What to wear under a dress shirt – the age-old question indeed. While it might seem like a no-brainer to old-school office-goers who’ve been wearing suits for years, this fundamental knowledge isn’t that obvious anymore. Buttoned-down dress codes are less common now than they were a few decades ago.
Right off the bat, let’s get one thing out of the way. Wearing an extra layer underneath your dress shirt is not optional. It’s mandatory, even when the weather’s warm. The real question is – what to wear.
Lucky for you, we happen to be experts on all-things men’s fashion. This guide explores everything you need to know about why you should wear an undershirt and what exactly to put on.
Why Wear an Undershirt?
First, you need to understand the critical role undershirts play in how you look and feel while wearing a dress shirt. Here are the two main reasons why that extra layer is important.
To Keep Unsightly Sweat Stains At Bay
It doesn’t matter how immaculate your dress shirt is. Having a visible patch of sweat around your back and armpit area is a fashion faux pas. The last thing you need is to show up to your afternoon meeting or evening cocktail party looking like you just walked through a water fountain.
Wearing an undershirt underneath your soft, cotton dress shirt doesn’t just work to soak up sweat. Its moisture-wicking properties ensure it evaporates fast, keeping you cool and dry no matter how high the ambient temperatures get.
Undershirts also come in handy during the cooler months of the year. That additional layer underneath your dress shirt can help keep you warm without having to pile on extra clothing to keep the chill off.
To Improve the Way You Look
Why wear an undershirt? Simple. To give your dress shirt a crisp, flawless appearance. A plain, white undershirt, for instance, enhances the whiteness of your shirt. It allows more light to reflect off its surface, making your dress shirt appear whiter than it is.
When you skip that extra layer underneath, your skin mutes the whiteness of your dress shirt. This, in turn, makes it appear dull even if it’s brand new. Not to mention the fact that it prevents unsightly chest hair, back hair, and tattoos from showing through your shirt. The latter is especially important if you have a job interview lined up and want to keep your overall look understated.
Wearing an undershirt also helps streamline your appearance. After all, who wants to see your nipples or man boobs peeking through your dress shirt? That extra layer helps smooth out your body contours, making the unflattering aspects of your physique less pronounced.
What to Wear Under a Dress Shirt – Types of Undershirt Styles
So far, we’ve looked at why you need to wear an undershirt under a dress shirt. Now, let’s explore the various styles to consider.
It can get a little overwhelming deciding which one to go with. We’ve broken it down to make it super easy to understand. Below is an overview of the five main types of undershirts to consider.
Crew Neck and V-Neck Undershirts
Crew neck undershirts are the most common type available and the most appropriate to wear under a dress shirt. If you intend to wear a fully buttoned-down shirt, especially at a formal event, this is the style you want to go for.
On the other hand, a V-neck undershirt is ideal if you want to leave the top button of your shirt undone. Like any other undergarment, it’s important to keep in mind that undershirts should not be visible. People shouldn’t be able to tell that you’re wearing one.
A tank top undershirt, or vest, is generally made from ribbed material. Men wear them more for privacy than for protection. They don’t prevent sweat patches from forming on your dress shirt when it’s warm out. Tank tops also tend to show lines through the shirt. Nonetheless, they might be a good option to consider for casual wear, particularly if you want to remain cool in hot weather.
While these may not be as popular as other undershirt types, some men prefer to wear muscle shirts under their dress shirts. A muscle shirt is simply a regular shirt without sleeves and is available in both crew neck and V-neck designs.
Long-sleeve undershirts are usually made from thermal materials and are ideal for individuals who live in very cold climates. They are designed to keep you warm while wearing a dress shirt.
These are essentially shapewear for men. They help smooth out man boobs, as well as unsightly bumps and bulges, to give you a nice, even finish while wearing a collared shirt.
Tank Top or Undershirt Under a Dress Shirt – What to Wear
Whatever your reason for wearing an undershirt may be, the key thing to remember is – it needs to be invisible. No one should be able to tell that you have something under your dress shirt.
With that in mind, one of the most frequently asked questions we get from our readers is whether to wear a tank top or undershirt under a dress shirt.
As a rule of thumb, you should never wear a tank top under a dress shirt. They don’t offer any sweat protection – which completely defeats the purpose of wearing an undershirt in the first place. They also don’t meet the invisibility requirement since the vest lines show through the shirt.
You can, however, wear them with non-white, casual shirts.
Undershirt Fit – Get It Right
We can’t wrap up before we discuss undershirt fit. It needs to be close-fitting. It should be snug without feeling like it’s cutting off blood circulation or restricting your movement.
The armholes also need to be small. This allows it to absorb the sweat under your armpits. The sleeves should not leave any excess fabric underneath your dress shirt. Loose fabric tends to press against the shirt leaving behind visible lines. This is a fashion faux pas.
You also need to consider the length of your undershirt. As a rule, it needs to be long enough to tuck into your pants. It should not ride up when you sit down, bend forward, or bust a move on the dance floor.
As far as the neck opening goes, the collar needs to be slightly wider than that of your dress shirt. This minimizes the chances of the undershirt bunching around the collar and peeking out from under.
The Devil Is in the Details
There you have it. What to wear under a dress shirt. To sum up, here are a few rules to keep in mind:
- A men’s undershirt is designed to improve their overall look. They protect your dress shirts from sweat to help you feel comfortable and confident.
- Choose the right undershirt style for the specific shirt you’re wearing. Crew neck undershirts are ideal for wearing under a dress shirt. Steer clear of tank tops or another sleeveless undershirt at all costs.
- A regular t-shirt is not a substitute for an undershirt. Undershirts need to fit snugly against the body and should be made from thin, stretchy, moisture-wicking material.
- A men’s undershirt should be invisible. They shouldn’t show through your clothes.
- If your skin tone is light, pick a white, beige, or light gray undershirt. Black, brown, or dark gray options are more suited to darker skin tones.
Did you find this article helpful? Check out our blog for more men’s fashion and grooming-related articles.