other options. The torso will still have a barrier between the outerwear and body, but the range of that protection is much less.
Tank tops should be kept tucked in and not be seen hanging out under your other clothes. This gives an unkempt appearance. The main benefit of wearing a tank top as an undershirt is when they’re worn with a T-shirt with short sleeves or in place of a V-neck for partially unbuttoned shirts.
Long Johns –
When the weather is cold and you’re planning to spend time outdoors you’ll thank yourself for planning ahead and wearing layers. Multiple layers of thin clothing help to trap heat between them and insulate better than one or two thick layers of clothes. Long johns are great options because of the added bonus of pants to wear as well.
The long sleeve shirt and pants combo is a throwback to union suits of yore. They often feature moisture wicking technology that helps to keep you dry under puffy coats and sweaters.
They’re also less likely to bunch up and leave you with an uncomfortable mess of fabric that’s impossible to reach under all those layers.
If you’re not feeling an insulating one-piece fit, then there’s always standalone long sleeve crew neck options available. Long sleeve undershirts still provide excellent insulation and protect your outerwear from sweat and odor. So, whether you’re a long john’s guy or just simply want a breathable long sleeve shirt to wear there’s something out there for you.
Does Color Matter?
Short answer: yes! You might be thinking that an undershirt is, well, under your clothes so, why would it matter what color it is? Not all fabrics are entirely opaque, some are completely transparent in the right lighting.
White shirts are a major culprit. One of the reasons people wear undershirts is to hide body hair or their nipples and white shirts make that difficult. Even when wearing an undershirt, you have to be weary of the lines and how tight your undershirt is. If it cuts the body the wrong way, it will show under your outerwear and if it is too loose then it will bunch up and be uncomfortable.
Undershirts aren’t meant to be seen, so you should avoid wearing dark colors under your other garments. Your best bet is to find colors that better match your skin tone or fit properly to avoid any accidental reveals.
If you’re wearing thicker sweaters or darker shirts, then you won’t have as many problems with color. The neckline is the biggest concern. If your undershirt does peek out, you’ll want to make sure to avoid clashing colors. A red undershirt popping out from a yellow sweater will make you look more like a fast-food mascot than a dapper gentleman.
Choosing the Right Undershirt
In order to make the process easier for you we went ahead to select three highly-rated undershirts. They each come in a variety of colors and vary in styles to give you a better idea of what’s available and help you better make the right choice.Shop Now
Unrecorded offers menswear basics that you can wear all year round, perfect as an everyday wardrobe staple. Its basic white T-shirt is made from 155 GSM middle-weight single jersey and GOTS certified cotton. The 100% cotton fabric keeps things comfy and breathable.
The crew neck collar design makes it suitable for wearing under a worker jacket or a more casual Oxford shirt, ideal for every occasion.Shop Now
The right undershirt will give you extra comfort even with all the layers of clothing. And if you’re feeling like going for a silky-soft undershirt, CDLP has a T-shirt made of a unique lyocell and Pima cotton blend. Breathable, cool, and antibacterial, the lyocell component guarantees superior silk-like softness and more durable quality. Made from 220 GSM fabric, this shirt is midweight, making sure you have a solid visual barrier to absorb the sweat.
The crew neck collar is perfect for wearing under a crew neck sweater or a dress shirt. However, you might have to size down for a more fitted look and to keep it from bunching up when used as an undershirt.Shop Now
A sweat-soaked shirt or dress shirt has never been flattering look nor comfortable to the wearer. Made of breathable and lightweight linen jersey fabric, this T-shirt from Luca Faloni provides an airy feel to keep you comfortable and cool under layers of clothing. Not only is the jersey come with a premium Aloe finish to keep it soft and smooth to touch, but it’s also highly absorbent, an ideal option for layering and during warmer days. Forget those days when you need to deal with those unappealing sweat stains.
It’s tailored for a relaxed fit, so try a size smaller for a more fitted silhouette to avoid unsightly bunching, especially on the armholes.Shop Now
Oliver Cabell’s signature curved hem T-shirt boasts a tri-blend of three must-have qualities if you’re looking for an undershirt: 4-way stretch, all-day comfort, and wrinkle-free.
The longer curved hem style means it comes out beneath a regular top, giving enough fabric to keep the shirt neatly tucked into your pants. And unlike oversized tees, this hemmed T-shirt fits in tightly with a trademark figure-hugging fit, suitable for wearing underneath almost anything, from jerseys to hoodies and dress shirts.
5. Fruit of the Loom Men’s Stay Tucked Crew T-Shirt
Fruit of the Loom offers a crew neck T-shirt that’s specifically designed to be worn as an undershirt. It’s lightweight, breathable, and stays neatly tucked into place. The Fruit of the Loom shirt comes in many colors to allow for more options of when to wear it.
The Men’s Stay Tucked is built for comfort. It’s 100% cotton, soft seams, and is tag free to prevent irritation. The crew neck collar is perfect for pairing with other crew neck sweaters or shirts, and when wearing a fully buttoned dress shirt.
Fruit of the Loom’s shirt works as both an undershirt and a T-shirt. So, feel free to wear it under your clothes as a protective layer or when you’re just lounging around.
6. DEVOPS 2 Pack Men’s Thermal Long Sleeve Compression Shirts
DEVOPS Thermal Compression long sleeve shirt can serve multiple roles and act as either athletic wear or an undershirt. If you’re looking to keep warm during the colder months, then this is the undershirt for you.
This thermal long sleeve shirt does more than just keep you warm though, it also acts as a compression shirt and helps to shape your body. It’s made of polyester and spandex to offer high levels of flexibility and comfort.
DEVOPS compression shirt is also lined with fleece and converts moisture to heat. This isn’t a shirt you want to wear during the summer months but is an excellent choice to add a layer of insulation.
7. Gildan Men’s V-Neck T-Shirt Multipack
Gildan offers a comfortable V-neck that stays hidden from view when worn with lower necklines. This V-neck shirt comes in a multipack of long-lasting shirts, which makes for an economically smart purchase.
Gildan’s V-neck shirt uses moisture wicking technology to help keep you cool and keep sweat from causing your outerwear any harm. You’ll be even more comfortable thanks to the tag free design. Gildan put extra thought into what elements an undershirt should contain and provides a solid option for those needing a V-neck.
The benefits of wearing an undershirt outweigh any reason not to. Whether your reason is to keep your outerwear from sticking to your body or to keep you warm in the winter months, the right undershirt will provide extra comfort.
You’ll have to wash less clothes. When you wear a dress shirt for a couple hours one day, there isn’t really any reason to wash it. Some of these shirts need to be taken to the dry cleaners. Having to wash them day in and day out is unreasonable. Avoid the excess efforts and wear an undershirt.
You’ll also feel more in control of your body and that’s the most important reason of all. If you’re trying to keep chest hair or love handles on the downlow, an undershirt can help you achieve your goals.
Have any other favorite undershirt brands or advice on why they should be worn? Tell us about them in the comments.