Undershirts with polo shirts?
June 27, 2008 12:26 PM   Subscribe

What are your thoughts on men wearing an undershirt under a polo shirt? How much exposed chest hair is too much?

I always wear an undershirt under a long-sleave button-down shirt, but have long waivered regarding the appropriateness of doing so with a polo shirt.

Wearing an undershirt looks too constrained to me and is less comfortable. Just wearing the polo, on the other hand, seems to border on inappropriate.

I'm 23 and have a decent amount of chest hair, though I'm certainly no Robin Williams.

Thoughts on the matter? I'm open to all comments, though I'm more interested in those of the fairer sex.
posted by Sar HaPanim to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (44 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I dislike the very 90's look of a white t-shirt under a polo shirt, I find it very unprofessional looking.

Let the chest hair flow - I mean, don't unbutton it all the way, but certainly just a few tufts are okay.
posted by banannafish at 12:32 PM on June 27, 2008

My brother wears an undershirt with everything (even t-shirts).
My boyfriend wears an undershirt only with dress shirts.

I like both of them for reasons unrelated to their wearing of undershirts.

I think it's more of a personal choice than anything else. I have never heard a woman say "gee, he was great, but was totally/not wearing an undershirt so I'm going to write him off now."
posted by phunniemee at 12:33 PM on June 27, 2008

I do both. Never gave it much thought. If I'm running home to change and going out again (wearing an undershirt for my work-related button down), I'll most often just throw a polo on top of it. If I'm getting ready in the morning, and expecting warm weather, I'll just put the polo on sans shirt. I am curious to see if there is an impact on people's perception of this, as it's never crossed my mind before....
posted by Debaser626 at 12:40 PM on June 27, 2008

Just wearing the polo, on the other hand, seems to border on inappropriate.

...and just curious... why would it be inappropriate? (just chest hair? or something else...)
posted by Debaser626 at 12:41 PM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

It depends. I think the undershirt (or tshirt) under a polo thing can be either very very preppy (depending on the colours involved), or rather more hip, and can look good either way.

As far as buttons go.. depends on how many buttons you have. On a three-button polo, I think leaving two open is fine; leaving all three looks sloppy somehow. On polos with more buttons, experiment. I think that basically you should aim for being open not much lower than your, whatsit, that divot in your clavicle at the top of your sternum.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:47 PM on June 27, 2008

I don't wear an undershirt with a polo, but then I don't wear undershirts at all. I might layer a colored tee under an unbottoned buttondown, but that's about it.

No chest hair, so I don't have an opinion one way or the other.
posted by tommasz at 12:48 PM on June 27, 2008

This is coming from someone who's sense of fashion is largely dictated by what's clean at the time, but I only wear an undershirt when I'm wearing a thin white dress shirt, through which you can usually see darker skin/nips/chest hair or what have you...
posted by Pantengliopoli at 12:53 PM on June 27, 2008

I am of the female persuasion*, and my husband has a pretty decent amount of dark chest hair. To my knowledge he only wears undershirts with dress-shirts, not polos. I think if I saw him wearing an undershirt with a polo I would think it a little odd/redundant. I can't for the life of me think why polo sans undershirt would be inappropriate.

*full disclosure: I am a female who happens to like chest hair on men
posted by DiscourseMarker at 12:53 PM on June 27, 2008

You could trim back the growth, without going all bodybuilder, if that makes you feel less conspicuous. I have very little growth, so I just keep the sternum clear.

I agree with 2 buttons, and I don't own a single white undershirt. I do occasionally wear a black or color coordinated tank or tee under an open collar shirt, when the mood strikes. But I'm ancient, so I can probably do anything I want and people will just not care because I'm so old they know I don't know any better.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 12:53 PM on June 27, 2008

What if you wore a non undershirt t-shirt under your polo? Get some lightweight, solid colored t-shirts in colors other than white that coordinate with your polo shirt colors, and wear those under your polos. No chest hair, no white collar, and you get a nice pop of color next to your face.
posted by decathecting at 12:53 PM on June 27, 2008

Let the chest hair out! What could possibly be inappropriate about it?
posted by hworth at 12:54 PM on June 27, 2008

I can't for the life of me think why polo sans undershirt would be inappropriate.

If you sweat, wet undershirt pits that nobody can see are 100% better than wet polo pits that everyone can see. To the OP -- that's why people I know (including me) wear undershirts with polos.
posted by inigo2 at 12:56 PM on June 27, 2008

Wow, lots of non-undershirt leaning comments so far. I'll go ahead and throw my vote towards always wearing an undershirt (not necessarily white though). I have almost no chest hair and yet I always wear one. I think exposed chest looks sloppier (for lack of a better word), and chest hair only makes it worse. But that's only my personal opinion of course :)
posted by mehum at 12:58 PM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

I wear an undershirt beneath everything - tshirts, polo shirts, dress shirts. Usually white, but sometimes gray or black (i.e., whatever Target sells, and whatever I have that's clean). They keep you a bit warmer in the winter, it keeps any underarm sweat from being visible in the summer, and it's like an emergency backup in case you spill or tear your outer shirt. Plus nobody wants to see my nipples or chest hair (not that I'm especially pointy or hairy in those regards, but still).
posted by xbonesgt at 12:59 PM on June 27, 2008

(I'm female.)
If your chest hair is really bushy, trim it back a bit. Nobody wants to think you have an escaping rodent in your shirt. Other than that, you should be good to go.

I don't watch much TV, but it seems like the men I've seen lately on TV have no body hair. Maybe that's what looks odd to you - none of the men on TV, or in print ads, now that I think of it, have body hair.
posted by workerant at 1:02 PM on June 27, 2008

I am more often sans t-shirt when wearing a polo shirt but do occasionally where one when I know I might be outside for a long stretch of time and it will be hot out. This is more a safe guard against a little sweating than showing off some hair.
posted by mmascolino at 1:02 PM on June 27, 2008

undershirts below short-sleeve garments - as a european that always strikes me as the prime example of the clueless american male. okay, that an white tennis socks off court. body hair is tricky as tastes differ. I know girls who find it disgusting as well as some (albeit less) who swear a man should never shave/cut/trim it at all. I have never been able to find a consensus on that. I'd suggest you go with what you like best.
posted by krautland at 1:04 PM on June 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

I think the choice has a lot to do with what body frame you possess. If a man is a scrawnier fellow, then tufts of chest hair seem to carry a bit more of an 'ick' factor then if he is of a burly sort. Undershirts for the lanky, none for the brawny?
posted by andythebean at 1:13 PM on June 27, 2008

I think there is another issue besides chest hair. Polo shirts can emphasize a certain amount of male nipplage.

T-shirts can 1) Contain chest hair; 2) Prevent polo shirt sweat rings; 3) guard against nipplage; 4) often leave the shirt worn over them fresh enough it can be worn again without a washing.

So I think T-shirt is go regardless, so i've always worn an undershirt whether I'm wearing a t-shirt, polo, oxford, whatever.
posted by Any Moose In a Storm at 1:24 PM on June 27, 2008 [4 favorites]

As a woman, I think an undershirt looks much more put-together. Wearing just a shirt, unless it's a t-shirt, looks borderline slobby to me (although sometimes guys manage to look fine). Also, I personally find chest hair gross, and in my opinion it lends to the unkempt look.
posted by Nattie at 1:29 PM on June 27, 2008

I dislike the very 90's look of a white t-shirt under a polo shirt, I find it very unprofessional looking.

Um, it's a polo shirt. Unless he's playing in Bridgehampton, how "unprofessional" can he look?

You can wear a white crewneck t-shirt under a polo. It looks fine.

As for dress shirts: when you can see the undershirt through the dress shit, that's a bad look.
posted by Zambrano at 1:39 PM on June 27, 2008

workerant, i was going to say the opposite—that chest hair in print media is everywhere! it seems to be in vogue now.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 1:42 PM on June 27, 2008

If you're at the office, wear an undershirt. If you're out and about, wear what you want.

However, if you're a hater for undershirts, there are many good reasons to wear an undershirt besides just how it looks. It helps draw sweat and grime and odors away from not only your body but also your polo shirt which helps keep you looking refresh, clean, and the cotton helps your back stay cool and allows your back to breathe during the day. If you're going to be sweating, have oil skin, or anything like that, wear the undershirt. You'll be glad you did.
posted by Stynxno at 1:47 PM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

The best-looking guy I know does the following:

1. Wear the polo shirt with a white tank undershirt (for example). The undershirt collar doesn't show (so it doesn't have that sloppy t-shirt-underneath look), but you'll still prevent nippleness, suppress some chest hair, and keep your polo more crisp throughout the day.

2. Do what dirtynumbangelboy said and don't unbutton too low.
posted by ourobouros at 1:56 PM on June 27, 2008

It depends on the occasion. Polo shirts are multitasking garments.

If you're wearing a polo shirt to work, brunch with your girlfriend's parents, a dinner party with friends, or any other situation in which you're going for casual-but-neat, then yeah, undershirt.

If you're wearing a polo shirt to the grocery store, neighborhood bar, backyard barbeque, or swimming pool, then meh, you're already pretty sartorially far ahead of the curve.

I do think that big sweaty wet underarm circles are to be studiously avoided, though, especially as the polo-shirt material doesn't dry as quickly as a t-shirt. Bleeacch.
posted by desuetude at 1:58 PM on June 27, 2008

I'm not a big fan of men's chest hair, but I think a bit of that looks better than a bit of undershirt, because the undershirt seems like exposed "underwear" to me. It also tends to look hot (temperature-wise), like you're just plain old wearing two shirts.

So my vote would be for no undershirt, with a nearly-buttoned-up polo over moderately trimmed chest hair. If you want your polo more open or if you're going to be sweating, then go for the undershirt.

Have you taken notice of what others at your company do? I'm not sure it matters, but when in Rome...
posted by GardenGal at 2:00 PM on June 27, 2008

I'm a female, and I tend to wear tank tops under polo shirts and button-up shirts

1) to preclude any accidental nipplage, and
2) Perspiration, I has it.

For reference, my fiance does not wear undershirts under polo shirts.
posted by muddgirl at 2:05 PM on June 27, 2008

What are your thoughts on men wearing an undershirt under a polo shirt?

I wear a v-neck to gain all the usual benefits of undershirts, while still impressing the ladies with all the manly chest hair

How much exposed chest hair is too much?

If you're single- whatever keeps a lot of women away.
If you're in a relationship- whatever the SO says is too much.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:11 PM on June 27, 2008

Depending on your build, an undershirt can help smooth things out. and keep the polo from clinging. In a side note, when someone judges me by the socks I am wearing, they can go fly a kite.
posted by Amby72 at 2:14 PM on June 27, 2008

If the goal is to rock the chest hair, but maintain a not stinky Polo, just get some V-necks. That's what I did once my girl told me she wants visible chest hair to come back in style.
posted by sciurus at 2:37 PM on June 27, 2008

I am female and extremely pro-undershirt, although the degree of my extreme pro-undershirt-edness does depend on the guy in question. Pale and/or thin? Undershirt all the way, in every possible circumstance. Dark and/or medium build? You can get away without an undershirt in many circumstances, including under polos. Heavy? Undershirt--it will make you look much tidier.
posted by HotToddy at 2:39 PM on June 27, 2008

I'm a male and very pro-undershirt as well. But I have almost no white undershirts; I buy colored undershirts from cheapestees.com and have one in almost every color (I stopped buying plain white socks a while ago as well; much more fun. No packaged underwear or boxers either, but that's sort of a given). I don't often wear polos, but when I do, it's a simple color (brown or black or dark grey) with a contrasting undershirt. If I'm lucky, it matches my socks.

I suppose this is sort of a preppy look, but I live in Seattle and don't really care. I guess my style is somewhere on the safe end of both preppy and hipster (Gap-hipster?).

For me it's a bit about smoothing things out, like Amby said, and also about feeling weird about not having anything on underneath.
posted by rossination at 3:02 PM on June 27, 2008

Agreeing with rossination. I usually wear an undershirt, but never a white one. This is as big a faux-pas as wearing white socks with dark pants and shoes (although I suppose a white undershirt would look alright with a white polo). Besides all the aforementioned benefits, a coloured undershirt is a nice accent. Match it with your shoes and you look like you put a little thought into your outfit.

I'm pale and scrawny, with a bit of chest hair, and the only time I would consider going without an undershirt is if I was wearing shorts and flip-flops with my polo, i.e. if it's hot out and I'm going to a backyard bbq or something.
posted by good in a vacuum at 3:42 PM on June 27, 2008

it really looks dorky. like, a lot.

and it's important to understand that it's a bit of chest hair you'd be showing, it's not like you'd be walking around with your fly open and your nuts (hairy or otherwise) visible to all.
posted by matteo at 3:48 PM on June 27, 2008

if it is a two button down polo (like RL) then i do not wear a undershirt. i will occasionaly wear one depending on the weather. NEVER wear a dark color if you do wear one. from my understanding, girls like to see a bit of hair.
posted by thetenthstory at 3:58 PM on June 27, 2008

Always an undershirt, except for just t-shirts. Especially under polo shirts, as I hate the texture of them.
posted by General Malaise at 4:13 PM on June 27, 2008

I started wearing t-shirts under other shirts for fashion reasons sometime in the late 80s maybe. I think it was a Look. But I smoothly converted to a functional wearer. For me the main issue these days is prolonging the life of the shirt. Shirts die quicker when exposed directly to skin and sweat. And another thing is the deodorant. Ever noticed the armpits of your white tees going yellow? I'm pretty sure that's the deo. I had to retire a great white polo years back because it had teh yellow. I want to keep my shirts longer, so I tee.

But I also don't like the chest hair look. Makes me feel like I should be wearing a gold chain. It also feels kind of too casual for work, sort of as you are hinting. I wear an undershirt and button all but the top button, however many there are. So it's not a big gaping expanse of tee, which can look too underweary like someone upthread said.

I also just like the contrast look too. Red and white, blue and white, whatever and white. I'm a solid color guy, though, and I wonder if I would like it with patterned polos. Dunno. Anyway, it's probably the same reason I still like late 80s and early 90s music - that's just where my head is most centered. Don't care for this new fangled flim flam! You kids get out of my yard!

This girl one time railed against my "buffer shirt" as she dubbed it, few years out of college. She said it was not for grownups and that when she saw a guy in a buffer shirt, it put her off. Well first of all, ha HAA, because she had chicken legs but I can take of my shirt if I choose to. And secondly, my grandpapa always said to me growing up, "Askr, you never leave the house without your undershirt." For someone who was years away from even wearing undershirts to start with, I never understood why he always told me that, but that was papa. But anyway, I'll take papa over chickenleg girl. BUFFER SHIRTSTERS UNITE.
posted by Askr at 5:53 PM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ever noticed the armpits of your white tees going yellow? I'm pretty sure that's the deo.

No, that's the sweat.

But I agree with you in general; never go out without your undershirt, unless you're a hippie or going to the beach.
posted by Justinian at 6:04 PM on June 27, 2008

I wear undershirts under my polos and long-sleeved shirts so I get buttercups on the undershirt and not the nicer shirt on top.

But I live in the south. and sweat a lot.
posted by ijoyner at 6:49 PM on June 27, 2008

Never, ever wear an undershirt. You will save money, have one less thing to wash and fold, one less thing to have to go and buy, and you won't look like a fussy gomer. Please ignore the pro-undershirt people, they are all sniffing glue.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:16 PM on June 27, 2008

I am female, and think male chest hair is attractive. Count me in as one vote against the undershirt.
posted by invisible ink at 7:44 PM on June 27, 2008

Chest hair I don't know, but I (try to) follow this classical rule:

An undershirt is underwear and should not show.

I have v-necks for open collar shirts, crew necks for when I'm wearing a tie. Polo shirts are a toss-up- I generally think that undershirts aren't necessary with them unless it's for personal comfort. And if your sense of propriety and the formalness of the place you're going demands an undershirt, a polo shirt probably isn't the right shirt choice. And if you're worried about the undershirt showing through the "main" shirt, the "main" shirt is too old/cheap/thin.

(This only applies to work/event clothing- wear whatever you want any time else.)
posted by gjc at 8:15 PM on June 27, 2008

The undershirt is a practical garment. It's more comfortable, because undershirts are generally made from a better material than your outer shirt (which is often a sweltering blend unless you're filthy rich). It protects your more expensive outer clothes from sweat, and allows you to avoid the disgusting "sweat circles" look if you're in a hot climate. It's not even about chest hair, really; some varieties (the "wifebeater," the v-neck, wide-neck crews) don't conceal it at all. If you're uncomfortable with your chest hair, trim it, and wear an undershirt for the practical benefits.

Just buy several different styles to wear under different types of shirt, and don't wear a standard crew-neck under a polo.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:20 PM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Depends where you live... in London I noticed nobody wearing undershirts with anything, which includes button downs for work.

I started college--in the south-- wearing undershirts. Then I noticed all the cool guys not wearing undershirts with their polos (I own about 25 polo shirts). In northern cities I think undershirts are more popular
posted by sandmanwv at 12:25 PM on June 28, 2008

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