_So you got a some perfectly-sized Calvin Klein button-ups from your DGF for the holidays, eh? Now you just need the right undershirts to wear with them. (I'm assuming you already have some decent metal collar stays.) In this entry, I'll review your T-shirt options. In all cases, I'm talking about "men's" T-shirts, since for many of us, "women's" or "ladies" shirts tend to be too short or cutesy or have tiny sleeves.
Undershirts come in three basic varieties: V-neck tee, regular crew-neck tee, or tank top (for now, I'm not considering long-sleeved undershirts). I heavily favor crew necks. Tank tops don't prevent sweat or deodorant from staining button-ups. And not only do v-necks irritate my lower neck area, but they look dopey when you can see the texture of the v-neck collar under the shirt). Most of the butches I know favor crews as well, so for now, that's what I'll focus on. (A summary of my findings is at the end.)
I own this because it's rad.
Before we go any further, a note on printed tees: In general, I have zero objection to printed tees. In fact, I own a whole bevy of 'em. But there's a place for printed tees, and that place is NOT beneath your collared shirts. We can see the print showing through your button-up shirt and peeking out your collar. And though admittedly we are vaguely intrigued that you ran the Boston Marathon in 2001 and attended a k.d. concert in 1992, this is not how we wanted to learn about it.
Anyhow, I rate and discuss five kinds of shirts along the following criteria:
MOSSIMO CREW NECK, ATHLETIC CUT
Thickness: Medium to thin. Soft, tagless. I often wear one of these + a pair of boxers to sleep. There's been recent speculation that the quality has recently suffered.
Collar: Medium-thickness. Perfect cut. Starts out great. Then...
Durability: So-so. Wonderful for the first few months, then the collar begins to stretch and get thin and not lay flat. For some reason, the durability of the heathered colors is much better than the others.
Colors: Come in a 10-15 different colors, including dark heathered grey, navy blue, teal, orange, a heathered forest green, and more. Their colors tend to match my dress shirts more than any other brands do.
Procurement: $7.99 each at Target or $7.99-$9.99 each at Target.com. Many of the Target.com links (like this one) claim that the shirt is not available in stores, which is untrue.
HANES COMFORTSOFT CREW NECKS
Thickness: Medium. Nice soft feel, and tagless, which I love. Also good for sleeping in. (Don't confuse these with Hanes Heavyweights, which are not nearly as nice)
Collar: Starts large, shrinks to medium in the dryer. Lands slightly higher on the neck than the Mossimo shirts.
Durability: Excellent. Becomes a little thinner over time, and seems to stain easily, but holds up well. I've been impressed that the collar doesn't seem to stretch, roll, or have trouble laying flat, even after many washings.
Colors: Black and white are easy to find. They also come in grey, navy blue, denim blue, forest green, and washed black heather. Others are hard to find.
Procurement: White and black are often available in department stores. The price and selection is better online: where I can find them in white (3-pack for $12.99 or $11.80, depending on sizes), and four-packs of various colors and prices here.
_LL BEAN CAREFREE UNSHRINKABLE TEE (Note: at the time of this writing, the LL Bean website was down, so I'm not including any links yet.)
Thickness: Very thick, though not unpleasantly so. Not as soft as Mossimo or Hanes Comfortsoft. Stiffer, but definitely not scratchy.
Collar: Thick. Fairly wide.
Durability: Pretty solid. I've had several for years, and they keep their shape and never get holes. Same with the collar: retains its thickness. The big downside is that the collar eventually starts to pucker.
Colors: 15-20 available: yellow, orange, heather green, white, black, dark blue, light blue, maroon, and more. (See pic at left.)
Procurement: Normally $14.95 each on the LL Bean website, occasionally on sale for around $9.99. Also, these seem to run large; I advise ordering one size smaller than usual.
_AMERICAN APPAREL (FYI, this company has had some serious problems. On the other hand, their shirts are made in the USA, which the others aren't. So, your call. This is also worth reading.)
Thickness: These aren't very thick, but the weave keeps me just as warm as thicker shirts do. If you have sweating issues or don't like to wear antiperspirant, look elsewhere. Also, the sleeves are a tad shorter than other brands' sleeves.
Collar: Definitely on the thin side. Within the limits of acceptability, though.
Durability: Good for at least six months. After that, the collar will begin to stretch out of shape. And while the color won't fade, the shirt will shrink quite a bit, even if you wash it in cold water.
Colors: These come in literally 40 different colors. They have yet to come out with a nice rust orange, but everything else seems to be covered.
Procurement: You can get these online for $5.99 each. They're more expensive in stores. Also, these run small, so order up if you're on the cusp.
Thickness: Very thick. Kind of bulky under shirts. Also, the sleeves are longer than the other shirts--fine for most guys, but not for most women, since we tend to have shorter arms than men do. (I wear a 32" sleeve.)
Collar: The largest collar of all the shirts I've reviewed here. Not unacceptabe, though. Collar falls higher on my neck than I would prefer.
Durability: These seem to get a little scratchy with regular wear. And then at some point, they lose the scratchiness and get soft again as they're wearing out. It's weird.
Colors: Like American Apparel, comes in about 40 different colors.
Procurement: Can be bought online for $4.54-$14.99 (but most of the nicest colors seem to be $14.99).
SUMMARY: My rankings from best to worst:
Any other opinions about these brands? Any additional brands that butches might especially want to check out?
Gear I Like