Updated June 2022
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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 T-shirts for men

Few articles of clothing have successfully made the transition from functional underwear to fashionable outerwear, but T-shirts for men are on that short list. What began as the top half of long johns in the nineteenth century became a stand-alone undergarment in the early twentieth century and a casual fashion statement by the 1960s.

T-shirts for men are designed to address a number of issues, from ease of maintenance to comfort to personal expression. Basic cotton T-shirts still serve a purpose as a base layer for dress shirts, while others can stand on their own when paired with jeans, khakis, or other casual clothing.

One important consideration when shopping for men’s T-shirts is the overall fit, since an ill-fitting T-shirt can appear too snug or too loose for the wearer’s body shape. Even the style of the neck opening can play a major role in the decision-making process. While cotton and polyester may still reign as the most common T-shirt materials, there are other fabrics available that offer their own advantages, including moisture wicking, UV protection, and seamless design.

t-shirts for men
The first T-shirts were introduced in 1904 when manufacturers separated the tops from the bottoms of long underwear.

How to buy the best T-shirts for men

Materials

Cotton: For decades, 100% cotton was the default material for men’s T-shirts, primarily because of its affordability, lightweight feel, and overall comfort. However, when T-shirts made the transition from underwear to outerwear, manufacturers searched for other materials to improve the appearance and durability of the garments.

Polyester: The addition of polyester noticeably reduced the issues of shrinking and wrinkling in pure cotton T-shirts. The ratio of polyester to cotton in many basic T-shirts is now 50/50 or greater. All-cotton T-shirts are still available, but manufacturers often take the step of preshrinking the material before making the product.

Stretch: Other fabrics, such as spandex and elastane, are used to provide more stretch to men’s T-shirts. Flexibility is an important consideration when it comes to fit, since a T-shirt that fits well can emphasize an athletic build or provide mild compression during exercise.

Other fabrics: Moisture-wicking and eco-friendly fabrics have also become increasingly popular. Bamboo fibers are surprisingly soft and work well with cotton to absorb and wick away sweat. Some pricier T-shirts also incorporate fibers and additives that help inhibit bacterial growth and reduce body odor.

Neckline

One noticeable difference between T-shirts for men and T-shirts for women is the number of neckline options. While women’s T-shirts typically offer about six neckline styles, including crew, V-neck, scoop, and square, men’s T-shirts tend to fall into three categories: crew, tank, and V-neck.

Crew: A crew neckline typically opens just below the wearer’s neck. The opening does not expose the collarbone or chest and looks best worn as part of an ensemble, such as a sports jacket or vest or long-sleeve casual shirt.

Tank top: A tank top T-shirt is sleeveless with a deep squared-off neckline. It is typically worn as an undershirt, but it can also be combined with an unbuttoned work shirt, tucked into jeans, or paired with shorts and sandals in hot weather.

V-neck: A V-neck T-shirt collar has a V-shaped opening that exposes part of the wearer’s upper chest and possibly collarbones. It’s typically worn by men who have an athletic build to emphasize the chest. A V-neck works well as casual outerwear or with a jacket or vest.

Size and fit

Finding a T-shirt in the right size isn’t too challenging, since most manufacturers offer them in a wide range of standard sizes, from XS to XXXXL. However, finding a T-shirt that has a flattering fit isn’t always easy. Body shape does play an important role when considering T-shirts for men. A T-shirt that’s too form-fitting around the midsection or too short at the waist would not be a flattering look.

Sometimes the fit of a T-shirt is determined by the nature of the material. Cotton shirts often have a looser fit than those containing spandex or elastane. The cut also affects the fit. A T-shirt designed for an athletic physique has a different cut from that of a general purpose undershirt. Length is also an important consideration when it comes to the overall fit. A T-shirt that is too short or too long is not flattering.

Care and maintenance

A T-shirt might seem like the ultimate example of casual wear, with simple washing and drying the only maintenance required. However, there are some considerations when it comes to the long-term handling of these garments. Some 100% cotton T-shirts that are not preshrunk must be air-dried to avoid shrinking. Shirts made of a polyester/cotton blend can handle machine washing and drying, but they can lose their elasticity and fit over time. Moisture-wicking or odor-reducing materials also require some special care to maintain their effectiveness.

Popular methods for adding graphics to T-shirts include silkscreening, digital inkjet printing, heat transfer patches, and airbrushing.

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What features should I look for in T-shirts for men?

Colors

Originally, undershirts could be found in any color as long as it was white. When T-shirts became popular as casual outerwear, manufacturers started offering a limited color palette, mostly neutrals like black, tan, and gray. Using fabric dyes to customize a white cotton T-shirt also became an option in the 1960s. Today, you can find T-shirts in virtually any color you can think of.

Graphics

The concept of adding messages or images to T-shirts didn’t become widespread until the 1950s, when companies like Coca-Cola and Disney introduced shirts with company logos or popular cartoon characters printed on them. Once the fabric printing process became more affordable, creating graphic T-shirts with pop culture references turned into a mainstream enterprise. Graphic T-shirt images and text messages help personalize a man’s casual appearance, but they should always be appropriate for the occasion.

t-shirts for men
DID YOU KNOW?
In 1905, the US Navy started requiring T-shirts as part of its official uniform largely because the shirts lacked buttons.
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How much do T-shirts for men cost?

Inexpensive

The least expensive T-shirts for men are basic cotton or cotton/polyester undergarments sold in multipacks for between $10 and $20. The color options may be limited to solid neutrals, such as white, black, navy blue, or gray. This is a good option if you like to keep a supply of work shirts or comfortable sleepwear on hand, but durability may be an issue.

Mid-range

You can find individual or pairs of designer T-shirts for between $20 and $40, and these are often available in a wider range of colors and graphic designs than cheaper shirts. The fit may be noticeably better as well, with more XL and XLT sizes available. Alternative synthetic and natural fabrics, such as bamboo and spandex, are also more common in mid-range T-shirts.

Expensive

The costliest T-shirts for men are high-performance athletic brands and designer brands. Expect to pay $40 to $75 for shirts with moisture-wicking, antibacterial, and/or UV-protection technology.

Cotton and polyester are the two most popular materials for men’s T-shirts, but T-shirts have been made of alligator leather, yarn, gold thread, and human hair.

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Tips

  • Try on several different sizes and styles. The fit of a T-shirt can vary significantly from one brand to another, and a larger or smaller size might be more flattering for your body shape.
  • Consider the color of your other clothing. If a T-shirt is going to be part of an ensemble, it shouldn’t clash with the shirt, jacket, or pants. A solid, neutral color like black, white, or navy blue should provide more combinations than bolder colors.
  • Consider having a favorite T-shirt tailored to fit. Many off-the-rack T-shirts don’t fit every body shape, so having a more expensive or favorite T-shirt customized to fit your proportions is a good idea.
  • Tuck in a T-shirt if it’s part of an ensemble. A T-shirt worn with a pair of jeans or khakis should remain untucked to fit properly. A T-shirt worn under a sports jacket or casual button-down shirt can be tucked to create a sleeker line.
t-shirts for men
American author F. Scott Fitzgerald is credited with coining the term “T-shirt” in his 1920 novel This Side of Paradise.

FAQ

Q. Should I order a T-shirt in my normal size or go up a size or two?

A. Some T-shirt brands fit true to size, which means you should consider ordering or trying on your normal size. However, it pays to order at least one size larger if you prefer a looser, more casual fit. Men who have a long torso should consider a tall fit (such as 2XLT), while those with a larger midsection should consider an extra-large (XL) size.

Q. How does a moisture-wicking T-shirt work?

A. Many of the natural fabrics in T-shirts, especially cotton, tend to absorb sweat and hold it close to the body. However, synthetic polyester draws sweat away from the skin and holds it in the top layer where it can evaporate or be absorbed by other clothing. This wicking action helps the wearer feel drier and cooler during strenuous activities, and it also reduces the formation of the bacteria responsible for body odor.

Q. Do T-shirts for men offer protection from UV radiation?

A. A basic white cotton T-shirt for men typically has a UV protection rating of 7 SPF when dry and drops to 3 SPF when wet. This doesn’t provide much protection from the effects of sun exposure. However, there are more expensive T-shirts that do offer SPF ratings of 70 or higher. A long-sleeve dark-colored T-shirt for men might offer the most protection from the sun, but applying sunscreen to the skin is still preferable.

 

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