There’s nothing like an old, faded, incredibly comfortable T-shirt. It carries years of stories in its washed-out threads. While it takes years to get there, the process is well worth it.
What Makes a Good T-shirt?
The best T-shirts are uncomplicated, but because of their 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. So if you invest in a quality tee now — our favorites are below — you’re sure to be rewarded in coming years, as the garment will just keep getting better.
A contrarian would say the best come in those little plastic bags — in packs of five, six or eight. And while they certainly are no marvel of manual labor, they get the job done, and prove the most economical for a lot of people. I won't go as far to recommend buying those basic bulk-made ones, but I will offer options in the middle ground between them and a few of the $120 or even $150 dollar options out there.
But even these won't endure like the expensive versions. "No one really wants to invest in quality sewing because the more time you spend on the garment, the more expensive it gets," Bayard Winthrop, of American Giant, says. But "you need the highest-quality materials (such as fabric, yarn) to produce a quality garment," he adds.
The Best T-shirts for Men
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.
Dubble Works' Tubular Tee isn't the heaviest, but it fits so, so well: it's tight through the chest and across the back; the perfect length; and slim at the neck but not too high.
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.
Made in the USA, Forty Five's entry into the tee market uses premium Supima cotton to knit its luscious jersey. It features a classic, vintage-style silhouette and a range of garment-dyed colorways.
Uniqlo’s U sublabel is a style hack for fashion fiends. And among the lot of Christoph Lemaire-designed basics, the t-shirt stands out thanks to its thick cotton jersey, bound collar and impeccable fit. Plus, it comes in a dozen colors.
This shirt features a midweight cotton knit that is certified organic by the Global Organic Textile Standard. Made in Vietnam, it has a slim fit and single chest pocket.
Cut, sewn and knit in Los Angeles, this pre-shrunk shirt has tubular construction (so there are no side seams). It is made with American cotton and features reinforced seams throughout.
Expert-Approved: “I have been wearing this T-shirt for a year now. One of my former employees designs the line and produces it in LA. It’s the perfect T-shirt. The fit is spot on — a bit more roomy. It’s a T-shirt that can stand on its own. The fabric is perfect as is the neck binding. It’s a tall order to tick this many boxes.” — Todd Barket, Creative Director of Quince
Alex Mill's catalog covers all the bases. But, it's the brand's T-shirts were impressed by most. (Ok, maybe the chinos, too.) They're simple, soft, and come in an array of sizes and colors.
Kotn's Essential Crew is the short-sleeve version of our favorite long-sleeve, Kotn's Essential Long-Sleeve. A simple tee with few, if any, frills, it's made from 100-percent long staple Egyptian cotton. There are three colors to choose from, too.
Trust Australian surf lifestyle brand Rhythm to make the perfect, broken-in tee. It comes in a faded rustic red with a super soft hand feel.
Vintage repro brand The Real McCoy's makes some the heftiest, hardest-wearing tees out there. This one's made in Japan from 100-percent Japanese cotton, and comes with a single chest pocket.
Cotton-hemp blends produce T-shirts with impressive weightlessness. Use this one as a base layer under a sweater or a top to pair with your new jacket.
Made in the US, Battenwear's pocket tee is super heavy and a little broken in looking. That makes it easy to wear from day one, and the pocket itself (for glasses wearers especially) works without getting stretched out by its contents.
Sunspel makes its crew tee in England with a bound neck. That gives it a classic look, and the luxe cotton gives it a great weight and feel.
This gray Pocket T-shirt from Knickerbocker's flatters every body, courtesy of its thin yet pronounced neck and straight fit.
This vintage black Pocket Tee comes from Nashville-based brand Imogene + Willie. It's woven from 100-percent cotton in the US, and finished with vintage detailing that adds durability.
Made in Los Angeles, this shirt has a 6.5-ounce American-cotton fabric that is garment-dyed with natural enzymes — that means it’ll feel broken-in from the first wear. It features a generous fit and high neck line.
Expert-Approved: “I have always tended to gravitate towards heavier T-Shirts. I don’t like when a T is too clingy — a good drape and shape is what I am looking for. The classic 50/50 cotton-polyester tee is solid, but when I discovered Los Angeles Apparel’s 6.5oz, I knew I had found my perfect one. These shirts fit well, have a good amount of heft and hold their shape really well. They’re all I’ve ever wanted in a shirt. If they keep making them, I will keep wearing them, indefinitely.” — Michael Williams, Founder of A Continuous Lean
Richer Poorer's 100 percent cotton tee features dropped shoulders, a relaxed fit through the body and a pigmentation inspired by Shibori dyes that's applied by hand.
Made in America with traditional vintage construction, this t-shirt has a classic silhouette and ribbed neck. The style runs slim, so order up one size when purchasing if you like a baggier fit.
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.
Made from a 5-ounce blend of hemp and organic cotton, this shirt is textured and drapey. The garment-dyed style features a classic fit and relaxed neckline.
Yes, Viberg makes boots and shoes, but the brand's T-shirt is nothing to shake your head at. It has a vintage heft, classic shape, and soft black hue.