Should You Wear An Undershirt Underneath a T-Shirt?

Now here’s a great question from a reader who was curious about whether or not it would be weird to wear an undershirt underneath a t-shirt during the summer when it’s really hot out. Here’s our email exchange:

Hey Tug!

Your blog is awesome, so you were the go-to guy when I ran into the issue of wearing undershirts under t-shirts.  I like to wear an undershirt everyday under whatever I have on, as considering my job it’s usually something collared (depending on what’s needed, polo or dress shirt or whatever). 

But now it’s summer, so I’m wearing t-shirts, so it’s not exactly easy to wear an undershirt under them. 

I feel really gross with the sweat and everything without one, and it just looks kinda weird to wear a t-shirt under a t-shirt…doesn’t it?  Any suggestions?

Thanks for your help!

My reply:

Hey P,

Thanks for stopping by the site and for sending in your question.

You’ve got a really good question here, and considering we’re getting into the summer months, I think I’ll post our email exchange so my other readers can benefit from it as well.

I’m not usually a big supporter of wearing an undershirt under a t-shirt, especially in the summer months because of the heat. But something recently changed my mind, and as a result, I came up with some ideas on when to wear undershirts under t-shirts and also have some thoughts on which ones to choose.

billy-ray-cyrus-in-undershirt-riding-motorcycle
billy ray cyrus wearing wifebeater undershirt while riding his motorcycle

Just a few days ago I needed to make a trip up to Lowes to pick-up some supplies and decided to take out my motorcycle. Since it was nearing melting temperatures here in northern California, I decided that I wanted to keep things cool and wear a t-shirt.

The thing about riding a motorcycle with just a t-shirt on is that unless it’s tucked in, everyone on the road is going to see what you’ve got going on underneath.

Although I’m an average built guy, I wasn’t keen on showing the world my moderate love handles and man-gut, so I thought I’d wear an undershirt as a base layer.

As I searched for which undershirt to wear (I’ve got about 50 different kinds of undershirts), I started thinking on when else it would be reasonable to consider wearing an undershirt with a t-shirt and I came up with the following list.

This Is When You Wear An Undershirt With A T-Shirt

When you…

  • Don’t want to soil your nice (and expensive) designer t-shirt with sweat or underarm pit stains
  • Are looking to mask/hide your man-boobs, gut, or not-so-lovely “love handles”
  • Know it’s really hot outside and you don’t want to sweat through to your t-shirt
  • Are out on a motorcycle ride and you don’t want to advertise you’re not in the same shape you were 20 years ago ;)

Now the tricky thing about wearing an undershirt under a t-shirt, and even more so in this hot weather, is to find one that’s light enough so that it won’t make you hotter.

Also, in many circumstances, you probably don’t want your undershirt collar or sleeves to show because, well, that will just look stupid (IMO). Lastly, the undershirt should be fitted because a baggy undershirt will look and feel bulky under an t-shirt and it will simply make you feel uncomfortable.

In situations 2, 3, 4 above, I think a ribbed wifebeater tank would work perfectly fine since they’re really lightweight, will keep you cool, and the stretchy rib fabric provides the coverage you need to mask your problem areas and also offers some ever-so-moderate slimming effects. If you don’t sweat too much, you can even get away with wearing one in situation 1.

Don’t Like Tank Tops?

If you’re not a tank top lover or want more coverage and protection, then it gets a little trickier because full undershirts will have a tendency to be warmer to wear than tank tops because of the extra fabric. The best remedy for this is to find an undershirt that is thin and light enough to give you the protection you need, but not too thin that it doesn’t provide enough protection.

The two thinnest undershirts I’ve seen so far are from Zimmerli and Jockey. If you’re a descendant of Donald Trump, the Hiltons, or Bill Gates, I suppose you wouldn’t blink an eye at dropping $70-$100 for a Zimmerli, but I have to admit, even at those kind of prices, you can’t argue that wearing a Zimmerli is like wearing a slice of heaven.

After hearing all the hype about the tank Hugh Jackman wore in X-Men movies, I decided to pick-up one of their ”Richelieu” ribbed tanks ($77) and let me tell you, that’s one awesome (yet expensive) wifebeater.

If you’ve got some disposable income or just appreciate fine clothing, buy one of these guys from my friends over at CustomShirt1.com. Zimmerli also has a full undershirt version in this paper-thin rib fabric called the Bat Sleeve Crew ($95).

If you’re into wifebeaters, but you just can’t justify laying down big bucks, you’ll never go wrong with the very affordable fitted ribbed tank tops from Hanes or FoTL. I recently picked-up a bunch of tanks from Target and found the new Hanes Premium ComfortSoft tank the nicest and softest of the bunch.

The Jockey undershirt I referred to above is the 3D Physique Crew Neck ($24). This is super-thin, light-weight, form fitting undershirt that is comfortable under nearly any shirt. The challenge with this undershirt is that the collar is higher and the sleeves are a little on the long side and most certainly would show under nearly any t-shirt. However, I’ve worn this guy as my base layer when out riding my motorcycle on several occasions.

The other Jockey that would work fairly well is their Echelon Crew Neck ($27) undershirt. It’s a little heavier than the 3D Physique, but the collar is not as visible and the sleeves a bit shorter so it would not be as noticeable under a t-shirt. Also, the TENCEL cotton blend in this undershirt does a pretty decent job in keeping you cool, plus it will absorb moisture pretty well.

More Undershirts To Consider

The next couple of undershirts to consider need no introduction considering they are on my Top 5 best undershirts list. They’re the undershirts from RibbedTee and Tommy John Second Skin ($36).

Both of these undershirts are a wee bit heavier than Zimmerli & 3D Physique, but are similar in weight to the Echelon and each bring their own unique benefits to the table. Also, depending on what kind of t-shirt you’re wearing, because of their design, they won’t likely show underneath. You can read more about each of these undershirts on the blog or on their websites.

While I’ve made the above recommendations because these undershirts come to top-of-mind, there’s a large variety of light-weight, fitted undershirts to choose from.

If any of the above undershirts don’t suit your needs, head over to sites like FreshPair.com or BareNecessities.com where you can pick from wide variety of undershirts.

One final thought, if you’re just bumming around the house, going to the beach, or out casually running errands, you’re probably ok not wearing an undershirt underneath a t-shirt. It’s perfectly ok to be a little sweaty everyone once in a while — after all — we ARE guys.

Hope the above info helps and let me know if you decide to try anything above or have found an undershirt you like to wear under t-shirts.

Best,
Tug

His response:

Thanks a lot! I’ve never worn an a-shirt before, think I’ll use this as an excuse to buy a pack, I’ll try the ones you recommended.  Thanks again!

7 thoughts on “Should You Wear An Undershirt Underneath a T-Shirt?”

    • hey mo, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. the nike pro line includes a bunch of different types of dri-fit performance t-shirts. some of them are like muscle shirts (no sleeves) and the others range from short sleeve crews to long sleeve tops (assuming you’re not considering long sleeve). in general, these types of performance tops might be ok to wear underneath a t-shirt, but it really depends on many factors.

      first, the nike pro looks to have a higher collar line (their stretch-tape neckline) which might be visible with a t-shirt over it, depending on the t-shirt’s collar design.

      second, the nike pro line is made with their dri-fit fabric technology (aka polyester/spandex blend, some of the fabric in mesh) which is by it’s very design, moisture wicking. if the challenge with wearing a moisture wicking product as your base layer is that if the fabric does it’s job well, it will pull moisture away from your body and transfer it to your outer t-shirt where the sweat stains may soak through.

      third, it will be important to find one that fits tight so it’s not bulky underneath your t-shirt.

      and last but not least, if you’re going for the sleeveless (muscle) nike pro, you won’t have protection for your underarms. now, that might not be important for you specifically, but it’s something to consider.

      one other thing, the nike pro line is pretty expensive with per shirt prices ranging around $40. while these might work for you, you might be better served with something less expensive and an undershirt that absorbed moisture vs. wicked it. if you have additional thoughts or questions, let me know!

      Reply
  1. Caught your article during an internet search… I almost always wear two tees at work and home. Exceptions are when it hits 90 or above with high humidity. At work… I’m a glorified mechanic… the sweat hits the undershirt and doesn’t show through the top layer, The sweat is felt, though, definitely. The shirts are selected to minimize the appearance of a second tee, but the look doesn’t bother me. In fact I’m interested in short-sleeve sweatshirts. Side note: I’ve read that two layers of tees are forbidden in some prisons, because an inmate might beat another inmate and ditch the top tee, to hide any blood stains. Whew.

    Reply
  2. Just to throw a few more insights into the mix: DEFINITELY go for the beater under the plain white tee. The tee looks whiter, it provides a second barrier for hiding chest hair (crucial), and you just look better. As for colored tees, de-sleeved a couple white tees with good necks and make them into ‘muscle’ shirts. When you remove the sleeves, make sure you actually pop the seam and not just cut them off. When you cut, the leftover material has a tendency to roll up and cause issues. When you pop the seam, get your good sharp pocket knife and run the blade over the stitching holding the sleeve to the body of the shirt. It takes some time/patience, but you end up with a shirt that hangs cleanly, sits tight on the neck, and doesn’t have sleeves with length issues. Oh — added bonus — even without the sleeves, the shirt still manages to fulfill its sweat-catcher responsibilities in the pit area. (And I’ll shut up now!)

    Reply
  3. Great post as always TUG. Another reason to wear an undershirt beneath a t-shirt could be for fashion. While I don’t recommend wearing a t-shirt underneath a tank top, wearing similar styles in different colors could add a pop of fashion.

    Reply

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