When we at Tall Order decided we wanted to evolve to carry more than just socks, we went through weeks of deliberations to decide what to release. We relied on feedback from our customers as well as our own personal experiences. As a tall man, there’s a lot of clothing that isn’t correctly built or sized for guys like me. But throughout all of our conversations, shirts were always among the first items mentioned.
As a tall guy, I’ve encountered my fair share of problems with shirts- they can be too short and either not tuck into my shirt properly or show a little too much skin when I reach for something on the top shelf at the grocery store. They can also be made of poor fabrics, being too rough to wear for comfort around the house. Finally, they can be ill-made for layering, so I can’t wear them under my favorite sweaters and shirts for going out.
In this blog, we’re going to introduce you to the world of undershirts - why wear them at all and when to do so.
Why Wear an Undershirt At All?
Considering others likely don’t see them or don’t pay any attention to them, it is a valid question to ask why you should wear an undershirt at all. While an undershirt is not appropriate for every situation in life, there are many times when undershirts can be a helpful addition to your outfit. Here are a few reasons to put on an undershirt before any other clothing:
Decrease Transparency in Dress Shirts
Dress shirts tend to be made of very thin fabrics, which help you look your best when you’re at a wedding or giving a business presentation. However, the downside of this is that they can be somewhat transparent, making you expose too much skin or unruly chest hair. This makes you look more unkempt, especially if you have a hairy torso or back.
If it’s a hot day or a nerve-wracking situation, you could sweat through your shirt, resulting in an even worse look. Seeing sweat on your shirt could decrease your confidence in whatever you’re about to do. An undershirt provides an extra layer of protection against sweat before it hits your shirt, keeping your look dry even in your sweatiest moments.
It’s been a very cold winter this year - extra layers can help you brace with the bitter temperatures. A quality undershirt can help keep you comfortable in the coldest environments, especially if the undershirt has long sleeves and thermal fabrics.
Reducing Fabric Wear
As you wear shirts and outer garments, the friction caused by your skin rubbing against the fabric can lead to the fabric wearing down over time. Wearing an undershirt prolongs the useful life of your shirt by reducing friction and slowing down the degradation of the fabrics.
When to Wear an Undershirt
So now you know why it can be helpful to wear an undershirt. But when should you wear one and how should you pair them with your outfit? In the end, there are no hard and fast rules about when you have to wear an undershirt, so match undershirts with your favorite outfits as you see fit based on your personal preferences. Here are a few classic scenarios when it could be helpful to wear an undershirt:
Lounging Around The House
Sometimes when you have nothing important to do, you just want the most comfortable clothes you can find. An undershirt can function well for lounging around the house, especially when the shirt is made of premium soft fabrics.
Wearing Dress Clothes
The most obvious use for an undershirt is under a dress shirt. It could be worn with a standard button-down shirt for a suit, or a tuxedo shirt for more formal occasions. An undershirt under your dress shirt will keep you from sweating through your shirt and have you looking your best whether you’re in the boardroom or on the dance floor.
Undershirts complement a lot of classic looks for more casual occasions. Think about how an undershirt looks under a less dressy button-down shirt, or with a v-neck sweater. Undershirts in these situations accent the outfit where the intention is to show part of the undershirt.
Types of Undershirts
Sleeveless Undershirts - the most simple design; they offer the most arm flexibility but due to their limited surface area offer the least amount of moisture absorption
V-Neck Undershirts - good for pairing with sweaters or shirts where you want to expose the skin around the top of your collar
Crew Neck Undershirts - the classic design to wear under a button-down shirt when you plan to use a tie to cover the neck
Long Sleeve Undershirts - when you need a little more length in the arms for extra warmth on cold days, or for layering underneath a short sleeve shirt for a two-toned look
Extended & Tall Size Undershirts - for the man who doesn’t fit into standard sizes, big and tall undershirts can offer extra length or width in the torso
What Color Undershirt To Wear
While there are no specific rules on what color to choose for your undershirts, think about how you want to present (or not present) yourself. A safe rule of thumb is to stick with neutral colors - white or grey work well to blend in under lighter colored shirts. If you’re layering for a more casual situation, then feel free to experiment with different colors for your undershirts. Think about how you want to accent or create contrast in your outfit, and choose your color accordingly.
Undershirt Technology: Evaluating the Hype
Undershirt technology has advanced quite a bit more over the years than you may think. Manufacturers and designers are creating more specialized shirts for more specialized situations and adding features to make them even more comfortable. But are they worth the extra money? We’ll briefly evaluate some below.
“Sweat Proof” Shirts
Nothing is totally sweat proof - sweat is your body’s natural way of cooling itself down, and no shirt can completely regulate this. However, one of an undershirt’s main functions is to absorb sweat. Look for features such as “moisture wicking fabric” or “sweat resistance”. Some fabrics, such as cotton, can be naturally breathable but less moisture absorbent, whereas other fabrics, such as polyester, can feel heavier but do a better job of wicking away sweat. Some shirts now even feature sweat pads or side panels in the armpit area to increase breathability and sweat retention. In the end, you’ll have to decide if these extra features are worth it based on how much you sweat when wearing undershirts.
Some undershirts feature compression fabrics, which are designed to fit very snug and tight on your torso. Some people think this helps slim their look, while others wear them in athletic settings to increase blood flow. While some athletes think this helps them perform better and show off the definition in their muscles more, there’s no definitive proof of increased athletic ability resulting from wearing compression gear. A study conducted in 2015 and published in the Journal of Sports Medicine corroborates this. The researchers concluded that “wearing compression garments during recovery from exercise seems to be beneficial for performance recovery and delayed-onset muscle soreness, but the factors explaining this efficacy remain to be elucidated” (Beliard, Samuel et al, 2015).
These are similar to compression in that they increase blood flow to the torso due to their tight and snug fit. However, the end goal of thermal wear is to keep you warm in cold situations. Look for a base layer that helps retain body heat; many are now made with reflective materials to trap your body heat keeping you warm. These fabrics come with increased costs, so be prepared to spend on quality thermal wear. If these specially designed fabrics are too expensive, go with a compression shirt, although they have relatively no proven impact on athletic performance, this study did find that “higher compression [garments] generated higher body surface temperature” (Halász, Marianna et al., 2021).
Keep It Simple
So you’ve made it through your crash course on undershirts. But now you ask yourself, “what is the best undershirt for me?” Unfortunately, there’s no one perfect answer, as the right undershirt depends on the occasion for which you’re wearing it. However, when you’re unsure and don’t want to spend a ton of money, keep it simple and don’t overthink it.
Tall Order offers simple, effective undershirts for men of all sizes. They are made from premium, moisture-resistant fabrics and offer lots of room to stretch and breathe. They come in sizes ranging from L to 4XL for wide bodies, and LT to 2XLT for taller men, or for extra length to ensure your shirt stays tucked in properly. While I personally wear the XLT undershirts all the time, our sizing is truly what sets us apart from other brands.