Fashion Trends

The Best Inexpensive T-Shirts.

By: Jen Shoop

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!)

uniqlo u neck t shirt review

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.S. Spring fashion looks for less.

P.P.S. The best white/ecru jeans for spring.

P.P.P.S. Favorite Amazon beauty and fashion buys.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

16 thoughts on “The Best Inexpensive T-Shirts.

  1. Oh, I love the Uniqlo U tee! Fully agree with your assessment, that it lends itself to slightly dressier applications. I love the thick(ish), opaque cotton. Such a delightful tee! I have a couple of other Uniqlo U pieces that I really love — it’s that Lemaire touch 🙂

    A couple of other brands I’ve tried and loved that haven’t been mentioned yet — Hanes x Karla (not sure if these are being sold anymore, but I have 2 tees from this capsule that I LOVE), and Jungmaven, which uses a cool blend of hemp + cotton — their tees are high quality and launder well. I have a few different cuts but have had my eye on the Lorel silhouette.


  2. I’m so glad Uniqlo is getting some love — I feel like they used to be Asia’s best kept secret for a while! Their crewneck shirts are my go-to basic piece too. I agree with you that some tees get stretched out of shape after one wash and it never lays quite right anymore, with necklines/hems/sleeves all looking so awkward. Uniqlo’s shirts hold up incredibly well through many, many washes.

  3. I absolutely *love* the cotton modal v-neck tee from Quince – $15!! A friend was wearing the white one day and I had to ask her where she got it — too good. It drapes so well, feels so good, the v isn’t too low, and it has great coverage for a white tee. The olive color is next on my list!

    1. Oo – thank you so much for spilling the beans here! I’ve seen Quince but heard no reviews. Merci!


    1. Megan, I agree! I’ve been wearing those Target v-necks for years…since they had pockets once upon a time 🙂 I will say I have found different colors can fit differently, so beware.

      I’ve been loving my l/s tee from H&M all winter (Jen, I think I may have found it through your links last year? White and sage stripe, short but not cropped) so I ordered what I hoped was the short sleeve version but sadly the fit is different. I may keep it anyway since it still works and the price is right ($5!). I’ve decided my unicorn tshirt hits right at the front pocket openings and is neither slim nor boxy, with a slightly thicker cotton so it doesn’t drape or cling. I think the proportions are just right for straight leg or cropped flare jeans. Thinking of trying the Everlane boxy tee, but on the fence about shelling out $30 + shipping. (Thanks for coming to my tshirt TED Talk 😉

      1. Thank you for the notes! That is one big pet peeve of mine — when the same style of shirt fits differently in different colors! I should have mentioned I also have the Everlane tees and I love those, too. They really last. They are a bit more cropped.


  4. Hi Jen! I love that you are comparing a basic item that we all use however I prefer a v neck over a crew. Did you come across any excellent ones in your research?
    Thanks so much!

    1. Hi! Great question! My favorite J. Crew crewneck does come in a v-neck option —

      I’ve owned a few over the years but just personally prefer the crewneck because I am petite (short torso!) and I find the v is sometimes a bit too low for my comfort/makes me have to think about bra-lines too much. Haha. But! If you are average height/taller, you might find luck there.

      Will keep my eye out for others!


      1. It makes me chuckle that you are petite with a short torso since I am the exact opposite, tall with a long torso. Maybe we should do an either/or ha! But in all seriousness, thank you again for doing a comparison of basics, Along with your thoughtful writing, this is one of my favorite topics you cover on your lovely blog.

        1. Haha! We’d make quite the pair IRL.

          And, gosh, thank you so much — I am so grateful for your readership!!!


Previous Article

Next Article