How can you improve upon a classic, no-frills cotton T-shirt? Well, as it turns out, in loads of ways you probably didn’t even know about. Yes, a plain cotton tee is the most popular type of T-shirt (and for good reason) but there are actually lots of variations of this simple wardrobe staple that are worth including in your summer rotation.
Experimenting with different fabrics, colours, prints and cuts can help to take your T-shirt game to the next level. You can increase comfort, add a little visual flair to your outfits and be better prepared for the warm weather just by thinking outside of the box a bit.
To help you, we’ve rounded up some summer T-shirt styles you need to know about, explaining why they’re worth adding to your wardrobe.
Plain White Cotton T-Shirt
The plain white cotton tee is the OG. It’s the style you think of first when someone says ‘T-shirt’, and chances are you already own more than one. It’s breathable, comfortable, versatile, relatively durable, and in white it lays the perfect foundation for all sorts of summer looks.
That said, the cotton tee isn’t without its faults. This fabric is notoriously absorbent and slow to dry, which makes it less than ideal for dealing with sweat on hot summer’s days.
It also has a tendency to crease easily, so take that into account when you need to look a little more put together.
Cotton-Polyester Blend T-Shirt
Cotton-polyester T-shirts tend to be a little more expensive than their cotton counterparts, but they come without a lot of the drawbacks. They’re more breathable, less prone to creasing and they’re much better at wicking moisture away from the skin and drying off quickly. This can make them a better option for warm weather.
These slightly more technical T-shirts look almost identical to 100 per cent cotton tees. This means you could opt for this material for all of your T-shirts and no one would be able to tell. The downside is that they’re not as easily recyclable because of the synthetic fibres used in the blended fabric.
Technical T-shirts are designed with action in mind. If you’re running, hiking or really doing anything that’s going to involve getting hot and sweaty, then this type of tee is absolutely essential.
They’re made from synthetic fibres that offer increased stretch, moisture wicking, drying times and breathability when compared to cotton or even cotton blends. They also tend to be far more lightweight too.
Pique cotton is that textured mesh fabric you often find in polo shirts. It’s stretchy, breathable and comfy, but you may not have even known it was an option for classic crew neck tees too.
Granted there are far fewer brands crafting tees from pique as there are from regular cotton, but you can find them if you know where to look. One of the key players in this type of T-shirt is Fred Perry, which makes options not dissimilar to its iconic polo shirts, minus the collar and buttons.
Some might argue that big brand logos are tacky and unnecessary, but a different way of looking at it is that they offer another way to jazz up outfits, create a focal point and add colour.
A well-placed and tastefully executed logo doesn’t have to look cheap, just stick to interesting designs to avoid looking like a walking billboard.
The graphic T-shirt is a streetwear staple. In fact, it’s the garment that has fuelled the entire scene since the very beginning. From Stüssy’s first printed tees back in the 1980s to the Supreme celebrity T-shirts that sell to collectors for thousands, graphic tees are streetwear’s backbone, and they’re still a great way to add some character to your outfits today.
It doesn’t have to be something heavily branded either. There’s a huge market for vintage band and movie merch with some really cool T-shirt designs floating around.
It’s best to thrift or shop for bootlegs if you want to save money though, as some vintage tees can go for frankly obscene amounts.
All-Over Print T-Shirt
Whether it’s stripes, geometric patterns or a blown-up photo print, an all-over print T-shirt is a surefire statement maker.
You can go as subtle or as flamboyant as you want, just make sure to keep the rest of your outfit stripped back and subtle to let the tee do the talking.
We usually advise you to get your T-shirt fit dialled in. This garment is at its most flattering when the seams sit directly on the shoulders and the hem falls just below the waistband. However, when the weather is hot, it can pay to go a little baggier for added breathability and air flow.
This is where an oversized tee can help. These types of tees are either deliberately made big or just bought a size too large in order to achieve a slouchy, draping look as opposed to a slim, form-fitting one.
Buy one if you’re looking for a better range of motion and general breeziness to keep you comfortable in the warm weather.
Heavyweight cotton T-shirts are built for maximum durability. They’re designed to age well and take a beating along the way. We love the flattering way they drape too.
They don’t accentuate lumps and bumps in the same way that thinner tees do, so they’re great if you normally find yourself feeling a bit self-conscious in regular T-shirts.
Check out Camber for some of the best on the market, or Arket for a budget option.
Originating in Brittany, France, the classic Breton top has a boat neck and three-quarter sleeves, but the trademark navy and white stripes for which it is best known can be applied to a regular crew neck tee too.
The striped pattern is great for bringing simple outfits to life without making a big statement, and the neutral colours make it surprisingly versatile.
Plain Pastel T-Shirt
You don’t have to stick to white navy or black T-shirts, particularly in the summer months. Some men shy away from bright colours, which is fine, but pastel shades offer a way to add some variation to your summer outfits without going too loud.
Pale, blues, soft pinks and light greens are all excellent choices.