You know when you’re at a friend’s house and they’re getting ready, or they text you a photo before heading out on a first date, and ask, “What should I wear with this?” Well, in my experience the answer is almost always painfully classic and simple: Reach for a plain white t-shirt, girl!
For me, the plain white tee makes perfect sense -- they look great with literally everything! Short shorts, jeans, pencil skirts, full skirts -- well, you get the point. They are the most classic of all classics, the most simple and fresh of all things simple and fresh. I wear a plain white t-shirt in some way or another almost every single day, whether layered under a sweater, tucked into a skirt, or even with sweatpants when I’m working out. That's why it’s shocking to me how many people don't own a plain white t-shirt!
I’m not sure what it is that deters people: Perhaps they don’t know what cut to buy, or what fabric is best, or they just don’t want to worry about keeping it clean all the time. Maybe they are terrified of rainstorms or people with hoses spraying them, both of which would reveal their underthings, or worse, their breasts! But you know what I think? I think most people just don’t realize how great the right plain white tee, if properly taken care of, can be. Of course, there are a few key options and rules to keep in mind, but nothing you can’t handle:
White t-shirts can range from $2 to $200 or more depending on fabric quality, where they’re made, and what designer name is printed on the tag. I’m not a huge fan of fast fashion, but in the past I’ve bought some great t-shirts from Topshop that have lasted quite awhile, and are affordable. On the other hand, my current white t-shirts are all from the pricier end of the spectrum, and there’s definitely a difference in the quality. Personally I would never spend $200 on a plain tee, but I find the $60 range to be extremely luxurious, soft, and worth the splurge.
To be honest with you though, the real difference when it comes to cost and plain white t-shirts is the production side of things. At the end of the day, almost all of these shirts will end up with stains and tiny holes where your jean buttons rubbed against them, no matter what they cost. The real cost difference is the environmental and human cost. Sure you can buy that pack of six shirts at your local big box store for less than half the price of other brands, but where were those shirts made, and by who? How far did they have to travel to get to you, and what did they cost the company to make?
With those questions in mind, all I can really say is buy the best quality you can. American Apparel is pretty affordable when it comes to basics, and their products are made more ethically, so that’s a slightly better option. Personally, my favorite t-shirts of all time are by Base Range, a basics brand that makes their tees out of bamboo! All of their products are made in small family-owned factories in Portugal, and the white colors are all dye free. At about $50 a pop, with two different styles, three color options, and unbelievably soft natural materials, I’ve yet to find anything better when it comes to cost (in the personal sense, and the bigger picture).
I once had a friend tell me he only ever buys his shirts from Walmart in big packs, because what’s the point of spending more on a shirt you’re just going to ruin with stains? This really stuck with me. I wondered if there were some way to keep those shirts clean and fresh looking, so that spending a bit more on the shirt in the first place would be worth the investment. I started hunting for solutions, and that’s when I found The Laundress.
The Laundress is a New York based company with a whole line of eco-friendly, cruelty-free cleaning products and laundry supplies. When it comes to white t-shirts, especially ones with sweat and grass stains, nothing works better than their special recipe, a combination of bleach alternative and stain solution. Just give your shirts a whirl in the machine with their whites detergent and you're good.
Sadly they don’t make anything portable, so you’ll have to stick with Tide to Go when you’re out and about.
CUT AND FABRIC:
The cut and fabric of your new favorite basic is a very important (perhaps the most important) decision, so don’t take it lightly. For example, my ideal plain white t-shirt is soft, thin and semi-sheer. It has a high, round neck, half sleeves with a slight roll or cuff, and is long enough that it covers half of the zipper on my high-waisted jeans. Of course it took me ages to figure out this special recipe for perfection, and even longer to find shirts that actually fit the bill, but once I did, every outfit I pieced together became smooth sailing. You might want to invest in a couple of totally different styles with different fabrics for more versatility.
WHEN AND WHERE:
There are absolutely no limitations when it comes to the white t-shirt. I’ve even been known to layer my t-shirts under dresses for more coverage, and I've worn them under long-sleeved button up shirts in case I get too hot and need to shed a layer. You name it, and you can wear a white t-shirt with it!
Where do you get yours?