Hanes ‘Beefy-T’ – Before a wash (right) & after one wash (left).
“Fuck ya cowboy boots, this Timbos on my feet/Some boys bear the names, I rather rock a white tee/Go against ya dress code and still be V.I.P.”
I wear a white tee most days, but the quest to find the perfect specimen of the shirt has been relatively fruitless. I’m certainly not the first person to blog about the white tee either Mr. Andrew Bunney and Jake Davis have logged their journey to white tee perfection (ultimately never finding the ‘one’ despite numerous suggestions) – Andrew’s post from a few years back inspired this one, but what he searches for in a shirt is different to mine. He was looking for a thinner undershirt, with a printed rather than sewn tag. For the most part, I’m not thinking Brando or ’50s rebel yells, but just looking for a thicker cotton number that isn’t boxy or too ‘Soulja Boy’ – can’t knock the man’s hustle, but too long makes me feel too old.
Then there’s the neck – I’ve got a big head, on a Mardi Gras paper mache tip…like James Spader’s ‘Seinfeld’ character and his earlier refusal to lend George a cashmere sweater, I have a habit of stretching a shirt’s neck the minute my noggin emerges through it. A resilient neck is a must. Biggest points lost here are if that neck is already vast. If I buy large, I don’t expect a ribbed hole that looks like a meteor passed through it.
Pricepoint is paramount too. Yes, there’s great white shirts out there for a price, but they’re like brioche bunned burgers ironically served in some smartarse restaurant. The white shirt is disposable. The above picture shows a Hanes Beefy brand new (right) against Hanes Beefy washed once. The change has begun. The slow road to boxiness, amplified by the stiffness 6.1oz of cotton creates has begun – oddly they feel stiffer after a wash too. The 5.4oz more standardised weights occasionally feel lacking in substance – even more prone to shrinkage, but admittedly less like body armour under a shirt or sweatshirt. The white tee is subjective – noone seems to agree on a particular favourite. Then there’s the gossamer thin three-pack versions, with a slimmer fit and shorter arms (I prefer at least 3/4 bicep coverage), intended as underwear. Within hours of a wear, that peculiar bounce in your step a fresh white tee induces begins to subside – staying pristine (deodorant mark underarms, grey necks) is nigh-on impossible. Beyond corner boy uniform anonymity, on a hip-hop level the disposable fresh nature of them correlates perfectly with the easy-to-dog nature of wheat Timbs or white Uptowns. Disposable style. Sheeeeeeiiiiit…I need a ‘Bubble’s Depot’ style enterprise following me around and selling me a new white tee 24/7.
I’ve had several Mexican-assembled Champions over the years, but the type available in Japanese spots like Oshimans with a slimmer fit, ’50s-style layered ringer neck, overlocked seams and embroidered sleeve ‘C’ branding eludes me. Garbstore occasionally makes something similar though. Other types I’ve yet to try include Stafford, Wings & Horns, Stedman Comforts (though I suspect I’ve got a fair few in a printed disguise) and at a more affordable level – frequently acclaimed though always absent whenever a Target store rears its head on a Stateside trip, packs of Pro Clubs. Some of my favourite Supreme prints were apparently (unconfirmed) printed on the mysterious ‘AAA Allstar’ blank. Mr. Matt George, Ransom honcho had a blank custom-made that’s outstanding, but I’ve not obtained one yet. Same goes for any made from the mysterious Pima cotton.
Predictably, the Far East gets some special versions of all your favourite brands, and the beautifully packaged Deluxe shirts looked worth a try.
Ultimately, at present that moment of pristine white tee perfection is, like attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, or C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhauser gate, a momentary one. I hope I’m proven wrong in the near future.
What follows is some unnecessary white tee closeups of 12 shirts, along with some pros and cons. Notable omissions are AA (overpriced, too prone to shrinking), Primark (bad quality, shrank to bellybutton level), Footlocker (once tolerable in three packs – fell off hard) and Gap (a quite good shirt – not cheap, but alas, my sole example was too repulsively grey to withstand the macro lens treatment without humiliation).
PROS – Thick, if you like that sort of shirt. Heavyweight status matched by a neck that refuses to stretch too. Long-lasting.
CONS – That borderline ‘polo-neck’ splits opinion. Heavyweight status makes them poor for layering. Defiantly shapeless and ultimately, borderline ‘boxy’. Not that easy to find locally beyond specialist tee printing spots. Double stitching isn’t to all tastes.
AAA (ALSTYLE APPAREL & ACTIVEWEAR)
PROS – Decent quality – neither too thick nor too thin. Large feels like an ‘acceptable’ rather than workwear large.
CONS – Neck doesn’t hug (theoretically, that could be a pro for many). Arms are short from the get-go before any washes.
PROS – Amazing shirt – thick cotton, thin neck detailing and a great fit that’s not too spacious. That’s because the House team had this made as the ultimate white tee. Label branding in the arm stitching is nifty too.
CONS – Not sure if the blanks ever officially made it out House33 HQ en masse. Not an easy find.
FRUIT OF THE LOOM ‘SUPER PREMIUM’
PROS – Cheap. Neck isn’t too loose. Sizing is fairly true.
CONS – Feels cheap rather than premium. Too lightweight in feel to carry that lofty ‘premium’ tag.
PROS – Cheap. Bought at K-Mart as a ten pack for very little. Good bulk packaging. A decent undershirt. Nice printed branding.
CONS – Useless worn anywhere but beneath a garment. Virtually transparent. ‘Smedium’ feel – even in large.
POLO BY RALPH LAUREN
PROS – Flyest branding ever. Thin neck – this feels ‘custom made’, flattering fit.
CONS – There’s a sense this was intended as underwear, though not to the same extent as the thinner, tighter shirts with the Polo man just above your hip rather than chest. Small sizing – try going one up and it gets vast, with a huge neck to match.
PROS – Cheap. Big fit minus a vast neck if that’s your thing. Who doesn’t love the Champion ‘C’? Printed neck rather than sewn label (strangely sitting in the waist stitching). Not too prone to shrinkage.
CONS – Pretty thin and vast in overall size. Athletics rather than casual wear seem to be the intent. The assembly (see the seams fixing the arms below) is scrappy and cheap looking.
PROS – Another big ‘C’ everyone loves. Pretty heavyweight. Nice embroidered sleeve branding.
CONS – This is intended as workwear. It’s shapeless and huge. The neck is practically off-the-shoulder on me.
PROS – Feels like an even more refined version of the Polo fit – semi-fitted cut works well. Thin collar. UK-made. Uses Egyptian cotton for a luxury feel.
CONS – For a white tee it isn’t cheap. Because of sizing it’s a try before you buy affair. Seems to crease easily – though this could be my sloppy storage techniques.
GILDAN ‘ULTRA COTTON’
PROS – Cheap. The ‘everyman’ of t-shirts. Feels ruggedly constructed from all that double stitching. Lighter than a ‘Beefy’.
CONS – Shapeless fit. Shrink-risk. Can be a little too lightweigh for the heavyweight shirt fans.
PROS – US -made, and it feels rugged. Collar is free of any vulgar excess seams. Thick – it feels like you could roll this up and knock someone out with it (Western sizing aside, it feels like those late ’90s BAPE releases in weight). Fit isn’t half as bad as the Carhartt variation.
CONS – Still assumes a large is LARGE. Fairly shapeless. That BIG collar might alienate non Beefy-fans (it’s close to the Hanes in shape).
PROS –Cheap if you’re in Uniqlo at the right time. Okay as an undershirt.
CONS – Considering that Uniqlo pushes the tees so hard, you’d expect something great. In the early ’00s, their cotton and polyester blends were decent. These 100% cotton shirts have their fans, but they’re thin and that weird jutting shoulder makes them fit in an oddly jarring way. Too lightweight.