For all the color-combo guides, knit sweater inspo and wardrobe overhauls posted to Reddit’s r/MaleFashionAdvice, there’s one piece of clothing the subreddit’s nearly three million subscribers can’t seem to agree on: T-shirts. For something so simple, no one can figure out what makes a “good” T-shirt, and which brand is doing it right without an insane markup.
So when redditor Aventador_22 (who, to make things easier on the eyes, I’ll call “Aven” from here on out) dropped $600 on T-shirts in hopes of putting this argument to rest, people paid attention. “It’s crazy how complicated T-shirts can be,” Aven tells me. “But I do think the T-shirt is often overlooked. It’s the base for so many outfits; if anything, you could argue they’re the foundation of your wardrobe.”
Admittedly, Aven isn’t some “fashion guru who claims to be an expert about clothes and fabric and stuff.” In fact, the 24-year-old develops software for an energy company by day, and “lurks in subreddits” by night. But one day, he opened up his closet and had something of a revelation. “I went to pick out a shirt and found them all to be in relatively bad shape. The collars were deformed, they had shrunk or they had tiny holes in them,” he tells me. “I wanted something that would last longer than a year so I thought I’d actually take the time to find the best T-shirt, and that’s what I set out to do.”
Over the next two weeks, Aven scoured menswear subreddits and myriad fashion blogs to narrow down the list of highest rated T-shirt brands. This, though, was no easy feat as there are thousands of obscure Instagram brands with chic names and fancy logos, all selling what pretty much looks like the exact same plain T-shirt. After looking up what types of fabrics each used as well as noting how aggressively each brand hounds you on social media after visiting their site, Aven formed the criterion upon which he would judge the shirts.
“In my mind, the perfect T-shirt needs to be soft to the touch, durable, have a good weight to it and fit well,” he explains. Any brand with a solid Instagram account can make a plain T-shirt look amazing, but in IRL, it can end up being short and boxy or have “rough fabric.” Thus, Aven bought each brand’s shirt and “put each through its paces.” For instance:
Two weeks of research and $600 in T-shirts later, Aven solidified his ranking:
You may notice that “free bar crawl T-shirt from college” is missing from the list, along with Uniqlo and Everlane sitting at the bottom. “Don’t get me wrong, I lived in cheap T-shirts throughout high school and college, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Aven tells me. “But there’s so much more to a T-shirt than spending the least amount of money upfront.”
In other words, spending $40 on a single T-shirt can feel absurd, but Aven suggests thinking about that $40 T-shirt in terms of cost-per-wear. “Why not spend the same or slightly more per wear and get something that you don’t have to replace as fast — and something that will look significantly better in its later stages?” he says. “This isn’t even including the sustainability aspect and how much better it is for the environment.”
“There’s a delicate balance between the quality of a garment, how long it lasts and how it looks on you,” Aven continues. “At the end of the day, my findings were based on what I personally look for in a T-shirt. So if something else works for you and makes you feel good, then that’s all that really matters.”
Speaking of spending an absurd amount of money on T-shirts, Aven admits this endeavor felt a little dumb at first, but was “100 percent worth it.” “It was fun, and I get messages almost every week thanking me for writing it up and saying that they ended up picking something on my list,” he says. “I definitely want to continue and do other pieces of clothing.”