A surprising number of readers contacted me to share their favorite undershirts, or to suggest others they thought I should try. Most of these shirts raised the price point considerably. This past month I tested four more shirts, which I wore and washed aggressively to test their durability. A prolonged test will likely reveal flaws that were not obvious in just a month.
Mike Schwarz, the founder of RibbedTee, reached out to me after he read about my woes with his shirts last time. He felt that based on the date of my order (back in 2011) I had received shirts from a bad batch (something wrong with the fabric that caused too much shrinking). He offered to send me some to try, but he also gave me links to reviews of other shirts that I might like.
Because of Mike’s “Macy’s Santa” attitude, I accepted four new RibbedTee shirts from him (two white, two gray) gratis.
The difference in these shirts was obvious. The new shirts were much longer and felt more comfortable. I immediately threw them into my washing machine, set the water temperature to “sanitize” and turned on steam mode for good measure. After the wash I tossed the shirts into the dryer and set the heat to “anti-bacterial”. I didn’t notice any shrink, so I would expect these shirts to retain their shape over time.
With the length of the shirts sorted out, fitting my body nicely, it was time to test for my last major complaint: armpit area comfort. This is still a point of contention for me with these shirts. The shirts are meant to hug your body closely, which they do in all areas except the armpit area. Perhaps this is a personal issue but I always feel like the sleeves are bunching into my armpits (they don’t actually bunch), which is simply uncomfortable. During a full day’s wear the issue becomes less noticeable until I start to sweat, at which point I’m reminded of the annoyance. I can wear them all day, but from time to time I do that thing where you tug at your undershirt and look like an idiot.
I think a lot of people will find RibbedTee to be their ideal shirt. They hide well under a dress shirt, making them well suited for those wearing properly fitted dress shirts on a daily basis. They are reasonably priced but are not cheap.
Personally, I’ll keep a couple on hand for formal occasions but not for everyday wear.
Next up is the Dockers v-neck tall. Again (depending on Amazon) the shirts are roughly $10 each and come in packs of three. I ordered one pack of shirts.
You should immediately notice that these shirts are made from a thicker material, especially given their low price. They fit comfortably, hugging your body slightly more than a standard t-shirt.
Where these shirts fail for me is the v-neck. The neck opening is narrow, so while you don’t see the undershirt where your shirt collar gapes open, the v-neck collar has a tendency to work its way up the left or right side of your neck. Maybe I have mutant shoulders, but it took me a bit of effort to get this shirt situated well underneath my dress shirt.
Once correctly positioned the shirt tends to stay in place very well. It’s thick enough to wear as a normal t-shirt if needed.1 This is the most casual, t-shirt-like, undershirt that I tested.
Overall this is a solid shirt. It holds up well and wears comfortably at a very low price. However, the neckline of the shirt doesn’t work well for me, which is a deal-breaker. I’d rather wear the RibbedTee shirt.
Fruit of the Loom
The Fruit of the Loom v-neck tall is another Amazon three-pack that costs about $13 for all three shirts. Naturally the quality is lower than the others tested. Even so, $13 for three shirts? I had to test these.
They really aren’t as bad as I expected. The neckline is actually great, but the material is quasi-transparent. I would wear them as a t-shirt around the house, or working in the yard, but that’s about the limit. Whereas the Docker’s shirt could be worn to the store without embarrassment, that’s not the case for this shirt.2
In fact, a couple weeks into testing I thought these would be the clear winner. Unfortunately they suffer the same fate as so many other cheap shirts: Poor shape retention. After just a few washes it became clear that this shirt will lose its shape over the course of a couple years.
That fact alone prevents me from recommending this shirt at all. However I should note that in addition to the poor shape retention this shirt also doesn’t “hide well” under a thin dress shirt. In other words: it will be apparent where your undershirt is, which is a big problem for me.
Ben Brockland, founder of UnderFit, also reached out to offer me one of his shirts to test. At $25 each I was happy to accept a review shirt. I told him my height and weight, then he picked the size and sent it to me. Normally I order large-tall, but since the shirts don’t come in tall sizes he sent an extra-large, which I’m glad of.
Clearly extra-large is the correct size for me in this shirt, so keep that in mind when selecting your size. Also, this shirt is not specifically made for tall people, but the XL fit me fine with no length complaints at all.
UnderFit’s biggest surprise was the texture of the fabric, which was so soft that I wanted to rub my face on it. That may sound odd, but it’s the best way to describe the feel of this shirt: You will want this next to your skin.3
The UnderFit fabric is just so damned soft. Not “fuzzy” soft but smooth like silk, without the crappy qualities that silk brings.
If it wasn’t already obvious, my search for an undershirt stops here, with UnderFit. These shirts offer the best qualities of the RibbedTee and the best of a normal cotton t-shirt.
UnderFit shirts are thin and hug the body while remaining loose enough to allow freedom of movement, unlike the RibbedTee. Like the RibbedTee, the UnderFit shirt disappears beneath your dress shirt. The neck line is excellent and the fabric is top-notch. I was worried after the first wash that shape retention may be a problem but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all — and this is easily the most washed and worn shirt of this test round.
I only have one UnderFit shirt but I find my self doing more laundry so I can wear it more often.
The only problem with the UnderFit shirt is the price. At $25 each I’m looking at $250 to get fully stocked with UnderFit shirts. For some people this will make sense — if I wore suits daily this is the shirt I would wear under them — but for others the price will be too high.
Despite having a dozen more shirts suggested by readers I am stopping here. UnderFit is excellent and meets all my needs. RibbedTee is my runner-up for a pure undershirt. Dockers is my runner-up as an all around shirt, which also works well as an undershirt.