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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best men’s big & tall short-sleeve shirts

Sure, short-sleeve shirts are a classic wardrobe staple, but according to some men, finding the perfect style is nothing short of a challenge. There are four main styles of men’s big & tall short-sleeve shirts, including classic T-shirts, polo shirts, button-down shirts, and athletic shirts. They can be worn on their own or layered with other garments.

Besides finding a style that suits you, it’s also important to choose a short-sleeve shirt that fits well and is comfortable to wear. For one, the shirt should allow for unobstructed movement. Even fitted shirts should be cut in a way that you’re able to reach a desk or steering wheel without the sleeves pulling. Well-fitting shirts also have a collar that lies flat and doesn’t feel too tight around the neck.

men's big and tall short sleeve shirts1
If you prefer to tuck in your shirt, make sure the hem or shirttail is long enough to stay inside your trousers without coming undone.

Key considerations

Fit

Finding a well-fitting short-sleeve shirt is more than just picking up one in your size. Here are a few ways to determine whether a shirt indeed fits you the way it should.

Raise your arms. One test of whether a short-sleeve shirt fits well is to raise your arms straight in front of you. Well-fitting sleeves won’t pull or cut into your biceps. This is especially important when driving or operating machinery. Your range of motion should be completely unobstructed.

Center the shoulder seams on your shoulders. Another way to tell if a shirt fits is by putting it on and centering the shoulder seams in the middle of your shoulders. The shirt should fall flat down the front of your body instead of peaking in the middle. If you look at the back of the shirt in the mirror, make sure the material doesn’t appear to overstretch at your shoulder blades or upper back.

Try it on with other clothing. If you’re thinking about wearing the short-sleeve shirt with other layers, try it on with those other pieces. When worn over an undershirt, short-sleeve shirts should feel fitted but not too snug. When worn as a base layer, short-sleeve shirts should have a somewhat snug fit to prevent the material from bunching up beneath other layers.

Size

Most short-sleeve shirts in big & tall sizes range from 3XL to 6XL, and select brands offer sizes larger than 7XL. To find the best-fitting short-sleeve shirt, it’s helpful to know the difference between big, tall, and big & tall sizing.

Big sizes offer wider measurements across the chest, torso, shoulders, and biceps. Tags for these sizes include X or XL, such as 3X or 4XL.

Tall sizes, which are geared toward men 6’2” and taller, have an extra-long hem. Tags for these sizes are expressed with LT, such as 3LT. It should be noted that tall sizes generally follow the cut of regular sizes, not big sizes, so they aren’t significantly wider across the chest and torso.

Big & tall sizes offer features of both of the other cuts. This means not only are they cut wider throughout the body but the hem is longer too. Tags for big & tall sizes read XLT, such as 5XLT.

Popular materials

The most common materials for short-sleeve shirts include cotton, cotton blends, polyester, spandex, nylon, and sometimes bamboo.

Cotton is considered the softest, most breathable option, though 100% cotton shirts are notorious for shrinking or warping in the wash. Instead, many shirts now feature a cotton and polyester blend. Not only are these styles less prone to shrinking, they’re also fade resistant.

Synthetics: Some shirts are made with all synthetic materials, including polyester, spandex, and nylon. Many wearers agree that these styles are lightweight and less prone to wrinkling than cotton. Some of these materials also wick away moisture and resist odors.

Bamboo: More recently, bamboo has become a popular material for men’s shirts. It’s an eco-friendly option, plus it has natural moisture-wicking and hypoallergenic properties. Since it’s extremely soft, bamboo shirts are often recommended for men with sensitive or acne-prone skin.

Many short-sleeve polo and button-down shirts come with spare buttons attached to the tag or sewn into the seams.

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Features

Styles

Classic T-shirts: If you’re only going to invest in one style of short-sleeve shirt, it will probably be a classic T-shirt. Most styles feature crew necklines; however, it’s also common to see V-neck T-shirts. There are styles with and without front pockets, as well as styles that feature logos or other branded details.

Most T-shirts will last for a couple years even if they’re washed and worn on a regular basis. The trick to keeping them looking fresh is to wash them with color-safe detergent. T-shirts with logos or other branded details should be washed inside out.

Polo shirts: These are a popular choice for casual or business casual wear. Most have two or three buttons, which are often worn partially or entirely unbuttoned. Like T-shirts, some polo shirts are designed with front pockets.

One detail that varies considerably among polo shirts is the sleeve style. Some sleeves have plain hems while others have ribbed hems. Plain hems are ideal if you prefer a more spacious cut, though ribbed hems are often recommended if you like a more fitted, polished look.

Like T-shirts, all-cotton polo shirts are prone to shrinking and fading. For that reason, many men prefer cotton blend or polyester blend shirts.

Button-down shirts: Short-sleeve button-down shirts come in a number of styles, including utility shirts, outdoor sport shirts, and dress shirts. Utility shirts have a modern, urban appearance, while button-down dress shirts are ideal for more formal occasions. If you're attending an outdoor wedding, choose a button-down shirt made from a comfortable and breathable material.

Outdoor sport shirts are outliers in this category to some extent; however, given their functional design, they certainly deserve an honorable mention. They’re usually designed for water sports, such as fishing or boating, which is why they’re equipped with pockets, mesh panels, or drain holes.

One of the pitfalls of button-down shirts is that many of them require ironing, and some must be dry cleaned. Fortunately, many brands now make wrinkle-resistant shirts to make them as low maintenance as possible.

Athletic shirts: Short-sleeve athletic shirts resemble T-shirts, though they’re cut slightly differently. They’re also made with materials other than cotton, such as polyester, spandex, rayon, or nylon. Not only are these materials lightweight, but they’re also soft and usually won’t irritate skin. Some higher-quality athletic shirts also pull sweat and moisture away from the body. They dry quickly, so you don’t need to worry about walking around or exercising in a sweat-soaked shirt.

One concern many men have with athletic shirts is finding the right fit. Unfortunately, many popular styles have a narrow cut, making for a somewhat uncomfortable fit. For that reason, it’s not unusual to size up in athletic shirts.

men's big and tall short sleeve shirts
DID YOU KNOW?
Short-sleeve shirts made of synthetic materials can go in the washing machine with other clothes, though it’s best to hang them to dry. Unfortunately, even machine drying on low can deteriorate the fibers.
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Men’s big & tall short-sleeve shirt prices

Inexpensive

Low-priced cotton T-shirts and polo shirts cost between $12 and $30. The quality can be hit-or-miss in this bracket, so it’s recommended that you stick to tried-and-true brands known for their quality.

Mid-range

These short-sleeve shirts cost between $35 and $50 and include higher-quality T-shirts and polo shirts, as well as basic athletic and button-down dress shirts.

Expensive

The most expensive short-sleeve shirts cost as much as $85 and mostly include upscale button-down dress shirts and polo shirts manufactured by top designers.

Even if your button-down shirt is advertised as wrinkle-free, it’s a good idea to smooth over the collar with an iron or clothes steamer for a crisp appearance.

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Tips

  • Remove the tags. Many garment tags are placed in bothersome places, which is why many men opt to simply remove them.
  • Look for flatlock seams. Flatlock seams are softer against skin and help reduce chafing.
  • Look for less popular colors. If you’d like to save big bucks on short-sleeve shirts, consider buying less popular or off-trend colors. These sometimes cost a fraction of shirts in more popular or mainstream colors.
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If you’re looking for neutral colors other than black and white, consider navy blue, burgundy, charcoal, or heather gray

FAQ

Q. Is it me, or is the pocket on my T-shirt or polo shirt not really useful?

A. Because T-shirts and polo shirts are somewhat flimsy and lightweight, any item placed in the pocket ends up weighing down the entire shirt. If anything, pockets can hold a couple business cards or a pack of gum at best. For that reason, many men simply don’t use the pockets, and some even opt to stitch them closed.

Q. How do I know when it’s time to replace a short-sleeve cotton shirt?

A. If the shirt appears worn out, overstretched, or faded, it’s a good time to permanently retire it. A deteriorating collar is another key indicator that a cotton shirt should be replaced. As for getting rid of the shirt, it can be repurposed into a shirt to wear when doing yard work or home improvement projects. Because these activities can be dirty and messy, it’s a good idea to wear an old shirt you won’t worry about ruining.

Q. I’m not quite 6’2”, but I feel the hems of some shirts are too short. Should I switch to XLT sizes?

A. It’s probably a good idea. In fact, you might notice that hems are too short if you have a longer torso. With that said, some XLT sizes are unusually long, so you might need to shop around and compare hem lengths to find one that suits you.

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