There’s only so much you can do to a T-shirt to take it from normal to exemplary, mainly fit and fabric. And Buck Mason is dedicated to both. Not only is their tee made from cotton woven in small batches on low-tension looms to give it a nubby finish and made entirely in the USA (including sewn in Los Angeles). But the fit here really shines, slim in the torso, snug at the sleeve, and outfitted with a wider set on collar and a curved hem.
What could make a T-shirt worth dropping almost a hundred bucks? What if we told you it was originally designed for James Bond? Because Sunspel’s Riviera tee was made with Daniel Craig in Casino Royale in mind. How’s that for some goddamned pedigree? The storied British label makes this shirt with 100% long-staple cotton that’s finished in Italy, and if you’re asking yourself what that even means, they even have diagrams on their website to help show you. The quick and easy is that it’s a bit heavier thread that makes the shirt sturdier and better suited to be worn on its own (not just as an undershirt). When it comes to luxed-up basics that come with every detail thought through, this is the pick for you. Just know it’ll cost ‘ya.
If you read this website even semi-regularly, you’re probably well aware of our ongoing love affair with Uniqlo U, the Japanese giant’s Christophe Lemaire-designed sublabel. As our own Cam Wolf put it in his recent ode to the line: “…when Lemaire makes a $15 T-shirt, he knows which knobs to turn and buttons to press to make sure it belies the price tag. He’s not focused on hype, only fine-tuning each piece until it’s perfect.” And that’s exactly what he did: Uniqlo U’s signature tees have the heavy feel and flatteringly boxy fit of a tee you’d find hanging at an upscale boutique for quintuple the price. They come in a staggering number of colors and look great in practically all of them, but there’s something extra special about the white: it’s a little creamy, a little eggshell-y, a little too sophisticated and nuanced for something that costs less than you normally spend on a salad at Sweetgreen. In other words, it’s perfect.
Gather round, children, and come hear the tale of how T-shirts became perfectly acceptable things to wear in public. It wasn’t always so: they were once only things to be worn under other, more acceptable button-down shirts, to provide a barrier between your sweaty body and the lovely woven fabrics of your “nice” shirt. But then these guys—icons of an era, really—named Marlon Brando and James Dean wore them in movies (The Wild Ones and Rebel Without a Cause, respectively) that seared the image of a man, looking cool while wearing only a plain white T-shirt, onto the common consciousness of the country and—bam!—a movement was born. Levi’s seeks to replicate the feeling of that golden age with their 1950s Sportswear T-shirt, with its longer torso length, chest pocket, and shorter sleeves, made from slub cotton that’s been pre-washed and given a slightly pilled, lived-in texture.
A little history: Velva Sheen was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1932 and is most famous for providing T-shirts and sweatshirts to colleges and the US Armed Forces. In short, they know what they’re doing. The label’s signature, however, is tublar knitting, meaning that due to the way it’s woven, there are no side seams on these shirts, which allow for maximum comfort and movement. Keeping with the brand’s founding principal, everything is still made in the USA.
Don’t ask us why, but there’s something about a pocket on a T-shirt that just looks and feels right. And L.A.’s Lady White Co.—founded in 2015 with the express mission of developing the perfect white jersey tee—crafts the finest pocket T-shirts you’ll find anywhere. The tees themselves are tailored using old-school tubular knitting techniques, which eliminates any side seams to make their soft, weighty jersey feel all the more comfortable. They’re finished with a classic ’60s fit, a set-in collar to sidestep any bacon neck, and the pièce de résistance: the pocket, set slightly askew and the shape of a squared-off teardrop. The thick stitching around its circumference ensures its the first thing your eye is drawn to, and it throws off the immaculateness of the rest of the tee in a way that’s artful and interesting. The way we see it: you probably won’t ever actually need the extra storage space, so your pocket might as well be as weird and fun to look at possible.
Need some extra breathing room? Give John Elliott’s perfectly oversized tees a shot. They’re cut loose and a little long—but not, like, 2004 rap video long—with a wider neckline. If you’ve been embracing fashion’s baggy-is-beautiful directive of late, this is the T-shirt for you.