I’m an accidental connoisseur of T-shirts. Comparing these simple garments started as a part of the job — style editor for Gear Patrol — but, has since grown into something of a guilty pleasure. This basic garment is uncomplicated, but because of its simplicity, the smallest details have substantial effects. The material, the knit, the seams, the silhouette, the hem, the neckline — all these parts (and more) come together to create a garment that transcends social and economic divisions.
Many T-shirt lovers swear by the basic 100-percent cotton tee. Available in a variety of weights, these types of shirts are, without a doubt, the classics. Many vintage tees, the soft and faded styles that define casual comfort, are made completely from cotton. They’ve just been washed, dried, worn, stretched, folded and sun-bleached for years. That constant use creates a garment with magic that irreplicable. Countless brands try to recreate the fit and feel of vintage tees through washing and processing new shirts, but few come close to attaining the right balance of texture, silhouette and appearance.
I’ve got a stash of vintage tees, but I still keep an eye on new releases to see what brands are bringing to the table. Much of the time, I wear non-cotton tees. My go-to 100-percent hemp tees have the drape of well-worn vintage shirts and are semi-sheer like beat-to-hell cotton-rayon tees from the late ’70s. They lack the soft texture off the rack, but promise to get more comfortable with every wash. I had all but decided that the best T-shirts needed the element of time to achieve peak fit and feel. That is until I tried the latest offering from Alex Crane, a small apparel brand based in Brooklyn.
The brand’s new Sun Tee has a soft, worn-in feel and the perfect amount of drape. But, it’s not made from cotton, polyester or even hemp. The tee is sewn in Los Angeles from 100-percent Portuguese-knit linen. Linen has very similar qualities to hemp — it’s very durable and the knit is very breathable and almost semi-sheer. But unlike the hemp shirts I’ve been wearing, this one is ridiculously soft and airy from the first wear. The material has a noticeable variegated texture which is more pronounced in the blue version of the shirt.
If you’re a fan of great T-shirts, then the $55 price of the Sun Tee shouldn’t come as a surprise. This tee isn’t trying to be a vintage repro, but it manages to capture the magic of well-worn shirts from decades past. For T-shirts, it’s all about fit and feel — and this one nails both.