How to dress like an adult.
November 30, 2011 2:15 PM   Subscribe

Dressy, affordable tees for men?

I'm a college professor in a field with wildly varying fashion standards. I dislike the fit of polo shirts and am often too lazy to wear button-up shirts. I like short sleeved shirts. I find myself wearing a lot of solid color t-shirts from American Apparel and Old Navy, but I would like to class it up a bit above the belt if I can.

I am quite fond of this fancy tee from Tommy Bahama. I like the contrast stitching and the visual texture of the fabric blend. But I don't like the $80 price tag or the limited color selection.

So, can anyone recommend dressy (and hopefully affordable) men's tees? I'm not interested in graphic tees in this case, but would be open to stripes or other patterns.
posted by shaun to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Banana Republic.
posted by John Cohen at 2:29 PM on November 30, 2011

In the extremely affordable vein and if you're on the slim side, JC Penney's Arizona tees for young men might work -- short sleeves here and stripey thermals here. My boyfriend just bought a solid white thermal with navy blue contrast stitching like in your fancy tee example and he looks like a million bucks in it.
posted by jabes at 2:37 PM on November 30, 2011

Get some V-Neck tees and layer them over crew-neck tees to add a little contrast and make it look like you put some thought into color matching. I find that it really classes up t-shirts quite a bit.

I'm also a big fan of wearing tees over long-sleeved thermals, but if you're against long sleeves altogether then that may be a no-go.

Tees (or thermals) over short-sleeved button downs also looks nice because it adds the collar. The bonus here is that because you're wearing a tee OVER the button-down, you don't have to iron it because you'll only see the collar.
posted by erstwhile at 2:45 PM on November 30, 2011

Seconding Banana Republic.

Calvin Klein and Donna Karen are two other brands that make slightly fancier t-shirts of reasonable quality (I'm too lazy to look for images online, but my boyfriend owns several that feature interesting stitching or textured fabrics, like you pointed to) and can frequently be found significantly discounted at department stores like Macys, or discount stores like Marshall's or Filene's Basement. Hit the sale racks in January and stock up.

Finally, I will point out that nothing but nothing classes up a plain, well-fitting t-shirt like a nice tweed or corduroy blazer. A good jacket should be easy, comfy, unpretentious, and make you look like a million bucks. Plus, it'll last for years.
posted by psycheslamp at 2:45 PM on November 30, 2011

Tees, by themsevles are not dressy. There is no way around this. Not even if you get one with a tuxedo jacket printed on the front, or one with sparkles.

However, throw something over it and you have something that doesn't look lazy. A jacket is one choice. I know you say you like short sleeves and hate button down shirts, but tossing a nice button-down shirt over top and rolling up the sleeves can smarten up the look a lot.

2nding wearing them under thermals. Contrasting colors can look great.

I find Banana Republic shirts look and fit nice and wear/launder well. It will depend on your body type if they work for you.
posted by Ookseer at 2:53 PM on November 30, 2011 [7 favorites]

Alternative Apparel. They're a bit more expensive than Banana Republic, but vastly superior in quality, IMO.
posted by brand-gnu at 4:26 PM on November 30, 2011

Are you willing to share why you hate polos? Have you tried different materials? Are they too tight? Too boxy? Which ones have you tried?

If you're too lazy for button-ups, have you tried the no-wrinkle men's button-up shirts? They are really amazing, and I bet would look tons better than a tshirt. I actually find button-ups to be easier, because you put on some nice jeans or pants, put on a button-up, done. No worries about whether it's really too casual, too thin, too worn.

I'm an academic with an extreme aversion to anything dressy. Most days I wear super nice dark-wash jeans, with a button-up. I keep a dark grey blazer around, and if something comes up where I need to look a bit more polished, I just slide it over the shirt. It feels better not to look like you're one of the students. If you're tenured, or confident enough that it doesn't matter, cool, but some instinct is telling you that a T-shirt really isn't working anymore.
posted by barnone at 8:23 PM on November 30, 2011

As for sources,
- Land's End, especially Land's End Canvas - some really nice materials, at good prices with a good warranty. This shirt looks fantastic with some dark jeans. This no-iron oxford is a great buy. It looks great all year round. If you really want a t-shirt, they have a few nice options. I have this one and love it.
- BR has a bunch of no-iron shirts
- No-iron button-up with awesome details from Duluth
- Context
- Need Supply
- What about something a bit hipper, like G-Star, or Diesel? If you change up the materials, would it make you more at east? A few examples: vaguely military, French Connection short-sleeved, twill, relax military, dark garment-dyed
posted by barnone at 8:54 PM on November 30, 2011

i have like 27 plain black calvin klein tshirts. wore the first 17 out (over the course of like 5 years, they're reasonably sturdy if not bulletproof) and bought 10 more (i keep the old ones to wear around the house, back from the pool etc) they somehow make me look 10 pounds thinner. i wear them under a jacket all the time when i'm in colder climes.

i recently got one of these plain grey t-shirts from brooklyn industries, and it's my new favorite article of clothing - the fabric feels extra nice on the skin and the "unfinished hems" make it look like a spendy $50 tshirt (it's currently on sale for 20 bucks on their website)
posted by messiahwannabe at 11:55 PM on November 30, 2011

The "dressiest" and classiest t-shirt you can wear is a plain white one. I'm just not a believer in "fancy" t-shirts. I think they look juvenile at best.

In truth, I reckon it's impossible for a t-shirt to be truly dressy... but a plain white one with a nice pair of dark jeans is about as close as you're going to get.

And I'm sorry, erstwhile, but I reckon wearing a t-shirt over anything - especially a buttoned shirt - looks ridiculous and sloppy.
posted by Ted Maul at 1:53 AM on December 1, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, great answers, everybody. Thanks a lot.

A few clarifications / FAQs:

1. Yes, I do realize that wearing a t-shirt will never be dressy. But when I do inevitably wear t-shirts, I'd like to be near the dressy end of the t-shirt spectrum.

2. I have never worn a polo shirt and not felt like the collar was strangling me all day. I have tried many different sizes, fabrics, and manufacturers. I do have, and occasionally wear, Oxfords. I am still searching for the perfect blazer.

Thanks again!
posted by shaun at 6:58 AM on December 1, 2011

Target's shallow V-necks are the greatest shirts in the world and are $7. Come in a variety of colors, look great even under dress coats. Completely plain, no logos or anything. Fabric feels high quality. I have about 12 of them.
posted by MangyCarface at 9:32 AM on December 1, 2011

Fabric and cut can make a difference. These Smartwool merino t-shirts don't stand out in the product photo, but they look and feel great, and are machine washable. They're not cheap, but in my experience they last much (3x?) longer than inexpensive cotton alternatives.
posted by nicholai88 at 10:44 AM on December 1, 2011

(Ms. Vegetable)
I like Mr. Meat in Izod shirts, but that may not quite be what you want. I've found them at outlets for $10.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:29 PM on December 4, 2011

Umm, button-front shirts don't HAVE to be unbuttoned, and if you can find good no-wrinkle shirts you can grab them fresh out of the dryer, put 'em on a hanger and be ready to go, laziness and all. I have a few shirts that have literally never been unbuttoned after their first wearing (I also have lots I take for professional cleaning and pressing).

Also: zip-front sweatshirt kind of things are your friend. Lots of choice available from t-shirt weight to thick sweatshirts, and they run the gamut from sports-logo garishness to very smart black or dark grey tops that you can wear with a blazer for a very sleek look.
posted by mikel at 5:12 PM on December 4, 2011

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