I remember my first job after graduating college - I worked at a financial software company in several client-facing roles. Being in a traditionally conservative industry, I was expected to wear a full suit and tie whenever I visited clients, and was still expected to be in business professional attire when I spent the day in the office (think a button down shirt and pants).
Early on in my career, I didn’t ever consider wearing an undershirt with my suit; I figured the extra layer would make me feel warmer, and my dress shirts fit well enough. However, all it took was one summer in New York City to change my mind. I’d show up to work after 20 minutes of commuting in the heat and humidity of a New York summer with my shirt covered in sweat and large pit stains coming from my underarms. All the deodorant I used still couldn’t prevent those stains.
Then I started wearing undershirts and my style changed. Yes it felt slightly bulkier with an extra layer, but having that layer absorb all the sweat helped me look my best in important meetings. I have since carried the undershirt philosophy to other formal occasions, such as weddings. I never wear a suit to a wedding without an undershirt (and I panic when I forget to pack one before my travel!)
I’ll be the first to admit that, at a baseline, I probably get sweatier than most people, so it made more sense for me to switch to wearing undershirts, but it took some painfully wet dress shirts for me to see that. With this blog, we’re going to try to spare you that hard-learned lesson and give you the best advice on how to wear an undershirt with your suits and dressy outfits.
Pros & Cons of Wearing an Undershirt with a Suit
Before we go into the advice of how to wear an undershirt, we thought it would be helpful to go over some of the basic benefits and drawbacks to wearing an undershirt.
Pros of Undershirts With a Suit
- Protection against sweat stains - whether it’s a hot day outside or you’re in a pressure-packed situation, your body will sweat to try to cool you off. An undershirt can absorb that sweat so it doesn’t show on your dress shirt. This can be especially helpful if you’re wearing a color shirt, such as light blue or purple, that doesn’t hide moisture
- Extra warmth on colder days - depending on the material of your undershirt, it can provide an extra layer of warmth when the mercury drops outside.
- Protection against deodorant stains - depending on the type of underarm deodorant you use, you may be subject to dirty pit stains showing up on your shirt. Better that they happen on your undershirt where no one can see them than your dress shirt where they would be more visible
- Improved fit within your suit - if your suit or dress shirt runs a little loose, an undershirt can help fill in that excess space and make the suit more form-fitting
- Comfort no matter the dress shirt - some dress shirts are more comfortable/better constructed than others; an undershirt provides consistent comfort no matter the dress shirt you choose
Cons of Undershirts With a Suit
- Increased bulk - if the undershirt you wear doesn’t wick away or hold on to moisture well, or if it is poorly constructed, it can feel heavy and weigh you down during the day
- Feeling of constriction - some body types, especially those who are more muscular and athletic, don’t lend themselves to tighter-fitting undershirts. Those guys with those frames could feel like their range of motion is limited by an undershirt
- Bad styling - if the undershirt doesn’t match the suit or shirt you’re wearing, it can show through your shirt which is a bad look
- Bunching - a poorly-constructed undershirt or an undershirt that isn’t long enough can bunch around the upper arms and/or the torso, causing discomfort and the need to constantly re-adjust your undershirt under your suit
When Should You Wear an Undershirt With a Suit?
We should note that this is not meant to be the definitive guide on when to wear an undershirt; personal preferences will overtake any advice we could give. We suggest you experiment with your outfits in low-stakes situations where you won’t have to speak or present, such as easier office days or religious services. That said, we recommend undershirts with suits in the following situations:
- Temperature extremes - either a really warm day or a really cold day to absorb sweat or to provide insulation
- Pressure-packed situations - think a business meeting or presentation, a fancy date night, or a wedding where you’ll be speaking; you want something to absorb sweat your body will produce if you get nervous
- Attending a wedding - hitting the dance floor at a wedding can prove to be quite the workout; if you’re gonna get down to the music then you’ll want an undershirt to help manage your sweat
When Isn’t It Necessary to Wear an Undershirt?
While I believe in the power of undershirts with a suit no matter the situation, I know that everyone’s mileage on this opinion will vary. Thus I want to acknowledge that there are certain times when an undershirt doesn’t make sense:
- Climate-controlled environment - let’s say you’re spending your work day at home where you have a strong air conditioning system. If you still have to wear a suit on your video calls, then you may not need the undershirt
- Moisture-wicking suit or shirt - some modern dress shirts and suits have built-in performance features, such as moisture-wicking fabric. In this case, an undershirt could be redundant
- Your shirt has the perfect fit already - if your shirt is comfortable, breathable, and perfectly aligns with your frame, then you may not want the undershirt to mess up your perfect fit
Do’s and Don’ts of Wearing an Undershirt With a Suit
So you’ve made the decision to wear an undershirt with your suit. Be sure to take note of the following factors as you outfit yourself in your shirt:
- Style - be sure that the undershirt you pick is designed to be layered; standard tees and tank tops are, generally, not appropriate for use as undershirts
- Color - your undershirt should match your dress shirt so that it blends in; the best undershirts are the ones that no one knows are being worn. Don’t clash colors or you’ll create an embarrassing look
- Length - your undershirt should be long enough to tuck in to your pants so that they don’t come untucked at any point during the day. You don’t want your undershirt to expose yourself in the middle of a meeting or on the dance floor! If you’re not sure your undershirts are long enough, we recommend upgrading to a tall size, such as XLT or 2XLT
Get a High Quality Undershirt (or 3) for Your Suits
Tall Order makes some of the most comfortable big and tall undershirts you can find! Our tees are sleek enough to wear on their own, but are long enough to be the perfect undershirt for your suits. They are made of a super soft cotton stretch blend that absorbs and wicks away moisture, and have a strong crew neck that holds its shape even through many wears and washes. With big sizing available from L to 4XL, and tall sizing available from LT to 2XLT, any man, no matter his size, will be able to feel cool and confident in the heat of the moment or the heat of the outdoors. And because they come in 3-packs of multiple colors, you’ll be sure to find one that matches your outfit and keeps you looking and feeling your best!