The Do's and Don'ts of Undershirts
Underwear is a relatively new concept - that is, the underwear that we know today. Up until the end of the 19th century, a collared shirt was considered an undergarment. In those days, you’d never see much of a shirt other than the cuffs and collars. The vanity of having good hygiene is why detachable collars and cuffs were invented so that only the visible parts had to be washed consistently.
Surprisingly, undergarments were not initially developed to protect the body from the elements nor to add another layer of insulation. A luxury of society's affluent few, undergarments protected the wearer’s skin from abrasive outerwear. The working class of the time was lucky to have a single shirt, as textiles were expensive, laborious, and precious goods.
As with many developments in menswear, the concept of wearing an undershirt was made common during wartime. At the beginning of the 20th century, soldiers would often wear undergarments to protect their uniforms from dirt, and in hot climates, it was more comfortable to just wear the undershirt. After soldiers returned from WWII, sales of undershirts skyrocketed as soldiers wore "T-shirts" as their own as a form of outerwear.
In the present day, undershirts are largely an optional garment and are purely based on the wearer's comfort level when adding an additional layer to the ensemble. If you do choose to wear an undershirt with your dress shirt, there are a few points to remember:
- Wear an undershirt if you sweat profusely: One of the main functions of undershirts is its ability to guard your dress shirt and other layers against damage caused by sweat or your deodorant.
- Undershirts help keep chest hair from poking through the shirt's surface.
- A T-Shirt is not an undershirt: undershirts are thin, formfitting garments that are lightweight and meant to be virtually invisible under your dress shirt.
- Your undershirt should match your skin tone: no, nude shapewear is not just a trademark of the Kardashians. The closer your undershirt is to your natural skin tone, the more invisible it will be under your dress shirt. HACK: When in doubt, choose a light, heathered grey undershirt vs a black or a white option.
- Deep v-neck undershirts, never crew neck: there are few things more tasteless than an exposed undershirt popping out of a dress shirt. With a well-fitting deep v-neck undershirt, you can unbutton both your collar and subsequent button without exposing your undershirt.