White T-shirts get a lot of attention, but let’s not forget their equally versatile counterpart: the exceedingly wearable, deceptively simple black T-shirt. It’s a staple that you can wear to work, the gym, and on a date. Plus, as Justin Vaughan, a perfumer and the founder of Ponsont, puts it, they’re the perfect high-low uniform. “With my black tee, I can just as easily kick it with a farmer in Virginia as I can take a meeting in the city,” he says. As is the story with all basics, the black shirt comes in many variations — and, when shopping for one, it’s important to consider the material, fit, and style. We talked to 22 stylish guys about their favorites, and they recommended cotton-linen blends, V-necks, crew necks with especially thin necklines (a boon), recycled T-shirts, and more. Here are the shirts they love most.
Gildan Men’s Classic Cotton Short Sleeve T-Shirt
“Yeah, I know. The blank T-shirt used by your favorite Big Cartel brand in 2016 — and also by Kanye for his the Life of Pablo merch — isn’t terribly glamorous,” says Jon Caramanica, pop critic and mens’ Critical Shopper for the New York Times. “But these shirts, made by a 35-year-old Canadian company, have several essential elements: they’re cut wide but not in any way boxy, and with an unflappable crew neck.” The humble Gildan tee is also durable, according to Caramanica, and though they start out stiff, they break in nicely. “Run it through the wash a couple of times and the shirt’s true personality begins to emerge,” he says.
Uniqlo Men’s Supima Cotton Crewneck Short-Sleeve T-shirt
If you prefer something with a bit more give, Matt Schonfeld, creative marketing manager at Rowing Blazers, says this “light and breathable” option from Uniqlo has some stretch and is “hands-down the best black T-shirt I own.” He told us that he bought two of them on his first-ever trip to Uniqlo about six or seven years ago, and those two are still in his weekly rotation of tees. “A great basic is cheap and lasts long,” says Schonfeld. “Under $10, you can’t really beat this.”
Uniqlo Packaged Dry Crew Neck Short Sleeve T-Shirt
For an even cheaper option, take note from Brandon Stinchfield, a deputy director of foundations and grants for a nonprofit, who told us that after a certain point in his career of buying black Uniqlo T-shirts he could no longer tell the difference between the packaged dry crew neck and the (slightly pricier) Supima cotton crew neck. “So whenever I’m in a Uniqlo, I leave with an armful of shockingly affordable packaged black T-shirts,” he says. “They’re light, durable, and no frills.”
Heavyweight Collections Classic Fit T-Shirt
“Black T-shirts are a part of my daily uniform,” says production designer Greg Jackson. He told us that he prefers his T-shirts on the looser side, and that if he’s not in his Uniqlo oversized T-shirt, this Heavyweight Collection T-shirt is his go-to. “It’s a heavyweight, 100 percent cotton T-shirt with an oversized boxy fit that’s also made in the USA,” Jackson says. “It holds its color for a long time — and if you’re looking for that more fashion forward, heavy-duty fit, but that’s still simple, then this is the one.”
Calvin Klein Men’s 3-Pack Classic Crew Neck T-Shirt
“I’m embarrassed to admit I used to think black T-shirts were only for biker dads or angsty teens,” says Newest York publisher Zach Halberg. “Recently though I’ve come around to them as a kind of versatile statement piece — one that can say ‘maybe I’m a biker dad’ but can also say ‘maybe I’m an angsty teen.’” The realization has led to Halberg stocking up with some Calvin Klein three-packs. “There’s no tag,” he says. “The label is printed on, a very futuristic feature.” (And one that means the back of your neck won’t get itchy.)
Supreme Hanes Tagless Tees
If you prefer your black tees with a dash of hype, take Vice Media account manager Sam Mark’s advice and try Supreme’s Hanes Tagless Tees. “I like the Supreme/Hanes Tagless Tees because they can look clean — you can tuck it in and avoid showing off your branding — or fuccboi, if you wear it untucked.” Mark buys the tees in three-packs, and wears them for all occasions. “They’re cheap (which means I wear them to play soccer), but you can also wear them easily to a dinner,” he told us. And if the trendy Supreme branding makes you hesitate, Mark counters: “Yeah, they’re played out, but also not played out like a CDG Play shirt that sits at the bottom of my T-shirt drawer (RIP).”
J. Crew Essential crewneck T-shirt
Gallery director Sebastián Sarmiento told us that he buys these in bulk, and has done so for years. “They’re soft, never change dramatically in style, or fit, and luckily, I’ve never paid full price for them because they’re always on sale,” he says. They come in just about every color you can imagine, but the black will look especially professional for the office.
Rag & Bone Base Tee
“Wearing black is an industry standard on film and photo sets,” says Ghetto Gastro director and editor Jose D. Cota, who likes Rag & Bone’s Base Tee as his go-to for jobs. “It’s something I feel good in on fashion sets or around the Ghetto Gastro guys and all their ‘Rick Owens drip’ when we’re traveling the world.” The fit is a big part of the appeal: “It’s a quality shirt that sits just right on my shoulders, but also tapers through the middle without being form-fitting,” Cota says. “I always buy a bunch because you can never have too many.”
Sunspel Short Sleeve Crew Neck Tee
Another work-worthy pick comes to us from Michael Friedberg, senior marketing manager at Dummies, who says this Sunspel number looks good on its own or under a sweater, and what really sets it apart is the “thinness of the little rib at the neckline.” Friedberg also notes, “It’s just got a perfectly well-proportioned sleeve and body length.” He cautions that the shirts tend to shrink if you machine dry them, so if you plan to do so size up — or better yet, hang dry.
American Apparel Men’s Fine Jersey Short Sleeve Classic V-Neck T-shirt
“Like many artists I know, we gravitate toward a self-imposed uniform, and the A.A. V-neck black tee works in the studio and looks good at the opening,” says artist Barnett Cohen. The best part, he says, is that this T-shirt breaks in and gets softer with time, without shrinking or fading. “It just feels better and better,” he says.
Hanes Mens Luxury Essentials 3-Pack Black Dyed V-Neck Undershirt
If you want to stock up, stylist Wouri Vice suggests this three-pack from one of the most classic T-shirt brands out there. “My favorite black T-shirt is Hanes — really,” he says. “But not just any Hanes. It has to be the Luxury Essentials V-neck, which starts out in the deepest of blacks and as it ages takes on the perfect softness and most beautiful faded black ever.” Vice told us that he wears them casually with jeans or with a suit.
Gap Classic V T-Shirt
“I wear so many black tees that I feel borderline tropical if I so much as branch out into gray palettes,” says musician and EMT Hayden Frank. His favorite of them all is Gap’s Essential V-Neck, which he says is one of the few he can find in a medium-tall size that works with his six-foot-four and slender frame. “If I buy a large, it’s almost the right length, but I’m swimming around in it like scrubs, and if I buy a medium, it fits better in the abdomen, but with the unfortunate side effect of showing off my happy trail to innocent bystanders,” Frank tells us. “The medium-tall Gap V-neck hugs my shoulders and chest and stays slim down past my waistline.” He praises the shirt’s versatility, too, and says it “works just as well at the gym as at the restaurant.”
Anvil Men’s Lightweight Tee
Sometimes you just want the softest shirt you can find, and for Ben Fama, poet and author of Deathwish, this Anvil tee is it. “It’s ruined other shirts for me, because they all feel scratchy and don’t fit right in comparison,” he says. The shirt has a tear-away label, which prevents any annoying neck scratching — adding to the overall very soft feel.
Everybody World Recycled Cotton Classic Trash Tee
Online Ceramics designers Elijah Funk and Alix Ross told us that their favorite black T-shirt “hands down” is Everybody.World’s Trash Tee. It appeals both for the cut and for the brand’s focus on sustainability. “Not only does it have a great roomy fit, and a durable but soft feel, it’s made from 100 percent recycled material collected from the waste at cotton factories,” they told us. “We firmly believe in paying workers fairly and using materials made here in Los Angeles, and Everybody.World is at the forefront of ethical and sustainable clothing practices.” It’s also a strong option for anyone who wants a T-shirt with a bit of a throwback feel. “The cut of the tee is also super-dope and reminiscent of boxier tees from the ’90s,” the designer say. “We can’t recommend it enough!”
Mack Weldon Pima Crewneck T-shirt
Pima cotton is known for its extra-soft feel, and Nutshell founder Will D’Agostino says the material really makes a difference. “I recently started getting Mack Weldon shirts because I love their underwear,” he told us. “The classic pima also has a higher-quality feel than you’ll get in a normal cotton (it comes from Peru) and in black is perfect for almost all situations.”
Uniqlo U Crewneck Short Sleeve T-shirt
If you’re looking for something with a closer-cut fit, Noah Sylvan, a senior product manager for electronics at Uber, points to this Uniqlo U crew neck. “I’m tall and lanky and it’s hard to find shirts that are long enough and still slim,” he says. “The medium size fits me perfectly — it’s tall enough for me but not so wide that I look like I’m wearing a sack.” According to Sylvan, the shirt has withstood many a wash without shrinking. “ It’s pretty much the only black shirt I own these days and I have tons of them,” he says. “I wear them at least three times a week.”
American Apparel Men’s Fine Jersey Short-Sleeve Tall T-Shirt
NYRB Classics production editor Daniel Drake told us he’s had his XTall crew neck from American Apparel for “something like eight years,” and that like many of his other pieces from the brand, it has held up quite well. “The black and the fit is still slim without being tight,” he says. The shirt is specifically made for taller men, so those added inches can help for longer torsos, or if you just prefer a slightly longer silhouette.
Carhartt WIP Black Pocket T-Shirt
Perfumer and Ponsont founder Justin Vaughan says a black T-shirt with pockets is his go-to “because I lose sunglasses easily.” His pick is the Carhartt WIP Pocket T-shirt, which, he specifies, stands out from other Carhartt tees. “The Carhartt WIP T-Shirts fit a little slimmer and are softer than the standard Carhartt K87,” says Vaughan. “They’re soft, hard wearing, and high-low in the best possible way.” Plus, the price is right: “The cost-benefit analysis is sound — I wear some that are over five years old.”
Gap Pocket T-Shirt
A less expensive pocketed option comes recommended by lawyer Chuka Ugwu-Oju, who says that at $12, the shirt is a “no-brainer.” The cut of the shirt is the main draw for Ugwu-Oju: “It’s somewhat fitted but isn’t tight at all,” he says. “It isn’t constricting in any way, but it manages to retain its shape.” The shirt is also “incredibly soft,” and on the material is on the medium to thin side, which makes it ideal for wearing on its own or layering. “If it isn’t too cold out, I like to pair it with a pair of light jeans or khakis, then throw a big coat over it,” says Ugwu-Oju.
For Days 70’s Mock Pocket
“I love a thicker fabric for a tee shirt,” says Will Zhang, a product and merchandizing strategist for Allbirds. “The fabric on this ’70s tee from For Days lends itself to a boxy silhouette, which makes it easy to tuck in for an effortless look.” Zhang notes that For Days is “a leader in circularity in fashion,” referring to the brand’s service that allows you to return shirts after wearing them and swap them for new T-shirts at a reduced price, making the T-shirt a good pick for those looking for more sustainable options. It’s also ideal for those who want a little extra neck coverage without being too restricted: “The detail that makes this shirt unique is the collar, which is wide-rib but not quite a mock neck,” Zhang says.
Prada Slim-Fit Cotton-Jersey T-Shirts
If you really want to invest in a black T-shirt, Jacques founder Gregg Cohenca suggests Prada’s slim-fit jersey T-shirt, which he says is “the perfect staple.” Cohenca told us that the cotton-jersey material never loses its shape, and that part of why he loves the shirt is the “subtle with no frills” tonal stitch embroidery in the back, a discrete rendering of the triangular Prada logo. It works for all occasions: “Through its timeless and classic fit, the shirt has become a go-to piece in my everyday wear as it lends itself to both casual and formal. I often pair it with a blazer,” says Cohenca. And while $340 may be a lot to pay for black T-shirts, at least you’re getting a three-pack.
General Issue S/S Tee
And for a luxe-feeling tee with a lower price than Prada, writer and FreeTime Media founder Howie Kahn suggests General Issue’s cotton-cashmere blend tee. “My General Issue tee has become maybe the most important piece in my wardrobe: it’s the shirt I wear on planes,” he says. “The shirt’s cotton-cashmere blend gives it structure, so it makes me feel put together like any traveler should.” The shirt is soft enough that Kahn has comfortably worn it through both overnight flights and an 18-hour day of delays. It works outside the airport, too. “I’ve worn it under a blazer, under a sweater, under a cardigan, under a hoodie and alone,” he says. “It’s the rare T-shirt that works in every situation.
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