T-shirts can be a lot like jeans or polos. It’s weirdly difficult to find ones in timeless fits, good fabrics, and avoid of any sort of crazy logos. But there are some (really) good ones out there! Here’s what we think are the best of the best when it comes to men’s tees for 2021, in a variety of fabrics and across different levels of affordability. If you’ve got a tip on a favorite t-shirt? Send those into email@example.com.
Made in the USA is tough to do these days. From Huckberry’s in-house “45” brand. Fit is great. Fabric is great. Leans vintage-y but doesn’t look ratty or worn out. One thing that might be a deal breaker for some is the collar and how it sorta “bacon waves” a bit, as shown above. Adds character for some, a deal breaker for others that want something more polished. Want to save a few bucks? Buy three and they’ll charge you $95 (that’s $31.67 per tee) AND they’ll ship for free. Size shown above is a medium on Joe who is 5’10″/185.
Annnd the slub options. Available in either straight hem w/ a pocket, or the pocketless curved hem shown above. Nice and lightweight without feeling thin. Slub is there, but not so aggressive that some areas are thick and others are almost see-through. Variation to the depth of the fabric (that’s what slub is), but not over the top. Size shown here is a medium on 5’10″/195.
It’s soft, it’s a tech tee for sure, but there’s really not any significant amount of stretch. That’s the one surprise. Sure is cheap though! Great for wearing around, but for working out in? Not sure about that, since it might not flex as you, uh, flex. Size shown above is a medium on 5’10″/185.
Lightly slubbed. Enough so that you barely notice that slight (very slight) variation in texture. Goes with everything. Looks terrific layered under a lightweight merino cardigan. And the slub jersey fabric is a really nice point of differentiation. Classic fit only here. No slims. Sure do wish they made slims. Size shown here is a large in that classic fit on 5’10” / 185.
A pocket t-shirt, but it really does feel nicely upgraded. Super smooth 100% cotton jersey that’s been washed but doesn’t look washed out. Size shown above is a large slim. Spendy without a promo or code.
On the product page, it just looks like your run-of-the-mill marled/heathered tee. Not so. It’s a fantastically detailed, subtle stripe pattern, with lots of visual interest and color variation that dress it up more than a flat-color tee. 60% cotton, 40% poly blend. Nice and soft. Size shown above is a small on Ryan, who is 5’7″/155.
If you’re a Bonobos devotee, this is the tee to get from the brand, but good grief it’s expensive. You really need to be a loyalist to justify buying this over another option in this round-up. This Jetsetter version is intended to be an upscale, more polished tee for the summer, and while I recognize the fabric here is “premium,” owing to the 50% drydex/50% pima cotton blend, it’s really hard to say this is worth nearly $50 for a tee shirt. Is it great? It’s great! Better than your average tees. But not worth the price of admission. Pictured above in the now sold out “lotus pink” color. Size is a large slim fit on Jason, who is 5’7″/175.
***BEST IN SHOW CHEAP*** And now, the polar opposite in terms of price. SIX DOLLARS. Wow. T-shirts are the definition of a basic, a staple, but six bucks? That’s really something. Target to the rescue! Goodfellow & Co has produced possibly the best bargain this summer in the Lyndale tee. Standard, classic fit and a quality exceeding the price point. A no-brainer buy at $6, and the best value pick of this entire lot. Buy 8 (!) of these instead of ONE of the Bonobos Jetsetter tees. Excellent color on this shade of green, too. Shown above is a large on 5’7″/175.
Sweet merino goodness! But that means… money. Yet PROOF (another Huckberry exclusive brand) claims that you can wear one of these for three days straight and it won’t stink or feel nasty. Thus the magic of lightweight merino wool. 87% 16.5 micron merino wool, 13% nylon. Ten different shades to pick from. Machine washable.
Lululemon’s metal vent tech fabric might just be the standard bearer for tech-wear across the athletic clothing industry. It’s lightweight, it moves great, it fights stink, and it breathes and wicks like crazy. It’s just crazy-expensive. Raglan sleeves for ease of movement. Smart perforations provide extra breathability, yet still blend in with the rest of the fabric. The one drawback (aside from price) is the collar. It seems a little larger than some may prefer. It’s not slouchy, but it’s not as structured as some other options. Size shown above is a large on 5’10″/185.
Not quite a basic crew tee, yet it doesn’t feel or look like a dedicated workout/weight lifting shirt either. One of those in-between items, which is precisely what a lot of brands are going for these days (ahem) to try and replicate the success of Lululemon. Made from their “airknit” material and comprised of 88% polyester and 12% elastane. The slim fit and overall softness is a win for something with a modern cut. Being that this is a curved hem vs straight hem of traditional tees, it’s more of a style that the “younger kids” are going for, yet not exaggerated like some street brands are styled. Surprisingly, just like most of the rest of Abercrombie & Fitch’s 96 hours collection, there isn’t any branding or logos present. Five different colors to pick from. Some colors are on sale, some are still pegged at full price. Size shown above is a medium on Paul who is 5’10 / 175 lbs.
Rhone Delta Pique Notch Tees – $39 FINAL ($78)
For those that understandably love the Rhone Delta Pique tech polos. Same fabric here, only in a t-shirt shape with a not-too-deep (thank goodness) slight contrasting notch at the neck. Size shown above is a medium on 5’10″/185.
Under Armour MK-1 Tech Tees – $22.99 – $26.97 ($30 – $35)
Gets mentioned a lot for workout reasons, and for good reason. From their “Fitted” line. Not loose, but not compression tight. In-between. Fabric has good stretch and terrific breathability. A step above basic tech-tees. Getting a bit tough to find in terms of size and color selection. (Couldn’t even get my hands on a new one for this post!) Does seem to run longer than an average t-shirt, but that’s not unusual for workout gear.
A really nice, naturally draping, unstructured tee. Truly a tee that matches the moniker: a very soft, comfortable tee to wear every day without sacrificing durability. Available in both slim fit and standard fit, and most guys should find the slim fit to have enough room in the chest and a welcomed taper to provide a soft and well-mannered tee for the summer. For broader guys, consider choosing the standard fit option. One minor quirk that might influence your decision – the collar around the neck is thinner than your average tee, creating a larger opening. It leans a bit trendy, but could be not a favorite for others. Keep that in mind before buying, especially if you prefer a closer fit. Shown in a Large slim fit on Jason, who’s 5’7″/175.
Never thought I’d turn to a company that was founded to create Lacrosse gear (hence the “string” part of their name referencing the nets on the end of Lacrosse sticks) for USA made, super soft, custom made t-shirts. But that’s what we have here. Weirdly one of the most comfortable t-shirts I’ve ever worn. You answer a few questions about your dimensions, you turn it over to their algorithms and their database of thousands of body scans, and they send you a made in Los Angeles t-shirt.
***BEST IN SHOW SPENDY*** If a “Dressed up” tee can exist, this would be it. But it’ll look just fine with shorts and sneakers too. Spendy, but if you’re looking for a t-shirt with a bit of luxe, this could be it. Mercerized cotton with a cotton-spandex collar that is super smooth and crazy comfortable. Impressive. But you’ll pay for it. Also available in navy or gray. Size shown above is a medium on 5’10″/185.
Enormous fan of merino tees, with Icebreaker as a brand certainly excelling in this space. One possible drawback… I’ve personally experienced some wrinkling “bacon neck” on the collars. Not sure why. Most of the time I just put it on, don’t notice any further, and I’m on my way. But if that sorta thing really bugs you, know it could (read: COULD) be a risk.
Target’s All in Motion lineup debuted at the top of 2020, right before the pandemic hit, and was a hit with our guy Ryan. This year’s crop of the performance tee is a bit of a miss, in Jason’s opinion. It comes down to how you like your gym wear to, well, wear. This tee is very loose, with a very large neck opening – nice if you want that extra bit of freedom, less than ideal if you prefer a closer, more secure fit. The fabric touches on the benchmark tech tee traits – moisture wicking, odor resistant, quick drying, and flat seams all in the name of no-nonsense performance. And in that regard, they do the trick. Shame about the fit, though.
One last t-shirt from 45, being that they’re making their stuff stateside and that’ll appeal to plenty. Gonna say these are the sneaky winner of that trio. Why? Couple of reasons. The collar is great. Not flimsy. Not tight. Not droopy. Perfect and smooth. Body has some texture, but really quite soft. 60% cotton / 40% poly. Fit is spot on. Not tight, not blooming out. Speckled/heathered look to the fabric. Not as lightweight as the slub or supima options, but not a hanes beefy tee either. Fabric has a little bit of depth and squish, but not spongey. All of the 45 tees are pretty impressive, and I’m thinking most will gravitate to the supima or slub options. And those are more than fine, but this one really feels like the winner.
***BEST IN SHOW OVERALL*** A new favorite. These are terrific. All pima cotton in a tight weave leaves the fabric and the wearer feeling (I think the word is) “crisp.” This is NOT some wispy tri-blend, slub, or overly squishy/smushy feeling tee. But it’s not a heavyweight beefy tee either. Just right. Pocket at the chest and vented seams are nice visual touches. Shown above is a machine washed and dried Medium on 5’10″/190, in the “sidewalk gray”. Didn’t seem to shrink for me in the wash. Apologies for the slight wrinkling. Sat in the dryer overnight. It’s actually pretty smooth in person/not in harsh direct sun. Bottom line: BR’s got a real winner on their hands here.
We miss something? Send us your tips for great t-shirts (or frankly, anything else) to firstname.lastname@example.org.