I’ve been testing lots of inexpensive t-shirts the past few weeks on the recommendations of many Magpies, magazines, and fellow creatives. This exercise made me realize I wear t-shirts a lot more often than I thought I did. In these still-chilly months between winter and warmer weather, I wear them nearly every day of the week beneath sweaters/sweatshirts/blazers/cardigans tucked into jeans. (I’m currently swooning over the new spring shades of BA&SH’s Gaspard cardigans — I must own it in the lilac?! I noticed they are almost $100 cheaper on Farfetch, but then you need to pay for international shipping, while BA&SH is free with free returns.)
I hope this isn’t a boring punchline, but my favorite of the tested candidates was J. Crew’s Vintage Cotton crewneck t-shirt, which has been my favorite for nearly a decade. Is it the longest lasting, best-quality t-shirt you’ll ever own? No. But it is a soft, 100% cotton, feather-weight, lived-in, tag-less fabric, purported to be modeled after “thrift store t-shirts,” and it therefore wears like nothing at all and tucks wonderfully into any pair of pants/jeans/shorts. It basically adds no bulk to your frame. It is the tiniest bit sheer (has almost a burnout quality in some spots) so you do need a nude bra if you go for the white, but I also own and love in navy and black. The sleeve shape and length are, for me, the clinchers. So many of the competitors I tried had much boxier sleeve shapes/lengths, which — yes — have their merit and appeal. But J. Crew’s reads a bit more shrunken/feminine/tailored/soft — a bit more like me, I guess. I take these tees in either the XS or XXS and see virtually no difference in size.
My second favorite was Uniqlo’s U-Neck tee (seen at top of post), which has a massive cult following, and I now understand why. These t-shirts are only $15 but they boast a thick, almost glossy cotton (and yes, they are also 100% cotton) that reads like something you bought at a designer boutique in Berlin selling minimalist shapes at insane price tags. The t-shirts have a completely different vibe than my favorite J. Crew ones — they have a more polished, contoured, slim-fit silhouette. The sleeves are narrower. I love the slightly exaggerated collar width. This will be my go-to when I’m looking for a t-shirt that needs to look a bit dressier — say, when paired with black pants or a skirt. I tried to take an up-close photo of the quality so you could get a sense at the top of this post. Wildly sophisticated for $15! I took this in the XS and am glad I did — I would take your true size or size up if in between sizes. This style runs pretty narrow and snug. (I’m wearing below with Agolde’s Riley jeans in the Zephyr Wash. I sized up in them for a perfect fit because they have ZERO stretch and I can’t be walking around like a tin man all day. In nearly every photo in this post, I’m wearing my Jane Win Joy pendant and my Lizzie Scheck Zodiac pendant. I’m a cancer!)
I have to give runners up awards to both Walmart’s Free Assembly tee (bottom left — $10, 100% cotton) and Gap’s Organic Cotton Vintage Crewneck tee (bottom right — currently on sale for under $20, 100% cotton). I actually slightly preferred the Walmart for handfeel and laundering (held up better at the collar especially) — I found the Gap looked a tad bit shrivelly/obviously-laundered/brushed after going through the wash only once (!) I took both in the XS. (I’m wearing my favorite white jeans from Gap in left photo — run TTS — and these Agolde jeans, also run TTS, in right photo.)
The only one I tested that I really did not like was this Target tee. Maybe I tested the wrong Target tee? (Several of you wrote enthusiastically about your experience with Target’s t-shirts, so please LMK if I ordered the wrong style.) It was too clingy, the sleeves were too cutesy/cap-sleeve-like, and the material felt and looked cheaper than the other styles. Like, I swear that you could wear the Uniqlo and someone might think you’re wearing something from Rag and Bone or Proenza Schouler or something.
Two t-shirts at higher price points that I absolutely adore: Ayr’s Sno Cone and Alice Walk’s Crew tee. Ayr’s has a perfect cropped length (note that I am short — 5’0) to tuck into high-waisted denim with minimal bulk, and a slight drop at shoulder that I loveeee. So effortlessly cool. Trust me – the fit is what you’re after for that Parisian chic moment. Alice Walk’s is like the sophisticated older sister of all of these under $100 t-shirts. She’s elegance, she’s grace. She feels like heaven, with THE softest, silkiest, almost springiest cotton you will ever lay on your body. She is a lady. I love the slightly elongated waist and contoured silhouette. It hugs and drapes in all the right places. I wrote more detailed reviews of these and a few other pricier t-shirt brands a few months ago. One other pricier t-shirt on my radar is Leset’s Margo, which I’ve seen a number of chic peas rave about.
Did I miss any? What are your favorites?
P.P.P.S. Favorite Amazon beauty and fashion buys.