The poor and humble t-shirt – too often reviled by men in coats and ties, and too often relied on by men who don’t know their own coat size – is simultaneously the most under and overrated piece of clothing in history. Personally, I think a t-shirt can look quite good if it’s cut well and wearer is trim. Granted, it works best layered underneath a jacket, rather than worn alone, but what kind of shirt doesn’t?
For a long time now, I’ve bought mine from Hanes. Their Beefy T model is slim, stout, and unbeatably cheap. You can get them for about $5 directly from Hanes, or $2 at Sierra Trading Post (provided you have a DealFlyer coupon and wear a size 36 jacket). I also like The Flat Head’s plain white tees, which are made from a thicker fabric and have triple stitching at the collar. This makes them less likely to stretch out over time, which has always been my main complaint about Hanes, but at $110 apiece, I’ve found them to be a hard purchase to justify.
Recently, I found what’s now my new favorite source for t-shirts. Barns, a Japanese label, makes them in loopwheeled constructions and basic, solid colors. Loopwheeling, for those unfamiliar, is an old knitting process where a garment’s body is knitted to shape (like a tube), so there’s no need for side seams. Since the process is slow and there’s no mechanical tension, the resulting fabric gets all of its texture and softness form the naturally relaxed yarns.
You can see the effect when you look closely at the Barns t-shirt. Given the yarns they use, the fabric is tufted in some areas, and not in others. This gives it a natural heathering (even when the shirt is white), as well as slightly rougher, more “natural” hand feel. The difference between this and Hanes isn’t too different from the slubbiness retained in some lines of quality Japanese denim, and the overly smooth, highly processed stuff you’d find at The Gap (even when the denim is “raw” and selvedge).
There’s also this wonderfully superior cut. The body is trimmer and shorter, and the sleeves a touch shorter as well. The neckline is high and tight, and the combination gives the t-shirt a nice vintage-y silhouette. In addition, the chest pocket is a bit wrinkled and puckered, and cut with a strong curve. All in all, this t-shirt feels more like it came out of 1950 than 2014.
I typically wear mine these days with a brown leather jacket and some raw blue jeans, but over the weekend, I tried it with a black lambskin A-2 from last season’s Burberry, a pair of double black jeans from 3sixteen, and a pair of side zip boots from Maison Martin Margiela. I never thought in a million years I’d be wearing black side zip boots, but when I started a blog called Die, Workwear!, I didn’t think that I’d be wearing workwear one day either.