Gentlemen, Let’s Talk Undershirts

Hi Susan,

My style Friday question is for the boys. My husband recently had a very important meeting with a Senior VP of his company in the fancy downtown, former headquarters building. On the highest floor of said fancy downtown former headquarters. Very swank.

Anyways, my question. He went to this very important meeting wearing a nice dress shirt and dress pants. My question relates to the undershirt he was wearing under it. He wears regular crew-neck undershirts during the winter and when I looked at him (still in his work clothes) that night at dinner, I realized that the collar of said undershirt was visible. He did not have the top collar buttoned on the shirt (it was a button-down shirt, without tie – his company is ‘business-casual’).

When I told my husband that he should have had the top button of his shirt done up (it was dark green) because his undershirt was visible, he said that he didn’t have to do the top button unless he’s wearing a tie AND that the head of his department wears the same kind of button-down shirt open two buttons with lots of blonde chest hair and wife-beater undershirt visible (wife-beater = tank top type undershirt. *shudder*).

Who’s right? Should I insist on a v-neck undershirt when Mike has to dress up again? Should someone pull Mr.Department head aside and tell him that he looks like Lumbergh from Office Space? Only worse?



Erin should be very proud of Mike; he absolutely made the right choice, and it sounds like he knows his collars. Good work, Mike! His department head, however, needs to have lunch with Clinton Kelley. Grown men should NOT wear tank tops. EVER. Not by themselves, not under dress shirts, not EVER. A tank top doesn’t cover enough, and is always visible through a dress shirt. I’m a little icked out just thinking about it.

No tank tops. EVER.

Moving on.

Undershirts are not only for winter. If you are wearing a dress shirt to work (or anywhere, for that matter), you need an undershirt, regardless of the season. It’s a more polished look. I am a big advocate of the crew-neck undershirt because it protects you from Incidental Chest Hair, which is the male equivalent of Accidental Cleavage, and is not appropriate for work or church or dinner at a swank restaurant. Put an undershirt under a button down or a golf shirt* or a sweater. If you’re not a fan of the visible undershirt, look into v-neck undershirts.

*Unless you’re golfing. Then it’s up to you. But for the office, undershirt!

If you’re not wearing a tie, leave the top button open. Two buttons is too many; it looks sloppy. Buttoned all the way up looks wrong as well, particularly with a button-down shirt. Either wear a tie or leave the top button undone.

Wade wears a dress shirt to work every day, and a tie nearly every day. Recently, he’s been opting for the suit-without-tie look, which I really like; he wears a straight-collar shirt with his suit, with one button open. It’s dressier than slacks and a shirt but not quite as dressy as the suit-and-tie.

But! Always! Undershirt!

If you really dislike the visible undershirt collar, you can do what Erin suggests and look into v-neck undershirts. Wade occasionally wears a polo-collar sweater with a v-neck undershirt. But you’re always in danger of the Incidental Chest Hair with those, so think carefully about that. And again, leave the top button open.

Replace your undershirts regularly, about every three months or whenever the collars start to look sad. Wade likes the Hanes shirts; they are tagless and come in a soft, light-weight cotton that washes and wears really nicely. And they run $11.00 for a pack of five, which you can’t beat.

And because I want to be sure you heard this: NO TANK TOPS FOR MEN. EVER. And for really terrific REAL men’s fashions, check out The Sartorialist. Mike should definitely send his boss here to look around.


8 responses to “Gentlemen, Let’s Talk Undershirts

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  2. What is your problem with tank top undershirts. They are by far the most comfortable type of undershirt available. I bet if more men tried them, they would switch because they have such a nice feel.

    You may have a visceral reaction to tank tops, by many women, including my wife, think they are good looking.

    Lots of men at the office wear tank tops and no one seems to have a problem with them (except you).

  3. Jack has it right! I agree that athletic undershirts, or tank tops, are the most comfortable. The feel is unbelievable! I always wear them under my dress shirts and love the look. In fact, I wear them under any type of shirt and have been doing so for many years.

  4. I don’t get the point of a tank top undershirt. An undershirt is worn for added warmth and to keep sweat from passing through to the dress shirt. A tank top doesn’t cover as much for warmth nor does it cover the armpits for the sweat issue. It’s like wearing a bra without the cups…the most important parts are missing!

  5. Undershirts are a must for a man – I don’t let my husband leave the house without one. Crew neck t shirt type undershirts are the way to go for the shirt and tie look. For the open collar look, I insist he wear a V neck undershirt – unless it is the weekend – then either is fine by me. His undershirts must be 100% cotton, snug fitting, white and in good shape. I’ll be blunt – a well dress man always wears an undershirt. “A” shirts are useless for men, but the ones my husband bought a couple years back [that I wouldn’t let him wear!] look pretty nice on me! And, confession time – the sight of a man wearing an undershirt stirs me, from deep within, if you know what I mean ;) My DH knows this, just as I know how he feels when he sees me in a full slip! Lets face it folks, underwear can be sexy – strange how we can be wired – but if you are wired that way, go for it!

  6. For the sake of staying dry when wearing dress clothes, of course wear the undershirt, and if at work in a business environment, then again, of course. If a person is casual without a tie, the top button should definitely not be done-up, unless you really want an up-tight look.

  7. There are different types of ‘tank’ tops. I wear a type that is essentially a crew-neck undershirt minus sleeves. They are difficult to find, but I believe these are the Macy’s line called Alfani. Very affordable. Highly comfortable because you don’t get ‘sleeve bunch’. And it has the advantage of not showing visible lines through your dress shirt, or a low collar, so nobody really knows you are wearing a sleeveless shirt.

  8. No man in their right mind should wear an undershirt under a dress shirt unless your name is Sonny Corleone or your an IT specialist attending an industry conference. For heavens sake!!!

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