The Essential: 5 Ways To Make A Statement With A White T-Shirt

As wardrobe staples go, the most important item for any man is something you own already: The plain white tee. That’s because it’s the upper-body equivalent of brown wingtips—it’s functional, iconic and, most importantly, versatile. We love the white cotton tee because it says everything while saying nothing at all: Alone, it’s dressed down. With a navy blazer, it’s biz casual. With a pack a Camels rolled into a sleeve, it’s badass. Indeed, it’s blank canvas—and, among the millions of ways you can use it, here are five ways you can make a statement with that American Apparel 50/50.

Pair it with another classic: dark denim

If there’s any better tribute to the plain white tee than The Outsiders, we’ve yet to see it. Pairing a white tee with dark denim—for the modern era, we recommend unfussy, slim-fitting selvedge fare—and a jean jacket is oh-so-iconically American: Indeed, it was Ponyboy’s greaserly outfit of choice, but it was also perfected by James Dean, Johnny Ramone, and Bruce Springsteen. And if it’s good enough for The Boss, it’s certainly good enough for us.

Wear it with the Canadian tux

Strange Brew might’ve patented it, but modern-era music icons—see: lumberjacks-done-right like Bon Iver or Timber Timbre—have wrestled the Canadian tux out Bob and Doug’s oafish, hoser hands. A plain, white tee paired with rugged wools, like the plaid flannels on offer from Filson or Pendleton, is a winning combination once the temperature plummets, and one that works for creative-agency execs and woodsmen alike. (Pro tip: We recommend pairing this style with something sharp, shiny, and lust-worthy from Base Camp X.)

Pair it with a linen suit

Sure, it’s a style popularized by Columbian drug-cartel honchos, but there’s a reason we’re obsessed with linen suits: They’re light, cool, and might be one of the few style-forward things you can wear on humid days. Pair a linen blazer and slacks with a v-neck—or deep-v, if you dare—for the perfect summer office wear. Stick with grey, beige or white linens—unless you’re going for a villain-from-Miami Vice vibe. Hey, we won’t judge.

Wear it with chinos and boat shoes

We’ll repeat it one more time: There are few better footwear options than the Sperry Topsider. Because, when paired with a white tee and a pair of cuffed khaki chinos, it’s a near-perfect everyday uniform, straddling the line between laid-back and Ivy League. It’s what Drake rocks on the red carpet. And what Hemingway wore at the height of his bullfighting obsession. And it’s what we wear whenever we get the chance.

Transform your work digs

Another reason why we’re obsessed with the white tee: It can transform your wardrobe in one fell swoop. Going out for something stiff after work, but can’t stop home to change out of that conservative, navy-blue suit? Swap up your collared shirt for a tee, push up your blazer sleeves, and hit the town.  (Pro tip: We recommend pairing this style with  “The Perfect T-Shirt” from PYA Black Label.)

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Mark Teo

Mark Teo is a freelance writer based in Toronto, ON. He’s the current editor of AUX.TV, and you can find his writing—which usually focuses on arts, culture and pretty well everything in between—in Fast Forward Weekly, This magazine, Toronto Life, Sharp magazine and more. Send praise, death threats and free stuff to @excitement.

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