How to style a white T-shirt

From dressed up to dressed down, Sunspel puts together some outfits to suggest ways to get the most out of the classic white T-shirt. Styled by William Gilchrist, stylist to the Rolling Stones among many others.

How to style a white T-shirt

1. Well-suited

A simple way to relax the formality of tailoring is to swap a shirt for a T-shirt. This outfit is made up of Sunspel’s travel wool unstructured blazer and pleated trousers in matching cloth. The deconstructed nature of Sunspel’s jackets means that even a suit – one of the most traditional of garments – has the brand’s signature relaxed spirit. Because of this, wearing a T-shirt with it looks perfectly natural. There are other, more rigid jackets and suits with which a T-shirt simply looks too casual, but Sunspel’s work really well with a T-shirt. And while we know that a T-shirt is only box-fresh, as it were, when first purchased, Sunspel’s classic does look and feel incredibly chic when brand new, so take full advantage of this by wearing it first with tailoring. The good news is that the high-quality cotton ensures that Sunspel’s T-shirt will keep its shape and colour over time, too.

2. Easy layering

Here we see the white T-shirt used as the foundation of your look, a starting point on which to build. The idea is that, like the base layer worn by sportsmen, the T-shirt grounds your outfit, but is not the focus. Adding a Sunspel twin-pocket jacket, worn either done-up or open over the top still makes for a “dressed up” impression, though in the most relaxed sense. But then a further garment can sit on top of this – in this example, a technical cotton mac. Finish with a pair of cotton chinos. The combination of the different tobacco browns in cotton and cotton-linen gives the whole outfit a summer look perfect for the city, and the white T-shirt throws this coloured ensemble into relief. Wear with Sunspel’s brown suede loafers, leather tennis shoes or Walsh & Sunspel trainers.

3. The classic combination

There are few pairings in the male wardrobe that have become as genuinely iconic as the T-shirt and jeans combination. And the white T-shirt and blue jeans partnership is the gold standard here. “Iconic” is a word that is overused, we know, but in this case it makes sense. This is in part because this is a look that was made famous by a number of movie stars who have themselves become icons: James Dean, Steve McQueen and Marlon Brando, to name a few. Since the early days of jeans and T-shirts, when the former undergarment paired with trousers with origins as workwear was a look taken up by teenagers as an expression of youthful non-conformity (think Brando in the 1953 biker movie The Wild One, and Dean in 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause), the combination has become globally ubiquitous. And though it is now thoroughly part of mainstream culture, it still retains a little bit of its rebellious edge. Sunspel’s classic white Supima cotton T-shirt is soft, cool and comfortable next to the skin, and is here paired with the brand’s Japanese denim jeans, which have a classic straight leg.

4. Summer Holiday

If you are someone who does not normally wear bright colours or striking patterns (and even if you are), then a white T-shirt is a great way to underpin a loud ensemble with something a little less dramatic. Any coloured or patterned shirt will work over a white T-shirt, and the look is instantly redolent of holidays and beaches, even if you’re just in the park at the weekend. Here, Sunspel’s printed camp collar shirt is teamed with matching upcycled marine plastic swim shorts, and the combination certainly suggests sun, sea and sand, or at least a sundowner cocktail at a beach – or any other – bar. But the addition of a white T-shirt breaks up the outfit and, in this case, the colour echoes the pattern of the other garments, making the ensemble appear clean and fresh.

5. Lounge

At the other end of the sartorial scale from the suit-and-T-shirt pairing is the marriage of sweatpants with T-shirt. The example here features Sunspel’s cotton loopback sweatpants, which also come in a grey marl colour that works equally well with the classic white top. This is definitely the most casual combination of our five, and is finished off with a pair of Sunspel’s lounge socks, ideal for padding around the house. The idea here is maximum comfort, and so the T-shirt in question is oversized. One thing that people often forget when buying a T-shirt is that size matters – the look you achieve will be largely governed by how fitted (or not) your choice is, and whether you wear it tucked in or not. There are no rules here, it just comes down to personal preference, and there may be different occasions on which you feel a snug or looser fit might be appropriate. For working from home, visiting the local coffee shop or just hanging out, a loose, worn-in white T-shirt is the perfect companion. And, even better, it will improve with years of love and washing.

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