The Dude Society

An Online Magazine for Guys.

Fashion Basics: Undershirts

When deciding to wear an undershirt or not, or deciding what kind to wear, your goal should always be invisibility. Whether it’s poking out of your open shirt collar, or the clearly visible t-shirt sleeves beneath your dress shirt, neither of these are good looks for a man.

Carson Kressley, of ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’ fame, has been known to enforce a very strict No Undershirt policy when he dresses people. I happen to agree with him. Unfortunately, most of us know that is not always practical due to climate and/or biology.

Picking the right dress shirt

When choosing a dress shirt to wear, an important consideration is whether you plan to wear an undershirt beneath it. Some cotton dress shirts are woven more thinly than others, and the thinner the shirt, the more visible your undershirt will likely be. Hence if you want to wear a thin dress shirt, it should be on a day you don’t feel the need to wear an undershirt… be it due to humidity, warmth or otherwise.

Picking the right undershirt

This should be obvious, but when picking the right undershirt color should be your first consideration. White is the often the obvious choice, but having heather gray and black options around is also wise. When picking the color, you want the one that will blend in the most and be least visible.

Women often wear thongs to prevent having visible underwear seams showing. You can think of your undershirts similarly. Often cheap undershirts, like the ones found in multi-packs from places like target, will be a thicker cotton and have even thicker neck and arm seams. These elements will likely make such shirts quite visible under clothing. The better choice is to spend a few more bucks and get more carefully made t-shirts that are thinner and have subtler seams.

The next choice is crew neck or v-neck. This is a pretty easy one. If you are wearing a shirt and tie, with the shirt buttoned up all the way, go with crew neck. If you plan to leave a button or two undone, go with v-neck. If possible you should go a step further and find v-neck that are deep enough to not be visible when your shirt is undone.

Lastly is fit. Your undershirt should fit comfortably but snugly. It will add less bulk that way, and make it less visible.

Bonus of wearing an undershirt

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but there is one notable potential benefit of wearing an undershirt. Off the heels of the massive success of Spanx shapewear among women, there are now some interesting options for men as well. Both Spanx, and a company called Ript Fusion, make shaping undershirts for men. These shirts are cotton up top around the chest and arms, but use a tighter stretch material around the mid-section. Yes, they can be a little tough to get on depending on your size, but once on they do provide a quite noticeable slimming effect and can actually make your clothes fit better, pants included!

Concluding the undershirt debate

When it comes down to it, if you can avoid wearing undershirts I would advise doing so. Unless you feel like you’re going to sweat through your nice dress shirt, there is really no pressing need for undershirts. If sweat if your only problem, antiperspirant like “drysol” is something you might want to look into. Believe if or not, you can even get botox in your underarm area, which will stop most people for sweating for months.

All that aside, if you still feel compelled to wear undershirts, use the information I’ve outlined to pick the right one and hopefully nobody will ever know it’s there, and it might even make you look slimmer.

About the author

Jamie is the Founder of The Dude Society and a New York City based web designer & developer. He really likes telling people how to think, act, and dress.

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6 responses to “Fashion Basics: Undershirts”

  1. ReggieD says:

    I dont think Carson ever dressed up someone with a sweat problem who wants to look good. [edited for content]

    • Jamie says:

      First, we don't talk like that around here… so watch your language. For the sweat, try drysol (Rx antiperspirant, but can be ordered cheap online from Canada without Rx). Granted, it's not the most pleasant solution, but Botox in sweaty areas will stop it.

  2. JayH says:

    What about if your chest hair is visible when wearing certain shirts that the collar opens up a little more than others. I am all for showing a little chest hair in a social scene, but in a professional atmosphere what should be done?

    • Jamie says:

      Well, generally speaking, getting your chest hair under control is a good idea. Getting a decent trimmer is a good start. See this article for some ideas http://thedudesociety.com/2011/03/manscaping-upto

      In a work situation, chest hair or not, you likely wouldn't be wearing a shirt with more than one button undone (maybe two if they're close together). Unless you're really hairy, I would think that's OK, but obvious each dude is different.

      If you want to (or feel you need to) wear an undershirt, stores like Gap and American Apparel make v-necks of varying depth, so you can try some and see what looks good on your body and with your clothes. I suggest that because an unbuttoned collar with a bulky crew-neck underneath is rarely a good look. It's not blasphemy, obviously a large % of men wear those. However, there is nothing stylish about it.

      I know I've said a lot, so I will share the basic rules I follow. If I am wearing a suit, shirt, and tie, I will often wear an undershirt (especially if I know I will be hot/sweating). When covered by a suit jacket, the chance of your undershirt being visible is much lower. If I am going out, or in a more casual situation with no jacket or tie, I will most often not wear an undershirt.

  3. Jack says:

    I think all men should wear undershirts. Even if for personal hygiene it soaks up the sweat, stops you from smelling and prevents the underarms from your shirts from going all green (thus lengthens the life of your dress shirts). Most men think that it makes them feel hotter wearing two shirts but it's actually the opposite! Many dress shirts are insufficient to absorb sweat and when sweat or heat is retained on the body, it actually makes you feel hotter. Also most guys don't know this because no one tells you, but on hot days many of you are actually walking around with the back of your shirts full of wet patches. Yep. And no one wants to see your nipples showing through your shirts either.

    • Jamie says:

      You make good points. I still hate wearing them though :) I think some company should work on some styles that are hard to see under a shirt. I guess it's also a matter of people wearing better quality shirts that aren't super thin.

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