DAPPER IN TRAINING
The Essential Undershirt Guide
20 November 2017
“Should I wear an undershirt under my dress shirt?”
An incredibly common question.
This time I am enlisting the help of my good friend and dapper blogger, Chris Browning to tell us all about this particular and divisive piece of clothing in this, what we are calling “the essential guide to undershirts.”
Trust me, it deserves the essential title. It is that good.
Take it away, Chris!
To Wear Or Not Wear An Undershirt, That Is The Question!
You have some men that will shun the idea entirely and go for the more sprezzatura look and feel and can rock it!
Others go for this but sweat profusely and their shirts look soaked and smelly.
On the other hand, there are those that wear an undershirt and prevent a myriad of issues, yet no one is the wiser!
In addition to creating an extra layer to keep you warm or create an extra barrier to prevent sweat from seeping through to your dress shirt or jacket, they also help keep unsightly chest hair from poking through your shirt or sticking out, can hide tattoos that may peak through, and ultimately make you feel more confident!
Unfortunately, the majority of men wear an undershirt and you know it…and not in a good way!
Here are the ways most men wear an undershirt incorrectly, and how to avoid those issues!
1. The Problem: Men Showing Undershirt Collar Underneath Their Dress Shirt
They wear a crew neck that is seen under their dress shirt, even with just the collar button undone it shows.
This is never a good look as an undershirt is essentially underwear and cheap looking so it is best not to show right beneath your face.
Let your shirt collar be what frames your face! The collar can be buttoned up with a tie or left unbuttoned.
I like to leave the collar button and the button underneath it undone for a more relaxed look. Keeping only the collar button undone looks too uptight and stuffy as well as not letting the air flow through as easy.
Either way you do it though, you need a deep v in order to keep that undershirt undetectable!
Wear a deep V-neck undershirt that matches as closely as possible with your skin tone, which reduces a visible high contrast.
Also, try and look at the seams of shirt around the neck opening and sleeves to ensure they aren’t a high ribbed seam.
The goal here is to minimize bumps and thus showing the outline of your collar or sleeves.
You can go for cotton or some more high-tech fabrics like Micro-modal, wood pulp, bamboo, etc. These materials can actually be much more breathable than cotton and can wick away moisture instead of just absorb it.
Read also: How To Fix A Sloppy Dress Shirt Collar
2. The Problem: Undershirt Showing Through The Dress Shirt You Are Wearing
This happens for a number of reasons.
The shirt itself can be lighter weight, the weave a more open one, and of course lighter shirts like white, light pink, or sky blue are the usual suspects.
The color of the undershirt makes a difference, as does the size of the seams of the undershirt, and whether the shirt has or doesn’t have sleeves.
Most of us aren’t stark white and so our undershirts shouldn’t be also.
You need to find an undershirt that closely matches your skin tone. For me, being very light skinned that means a sand color.
There are also various darker shades of khaki/brown and different grays and black shirts.
My advice would be to get the former and if not possible or dark enough, to get a heather gray.
Eliminating the vast contrast between stark white and your natural skin tone, it will be much less visible.
Another way to eliminate people noticing you are wearing an undershirt is to pay attention to the seams on your undershirt.
Pay special attention to where the sleeves attach to the shoulder as a lot of shirts have ribbed seams that bulge out from underneath the dress shirt and show the lining of the undershirt.
Finally, if the shirt is baggy or too short you will deal with extra fabric that bulges beneath your dress shirt and appears sloppy as well as adds visual weight to our torso.
Find a shirt that matches close to your skin tone or creates as little contrast as possible between skin and shirt. You also want to find undershirts with a small seam that is flat and won’t show the outline underneath your dress shirt. Finally, nail the fit down so it doesn’t add any visual weight or bunching. Look for a shirt that fits snug but not too tightly in the chest, waist, and sleeves with a longer length to remain tucked. Read also: Do Tight Suits Look Good?
Probably the most common issue that many men have with undershirts: they’re damn hard to hide!
3. The Problem: Undershirt Materials Are Often Overlooked
So, like most men who know about men’s style and a lot about their clothing, we know that natural materials are better than man made synthetics.
You want your suiting, jackets, trousers, ties, dress shirts, etc. to all be made from natural materials.
While polyester may be more durable then most natural materials, it looks and feels cheap and often gets shiny or overheats the wearer and drapes poorly. Thus, we pay more to get a product that looks better, wears better, and fills us with confidence!
When it comes to undershirts, as well as underwear and athletic wear, this philosophy differs. Their primary purpose is to wick away moisture and dry faster, as well as be a bit more durable due to them being items you sweat in and must clean on a daily basis.
Another benefit of newer technical fabrics is that in addition to all the benefits above, they can even reduce and kill bacteria that causes odor!
This means not only do you feel more fresh regularly, but also that you can get away wearing it more in between washes without being dirty and smelly.
If you have never tried an undershirt or underwear in a micro-modal, it is well worth your time and money to do so immediately!
They feel better against your skin, they fit and contour to your body, they breathe even better than cotton, and they wick away moisture and don’t just soak it up and stay wet and sticky against your skin causing discomfort.
Read also: How To Beat The Heat In a Suit
4. The Problem: Sleeves Or The Length Of The Undershirt Riding Up And Causing Bunching
With a lot of cheaper undershirts, think your Hanes and the like, you have shirts made and sold in bulk and thus extra attention is not paid to how these areas fit.
You simply end up with undershirts that are cut too short in the body which causes them to ride up and bunch underneath your dress shirt.
When this occurs you now have a bunching of material from undershirt piled up right at your midsection.
This causes not only discomfort, but also adds visual weight to your stomach and looks sloppy and unkempt.
Even when you are in great shape, it ruins the look and makes it look like you have a spare tire around your waist.
I don’t think any gentlemen wants to have that, especially if it can be avoided entirely!
The arm holes are often cut lower and too short and wide which causes them to ride up and makes for a sloppy shoulder and sleeve head.
With undershirts made at a higher level and brands focusing solely on the purpose of creating the perfect undershirts, these areas are considered and made better.
The length is longer so they stay tucked in and don’t ride up and thus cause bunching around the waist underneath the dress shirt.
This also leads into another area about shirt fit and also the use of shirt stays (shirt garters) to hold everything taut and looking crisp.
I digress, being cut longer certainly helps this issue not arise as much/at all and the sleeves being cut with higher arm holes and slimmer width makes them adhere to the upper arm and not ride up also.
Rather both the sleeves and overall shirt length contour to your body and hold their shape and fit.
A good undershirt can be the perfect solution to the dreaded sweat stains on dress shirts.
5. The Problem: Most Undershirts Wear Out And Lose Their Shape And Color And Are Part Of The Disposable Fashion Currently Dominating The Clothing Industry
Cheaper bulk-made undershirts just aren’t made with the same quality of materials and attention to detail as a premium undershirt.
It simply doesn’t have the thought and effort built into it to make it be the best it can be.
Rather, it is the bare minimum that is accepted by most and turns a good profit for the businesses involved.
The cheap undershirts (which I also used for years like everyone else) loose their shape after only a handful of wears and launders and get discolored easily also.
What you end up with is an even shorter and less conforming shirt that looks cheap and doesn’t fulfill its purpose, rather, it makes you look sloppy and feel uncomfortable.
So, what do you do then? You, being a stylish gentleman, dispose of it and buy another pack of undershirts to repeat the process.
Lucky for you this issue is already fixed when you invest in a good quality material that is made to prevent these issues!
Once you have the fit and materials down, you simply follow the instructions on laundering and they will hold up much better than standard cotton and actually keep their original color and shape.
Thus, while a more expensive investment upfront you don’t have to keep buying the inferior undershirts and they actually become cheaper in the long run!
What it all boils down to is do you need or want to wear an undershirt?
If not, you probably aren’t still reading and that is fine.
In some situations and climates that is probably the best course of action.
On the other hand, if you tend to sweat a lot on a regular basis, are in cold weather and needing additional layers to stay warm, or are simply trying to preserve your dress shirts, then undershirts can play a very functional role in your day to day.
Here are a few other issues where an undershirt can help you:
1. If you are wearing a very slim shirt or the shirt is a bit snug in the chest and/or waist wearing an undershirt helps showing any skin underneath in between the buttons.
2. They also prevent any unsightly hairs from poking through or visibly showing through your thinner/more open weave dress shirting.
3. Tattoos are also more easily concealed without having to resort to tattoo makeup or simply letting them mess up a dapper look you are aiming for.
4. Should you spill a drink or otherwise stain your favorite dress shirt (God forbid!) you can take it off to treat the stain (seltzer water in an emergency situation can help a stain from really setting in) and not be half naked.
Therefore, if you have indeed found a functional use to wearing an undershirt, then go with the best you can find/afford.
Even if it is once in a while, having that invisible and perfectly fitting undershirt when you need it most will pay off!
Yes, you can skimp and get a big pack of Hanes for $20 or less but why? They do a mediocre job and have many downsides that are easily avoidable by simply investing a bit more.
Find an undershirt that fits well, is made from breathable fabrics (micro-modal is 50% more breathable than cotton!), and matches closely to your skin tone.
Having the wider and deeper V-neck will be crucial to keeping hidden when wearing your dress shirt open without a tie.
This is quickly becoming the new normal as men are leaving the ties at home and rocking this look more and more.
Don’t be that guy you see with the strip of a cheap Hanes showing right above his collar and outlining his face, be more discrete and dapper in the process!
Spend $40-50 on a couple to start and see if it doesn’t change your whole outlook like it did for me!
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