In the era of direct-to-consumer disruption, any brand can claim their product is the perfect [blank]. Away, for example, launched a suitcase they said would revolutionize travel. In a way, it did, but the design was still a suitcase, albeit a better looking one with a portable battery stowed inside beneath its handle. When UNTUCKit launched their line of dress shirts designed to be worn, well, untucked, the brand presented a shirt that solved a problem few, at least in my opinion, were really concerned with solving. It would change menswear, they argued — but all they really did was convince consumers the shirts they already owned weren't up to snuff.
True Classic Tees, an online-only brand that sells, you guessed it, T-shirts and polos, peddles its products on the premise that every single other T-shirt doesn't fit right. In their popular (albeit polarizing) adverts, paid, shredded actors point out that their dad-bod friend isn't fat per se, just betrayed by his clothing. The garments, they argue, don't "highlight his best attributes."
Although positioned as a harmless, humorous spot to be played during professional sports TV timeouts, this one — and another set inside a gym — tap into our collective image insecurities. True Classic Tees, the fit friends explain, are tight across the chest, tight in the sleeves and tapered through the body, creating the illusion of a chiseled chest, big biceps and a svelte torso.
True Classic Tees
How Are True Classic Tees Different?
In reality, though, they're just normal T-shirts. They're sold as singles or in packs of three or six, and you save more when you buy more. Six sold individually, for example, would run you $22.99 each ($137.94 total). A six-pack, on the other hand, costs $89.99 — equal to around $15 a tee. You can create your own bundle, picking any number of T-shirts in any of the five available colors, plus adding polos, V-necks, long-sleeves and henley shirts if you so wish. Once done, the brand will calculate a final cost, shipping included.
How Do True Classic Tees Fit?
The Classic Crewneck T-shirts — their most popular product — are made from 4.3 ounces of 60 percent combed ring-spun cotton and 40 percent polyester jersey. They run slim — what the brand calls an "athletic" fit — and you're ordered to size up if you're in-between them.
Consistency, though, according to several other reviews online, can be an issue. A few wearers pointed out that different colors were made in different places: two colors in China and three in Vietnam. On mine, one says made in Egypt and the other made in China. This isn't necessarily bad — most big brands manufacture overseas — but it can lead to quality control issues. The neck on my China-made tee is considerably tighter, while the bottom and sleeve hems are far superior to those on the Egypt-made tee. There's nothing you can really do about this, but it's an important note to consider.
As far as construction goes, these fit fairly classically. Back in the day, arm holes were tight and high, creating a streamline silhouette that could fit under another shirt. T-shirts, at least at first, were only meant to be worn beneath another layer. If the T-shirts were too loose, they'd bunch up, making the combination quite uncomfortable. Rather than modern manufacturing ingenuity, True Classic uses classic tricks to make your shoulders look broader and more defined: shrinking the arm holes and elongating and tightening the sleeves.
Shrinking the arm hole prevents excess fabric from pooling in your armpits, which can make you look wider than you really are. Elongating the sleeves helps them wrap flush around your arms. Most sleeves, if you look at them laying flat, have a considerably shorter bottom line than they do top line. On True Classic tees, these lines are nearly equal, creating a longer shaft for your arm to hang in and thus less out of an outward point for the fabric.
All around, the alterations are smart, albeit overstated. Comfortability is clearly important, though: the tees are super soft, and the tag inside is screen-printed onto the fabric rather than applied to a hangtag.
How Do True Classic Tees Wash?
Because they're made from a mix of cotton and polyester, they hold up better than most shirts. However, they do shrink — 5 percent on a low heat setting, but more if you forget and blast 'em on high heat. That's arguably inevitable for a T-shirt this cheap, but annoying nonetheless, some might argue.
After more than a few washes, none of mine have pilled, but the black one is particularly bad about attracting fuzz from other garments. It needs a serious lint roll before being worn, no matter what I do.
Are True Classic Tees Worth It?
Well, it depends who you ask. For me, there are few better shirts at this price. But...there are absolutely better shirts that achieve a similar end goal.
That being said, those shirts are expensive, because tighter-fitting T-shirts aren't really en vogue right now, making designer versions ultra-rare. That means reproductions are your best bet, but they won't have the same lightness or give True Classic's do.
Truthfully, True Classic has made a T-shirt that appeals to the masses. The brand taps into our collective insecurities and promises to calm them — with something you can buy, of course. To be fair, design considerations like these are rarely seen on these sort of entry-level shirts. Sure, they're supposed to fit well, but most cheap shirts are a little more universal — baggy here, too tight here and perhaps a little less adept at surviving the wash cycle.
If you're someone who'd appreciate the boost this style of T-shirt provides, these are an excellent choice, especially at this price. My hope, though, is that then you move past them; that you become comfortable enough with your own body to branch out to the vintage styles True Classic references, or nicer T-shirts with a little more character.
A Word of Advice
I don't want to speak as though I'm enlightened, someone who's overcome concerns about their physique — I still try to eat right and workout, you know — but I'm not as worried with how bulky a shirt makes my biceps look or how chiseled a cotton shirt can make my chest look.
The brand is clearly targeting men who wish they looked a certain way, promising them an improved appearance if they buy their product. That's a lofty guarantee, and it ignores where these kind of insecurities derive from: this sort of advertising. Sure, their commercials are smart about telling bigger customers they aren't fat, but the joking tone tends to feel like mockery. The on-site messaging is much more mild, but the ads are how I — and probably millions more — first meet the brand, and they can sour the experience for those on the fence about them...like those simply looking for a better-fitting undershirt.
T-Shirts to Try Instead
Outerknown Groovy Pocket Tee
Made from organic cotton, this shirt is loosely knit for an airy feel which goes well with its relaxed silhouette. The garment-dye process also gives the tee more character.
Buck Mason Slub Vintage Pocket Tee
Buck Mason's made a killing with its line of quality tees. Though the curved hem tee is a huge boon for the brand, we prefer the straight-hemmed Slub Classic Pocket Tee. It has a great hand and tons of slubby texture to distance itself from the undershirt fare. It's made in LA and comes in the requisite black and white options, but be sure to look out for its seasonal colorways, too.
Gildan Heavy Cotton T-Shirt
Again, the Gildan Heavy T-shirt isn't going to be the most amazingly well-manufactured option. But it'll do its job, and you can get 10 for the cost of one really, really nice tee. Plus, Gildan makes its heavy tee in over 70 colors.