White t-shirt Our stylists’ favourites for you, plus some tips on how to wear them well

Why you need a white t-shirt
You probably already know this, but white t-shirts are the most timeless, basic, versatile items you could own. As long as you go for a classic cut and style—like the ones we've chosen here—you won't find anything it clashes with, and you can easily wear it with almost everything in your wardrobe.

Stylist, Kasia K.

The fit tips
  • Bottom. Should end halfway down your trouser fly.
  • Body. If your t-shirt is as wide at the waist as it is at the shoulders, you'll have an inch or two of space between your body and the t-shirt, which is most flattering.
  • Sleeves. The most versatile styles halfway between your shoulder and your elbow.
The backstory

When woollen, short-sleeved, crew neck t-shirts sprung up in the 19th century, they were revolutionary for their lack of fastenings.

By 1904 they were being made from cotton and marketed as "bachelor undershirts" with this exceptional tagline: "No safety pins—no buttons—no needle—no thread."

The do

Do think of a white t-shirt as something you can use to brighten up an outfit.

If you find yourself wearing all dark colours, or all one colour—like a navy jumper with blue jeans—a white t-shirt can add some brightness.

The don'ts
  • Don't ever wear a white t-shirt under a formal shirt; it worsens the shirt's look and fit.
  • Don't go for skinny or ribbed white t-shirts, as they're rarely flattering.
  • Don't wear a t-shirt if you can see your skin through it.
The icon

Jazz musician Chet Baker helped establish the white t-shirt as a masculine staple in the 1950s. Recreate his classic look by wearing a white t-shirt untucked with blue jeans and Converse.

For a 1950s vibe, roll the t-shirt's sleeves and tuck it in.

The quality indicators

Mid-weight, 100% cotton will wash well, and ribbed collars won't stretch out.

Organic and Egyptian cotton t-shirts are strongest and softest. Organic because chemicals haven't coarsened and weakened the fibres; Egyptian because the fibres are longer and finer than regular cotton.

The ideal number of white t-shirts to own

Three. One for wearing at home, one for wearing under jumpers and one very-sharp, very-white one for wearing with smart-casual clothes.

And if you find one that fits you, buy several: most manufacturers change the shape of their t-shirts each season depending on trends and styles.

The smartest ways to wear it

If your white t-shirt is crisp and white, it can be smarter than you might think. The trick is to make sure everything else you're wearing is smart-casual.

Prime examples: a slim cotton suit and loafers or a slim blazer, chinos and leather shoes.

The care tips

Ideally, you'd wash white tees with only other whites. But if you couldn't be bothered, use a colour catcher—a fabric sheet you throw in with your wash to keep colours from bleeding together.

Do a white wash with enzyme powder every few months to brighten up your white tees.