A good crew neck T-shirt is a thing of perfection: a sartorial Swiss army knife capable of transforming the most haggard, hungover of men into an everyday James Dean – or at the very least, smartening him up a bit. There’s a reason it’s a wardrobe staple, and while there’s no improving on perfection, it never hurts switching things up from time to time.
Remixing the T-shirt is a classic designer move – playing with proportions, fabrications and especially as of late, textures. Knitted T-shirts are hardly a new invention, but arguably they’ve never been as popular as they are right now. Swapping out laid-back jersey for something a little more structured, a little more refined, gives extra gravitas to the humble tee. And yes, it’s as easy to pull off as it sounds.
Knitted T-shirt Buying Considerations
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to finding the perfect T-shirt, and with knitted varieties, it pays to be just as meticulous. These are some of the key things to keep in mind on your search for the best knitted T-shirt for you.
When it comes to jersey tees, cotton is king – and it makes for a decent knitted T-shirt too. It’s soft, lightweight and breathable, and premium cottons, like Pima and Sea Island, that are made from longer, silkier fibres, rival wool for their luxurious feel.
Speaking of which, wool is, itself, a superior option for a knitted tee. Merino wool is lighter and softer than most sheep wools, traditionally used for underwear because of its smooth, comfortable finish and moisture-wicking properties (meaning it draws sweat away from the body). A fine-knit merino has a soft handle and excellent drape, which helps create a flattering fit.
As you go up the price scale, cashmere and wool-silk blends are among the smarter options, but are the type of thing you’ll want to save for absolute best.
The basic rule of any experiment? Change one thing, and keep everything else constant. So, when it comes to knitted T-shirts, a slim to regular fit is best. Though the best knitted T-shirts are lightweight and fluid, by their nature they’re a little bulkier than jersey tees, ruling out anything approaching a muscle fit (this is A Good Thing).
A gently oversized fit often works well, but super boxy, exaggerated styles won’t really hold their shape.
The good news is: anything goes. Black, grey and navy are all classically smart, and work well with suiting. But bright colours and patterns can be worn with pretty much everything from raw selvedge denim to tailored trousers and sneakers. Keep an eye for interesting stitches, like waffle knit, which gives a rugged vibe.
How To Wear A Knitted T-Shirt
With A Suit
We probably don’t need to sell you on the brilliance of swapping out shirts for tees with tailoring. But it’s worth noting that a knitted T-shirt can put some oomph back into proceedings, and keep the overall look on the right side of smart-casual.
A mock-neck in a silk-cotton blend cuts an especially sharp shape with a neutral suit and gleaming white sneakers.
Maybe it’s the proximity to a knitted polo shirt, but there’s something ever-so-slightly preppy about a knitted T-shirt – so why not lean into it? A pastel-coloured tee with neutral chinos and loafers gives off an Ivy League vibe without overdoing it. Throw a varsity jacket into the mix for extra
The soft finish of a knitted T-shirt makes it a great foil for rough-and-tumble denim. Try something in a slightly fuzzier finish, half-tucked into some deep indigo selvedge. Just be sure to keep your fits in proportion: a gently oversized tee works well with a straight-leg silhouette.
Don’t let the fact knitted T-shirts are, well, knitted put you off wearing them in the warmer months. The best ones are lightweight, and the open weave of the knit makes them extra breathable. In the summer, a knitted T-shirt with stripes or an abstract pattern can be just as smart as a shirt.
The Best Knitted T-shirt Brands
When in doubt, do as the Italians do. Drawing on the country’s exquisite heritage for elevated basics is Artknit, a newbie but a goodie. Founded in 2018 in Biella, the heart of Italy’s fabric industry, the brand does knitted crew necks and polos in ultrafine merino and upcycled cashmere.
Small batches, sustainable design and a zero-waste policy make for tees that feel good in more ways than one.
Alongside an excellent collection of heavyweight cotton and jersey slub tees, German label Closed also does knitted styles in woven cotton and cashmere. Boxy and oversized fits hammer home the relaxed message, although they work just as well with pleated trousers as they do with slouch-fit jeans.
John Smedley is one of those heritage brands that quietly plugs away, refining what it does year after year without bowing to trends or hype. Founded in 1784, the brand is known around the world for its fine gauge (lightweight) knits. The Lorca knitted T-shirt is a prime example: soft, relaxed and beautifully finished.
Arguably the finest purveyor of knitwear on the planet, Loro Piana is synonymous with luxury. Part of the LVMH stable, you’ll pay a premium for its quality. But if it’s an option for you, it’s a worthwhile investment.
So much more than tiny pouches and Kendall Jenner ad campaigns, Jacquemus is a case study in menswear that doesn’t take itself too seriously: colourful, pattern-filled workwear with a Provencal twist.
Its colour-block knitted T-shirts have an easy, Mediterranean vibe, ideal for smartening up a pair of cargo pants or shorts.
Mr Porter’s own label is, to an extent, design by data: tapping into a decade of customer feedback to produce a line of largely seasonless essentials, often with a slight 60s edge, always of the utmost quality. Knitted T-shirts have become a staple, made from cotton and on the more casual end of the scale.
If there’s one thing you can rely on Marks & Spencer for – overwrought food ads and insectile birthday cakes aside – it’s excellent quality basics. And right now, it’s got what’s probably the best men’s knitted T-shirt offering on the high street.
There’s classic black and navy options: slim-fitting, with a perfectly-pitched crew neck and ribbed sleeve hems that sit nice and high on the bicep, perfect for wearing with a suit and sneakers. And one or two in more adventurous colours and patterns when the mood takes you.
Leather jackets aside, knitwear is probably AllSaints’ greatest strength. So it makes sense that it turns out a fine knitted T-shirt. Its merino knit henley should be a strong contender for your winter uniform – soft, warm and with bags of attitude.