White Out | The Best Basic Tees


The basic recipe of the plain white t-shirt is remarkably simple: two short sleeves, a cotton weave, an ovular neck, a flat hem, maybe a chest pocket if you’re feeling adventurous. And yet, for the past decade or so, it seems that brands have been dead set on transforming this uncomplicated template into an increasingly complex formula. Like mad menswear scientists designers have revamped fits, developed high-tech fabrics, and utilized elaborate techniques to create the elusive “perfect t-shirt.” While Marlon Brando would probably object to all this tinkering of his t-shirt du jour, the tee has come along way since the fifties, so let’s delve into the teeming world of high-quality (and often high-ticket) tees.


Handvaerk – 100% Peruvian cotton, trim fit, no nonsense. One funny name, one great tee.


Our Legacy – They call this the perfect tee, and while we’re not ones to take sides, you really can’t go wrong with a plain front and a timeless jersey cotton construction.


Margaret Howell – 100% linen and 100% expensive. We’ll call this the “investment tee,” although we’re not quite sure what you’re investing in.


Sunspel – While they might be a touch spendy, Sunspel’s shirts are handcrafted from ultra-soft Sea Island cotton, making them arguably the most luxurious white tee on the market.


Levis Vintage Clothing – It’s not exactly stark white, but this pocket tee deserves a mention because it’s based off of an archive design from the fifties, so yes this is a tee that Brando himself might have actually worn.


Velva Sheen – Crafted using an age-old circular method, these tubular tees are knit without that pesky side stitch for a fit that is actually seamless.


James Perse – Lightweight, made in America, and understated through and through. As the label says, this is a standard.


Hanes – Because if we’re talking about simple tees, we might as well include the simplest one of all.

Comments on “White Out | The Best Basic Tees

    Joel on July 5, 2014 10:19 AM:

    Dyer and Jenkins, made in the US and super soft. Best tees I have been able to find. Also cheaper than all but Hanes in the article, $15 a piece.

    Matthew Pike on July 5, 2014 10:37 AM:

    Does anyone know the which brand Marlon Brando did actually wear? I’ve hard to find the perfect one; big necks, loose arms, rubbish in the wash….it’s the same every time. found a few that work for me, Uniqlo actually stand up pretty well.

    cork grips on July 5, 2014 2:36 PM:

    velva sheen. the best.

    Patrick on July 5, 2014 3:17 PM:

    I understand that Brando’s T was made specifically for him. Note the very short sleeve, better to show off his arms but without rolling it–not uncommon in the 50’s–which would have seemed too fastidious for the brutal and unrefined Stanley.

    Karl on July 5, 2014 3:47 PM:

    I’m curious on what you think of the white tees that Left Field NYC make? I know they have a pocket tee and a no pocket tee as well.

    Jack on July 5, 2014 5:57 PM:

    Gag me with a spoon.

    Ratner on July 5, 2014 10:59 PM:

    You have to include Dickie’s on this list. A Hanes shirt is great, but for 10% more you will get a Dickie’s shirt that will last you twice as long. And for 20% more (we’re talking a couple bucks here), you will get a white pocket tee. All those other expensive options are great, but for a white tee shirt, anything over $20 is ridiculous.

    Chuck on July 6, 2014 1:06 AM:

    Picked up a stack from everlane…$15. Cant beat the price and they have washed pretty well actually. Their collars get goofy though – i pinged them about why they were rolling in and not laying flat, they responded quite promptly. Great customer service.

    Jacob on July 6, 2014 2:24 AM:

    Why no mention of American Apparel?

    chris on July 6, 2014 3:34 AM:

    Brando is wearing an undershirt. Which is what t-shirts were. Before they became t-shirts.
    And there is a difference.

    Lorenzo on July 6, 2014 4:00 AM:

    The best white t’s are made in Honduras… It’s a struggle to find them them but I guarantee if you check your favorite t’s… The tag will say “made in Honduras”

    James Redhouse on July 6, 2014 5:09 AM:

    The Hanes tee is the only one with a high neck-opening and a proper neckband.

    The rest are undershirts.

    bert on July 6, 2014 1:00 PM:

    I hate t shirts that are made out of that thin nylon type material. Nothing disappoints me more than opening up a new delivery and seeing that it is made of that stuff. What to look out for when I am reading the material content before ordering? They call everything cotton now.

    JHR on July 7, 2014 3:13 AM:

    Calvin Klein makes the best tee shirts at the most reasonable price–and especially if you’re willing to brave a bargain outlet store and certainly over Hanes.

    Bryn on July 7, 2014 7:44 AM:

    Check out Eastman Leather, they do fantastic reproduction t-shirts that are carbon copies of original US Navy and USMC t-shirts. Large wide boat neck, fitted, short sleeved and tube loom from the 1920’s, made by John Lofgren, Sendai, Japan. To be specific t-shirts were originally underwear, the cool image of WW2 servicemen wearing their t-shirts exposed in a rebellious way is reproduced by screen icons such as McQueen and Brando. Brando above is wearing a standard US Navy t-shirt, it was never specially made for him, it was his early days.

    Ernie on July 8, 2014 12:48 AM:

    Heard that Japanese loopwheeled tees are best (Strike Gold, Flat Head, and The Real McCoys)

    Peter on July 9, 2014 3:32 AM:

    Unless you are fastidious about your laundry (and table manners…) there is no way to keep a white T white for more than a dozen wears or so — with that in mind I really like the American Apparel eco cotton T’s for about $15. I have looked at Sunspel/Velva Sheen and a few other high end brands but couldn’t justify the price for something I’d likely stain or would turn gray in the wash…

    Skenflin McGinty on July 10, 2014 11:38 AM:


    Use bleach and/or bluing.

    Julia on July 11, 2014 11:30 AM:

    Marlon wore everything with so much style!!!

    Skylo on July 12, 2014 6:15 AM:

    Dont see why you can only wear it a dozen time.Scoop full of oxyclean every now and again and stays bright white.

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