Wondering what to wear under a white dress shirt? You aren’t alone.
If you have ever tried to wear a white dress shirt without an undershirt, you’ve likely both seen and felt how uncomfortable this omission can be.
Not every undershirt is created equal, so it’s important to choose the right one for each occasion to stay comfortable and appropriately dressed. This article will explain how to choose an undershirt for your dress shirt, and some fashion mistakes to avoid.
That said, as a general rule of thumb, you should always wear an undershirt under a white dress shirt, unless it is a very thick white dress shirt. Now, let’s get into the specifics.
Undershirts – The Unsung Hero
Undershirts are truly the unsung hero in a man’s wardrobe. You don’t see them (or at least you shouldn’t), but they are incredibly important.
Believe it or not, the humble undershirt has various functions. All of them shape and polish your outfit. They will keep you warm or help you stay cool. In short, they are necessary to the well-styled man. But what about white dress shirts?
Surely you can see the undershirt underneath it! So what do you do?
Don’t skip the undershirt. Read on and learn how to find the perfect undershirt for your white dress shirt.
The Truth About White Dress Shirts
White is a color you wear to both casual and formal events. It is spotless and crisp. When you wear it, it speaks volumes about you and portrays your confidence.
It’s a classic choice that can be paired with any type of pants and any suit. Dress it up or dress it down, white is forever.
There is a slight problem with white dress shirts, however. They can be sheer. In the right light, you can see right through them. A see-through shirt is embarrassing and distracting.
Instead of communicating respect and prestige, a translucent shirt speaks volumes of sloppiness, carelessness, and naivety.
Spending just a little time adding an undershirt will enhance your overall look. It will elevate your style and give you more confidence too.
So what do you wear under a white dress shirt? There are a ton of options out there – tank tops, undershirts, and just plain white t-shirts. How do you know what to choose? This guide will take you through the entire decision-making process.
You’ll learn about the different types of undershirts, different dress shirts, and how to decide which undershirt to buy.
What is an Undershirt?
Before we look at which undershirt to buy, let’s answer one very common question: what exactly is an undershirt?
The simplest answer is just like it sounds: an undershirt is a piece of underwear that you wear under your shirt.
Undershirts are made to be:
- Tight-Fitting – they won’t bunch under your dress shirt
- Comfortable – made with the softest fabrics, they feel like a second skin
- Sweat Capturing – they absorb sweat and protect it from getting on your dress shirt
- Breathable – the fabrics help your skin breath so it doesn’t overheat
- Covering – they cover up the nipples and other parts of your chest, so they don’t show through
- Protecting – they protect your dress shirts from sweat and odors. But they also protect your skin from rubbing against rough dress shirt linens and materials
Just like underwear has a purpose, so do undershirts. They are just as important and should be a regular part of every man’s wardrobe.
A T-Shirt is NOT an Undershirt
It’s easy to get them confused since undershirts can sometimes look just like t-shirts. They have the same color and shape. But there are lots of ways t-shirts are different from undershirts.
The simplest way to explain it is this: a t-shirt is outerwear and an undershirt is underwear. Because they have different functions, they are actually made with different fabrics and in different sizes.
T-shirts are much heavier and thicker than undershirts. They are made to be worn alone, but undershirts are made to paired with clothing and worn underneath them.
If you try to wear a t-shirt as an undershirt, you could be missing out on a very helpful characteristic of undershirts – sweat & odor absorption. Undershirts are created to prevent sweat from soaking into your top shirt. This helps you stink less too.
Avoid wearing a t-shirt as an undershirt and the other way around. If you use them like they are supposed to be used, you’ll feel better and experience the benefits of them too.
For more information about the main differences between t-shirts and undershirts, please be sure to check out this article.
My Favorite Undershirts to Wear Under a White Dress Shirt
Now you know what an undershirt is, how it’s different from a standard t-shirt, and why white dress shirts need to be paired with undershirts.
Let’s look at my top picks for undershirts that work best for white dress shirts.
You’ll want to choose a color that matches your skin tone. More information about matching undershirt color with skin tone is provided below.
Undershirt fabric weight also needs to be considered, and will depend on several factors including the weight of your dress shirt, the weather, and your thermal comfort needs.
Here are some ideas on how to match an undershirt with your white dress shirt:
Heavy white dress shirts (not see through):
|Season||Undershirt Weight||Undershirt Color|
|Winter||Average to heavy weight undershirt (150+ gsm)||White, tan / nude / beige, or light grey|
|Summer||Thin lightweight undershirts (100-150 gsm)||White, tan / nude / beige, or light grey|
Lightweight white dress shirts (somewhat see through):
|Season||Undershirt Weight||Undershirt Color|
|Winter||Heavyweight undershirt (160+ gsm)||Tan / nude / beige or light grey|
|Summer||Thin lightweight undershirts (100-150 gsm)||Tan / nude / beige or light grey|
Types of Undershirts
There are different shapes and types of undershirts from which you can choose. Here’s an introduction to them and a few tips about how to choose the best one for your needs.
Crew neck undershirts are classic and one of the most common worn undershirt styles.
The cut of the neckline is more curved and sits higher, close to the neck. These are a good choice if you are going to keep your white dress shirt completely buttoned up. For example, if you ware wearing a tie.
Regular v-neck undershirts have short sleeves and the neckline normally dips into a curved v shape.
Wear these undershirts if you like to keep your dress shirt slightly unbuttoned and don’t want your undershirt to show through the top. You can also pick a high v-neck undershirt if you like the comfort of a v-neck but don’t need one that dips so low.
For men who enjoy leaving their shirts unbuttoned even further, there are deep v-neck undershirts too. The bottom of the v stops right about armpit height.
For more information, check out my article about where to buy deep v-neck undershirts.
Tank top undershirts are sleeveless with thin straps on the top.
A lot of men choose to wear tank tops because they don’t have sleeves, so they are cooler and less likely to be visible underneath short sleeves.
If you’re curious as to the history of tank top undershirts, you’ll find a good deal of information in this article over on RibbedTee.com.
What To Wear Under a White Dress Shirt
Now that you know the different varieties of undershirt available, what do you wear under a white dress shirt? First of all, remember the crucial point: you almost always need to wear some kind of undershirt under a white dress shirt.
White dress shirts are notoriously translucent. Pairing an undershirt with your white dress shirt can be very simple. It all depends on the type of dress shirt you are wearing and how you like to wear them.
Let’s look at some of the most common ways men wear white dress shirts and the best undershirts with which to pair them.
Dress Shirt, Completely Buttoned
For white dress shirts that you are going to wear buttoned and possibly with a tie, choose a crew neck undershirt. This will give you the most coverage and the most protection.
Dress Shirt, Slightly Unbuttoned
When wearing a dress shirt with the top 1-2 buttons unbuttoned, I generally recommend a v-neck (or high v-neck) undershirt. If your v-neck undershirt is still visible with an open collar, switch to a deep v-neck undershirt.
Alternatively, and depending on your needs, you could also wear a tank top.
The Simon – White Dress Shirt Deeply Unbuttoned
Simon Cowell likes to wear his white dress shirts unbuttoned quite low.
If this is your style too, then wear a deep v-neck undershirt. This will give you the protection of the undershirt while letting you keep your dress shirt unbuttoned how you like it.
Best Color Undershirt For White Dress Shirts
Choosing the type of undershirt is the first step. Next, you have to pick out the right color.
Will a white undershirt show through? Or will it blend in perfectly? The best color undershirt for a white dress shirt is actually not white. White undershirts can be seen through your white undershirt.
The best choices are going to be tan (nude, beige) or light grey, depending on your skin tone. In most cases, those who have darker skin should choose the light grey or dark tan/brown undershirt. If you are paler, go with a tan one.
For more information about selecting the right color undershirt based on your skin tone and shirt color, please click here.
Your Undershirt Should Not Show
When you are choosing an undershirt, remember this rule: it should not show through.
This goes for the neck cut (don’t let your shirt poke out the top of your shirt) and for the color. If you wear an undershirt correctly, no one should be able to tell you are wearing one.
Tan (Nude, Beige) Or Light Grey Undershirt
For this reason, generally speaking, the best undershirt colors to wear under a white dress shirt are tan, beige, nude, or light grey.
Look at your skin tone. How tan or dark is it? Pick a shirt that has the least amount of contrast. If it matches your skin tone, it will become almost invisible under your white shirt.
Benefits of Undershirts with Dress Shirts
There are so many benefits of wearing undershirts underneath your dress shirts. These range from comfort to style. Here are some more reasons why you should always wear an undershirt with a white dress shirt.
On cooler days, that extra layer will keep your body temperature higher and make you feel warmer. It works by protecting your skin from cool wind and the colder outer fabric of your dress shirt.
Keeps You Cool
On the flip side, it will also keep your body cooler in warmer temperatures too.
This works by letting your skin breath and protecting your skin from the dress shirt’s fabric. On hotter days, wear a lightweight undershirt.
To learn more, please read this comprehensive article about wearing undershirts during summer.
Gives You A Polished Look
Another benefit of undershirts is that it gives you a polished look.
Everything is smoother, no one can see your hairy chest (unless you want them to), and it smoothes your chest (no nipples showing through).
Protects Your Shirt
It’s important to protect your dress shirts and help them last as long as possible.
Wearing an undershirt will prevent underarm stains and protect your shirts from daily wear tear – like from sweating.
Manages Odor and Sweat
Finally, an undershirt will also prevent sweat and odor from escaping. They provide an extra layer of fabric between your skin and everyone else.
Be sure to check out my Top 9 Sweat Management Solutions article. It contains information about sweat blocking undershirts, sweat proof underwear, various antiperspirant & sweat-reducing options, and much more.
Should You Wear an Undershirt Under a Linen Shirt?
Linen dress shirts are more business casual than formal. So it’s a good question — should you wear an undershirt with a linen shirt?
Yes, in some cases you still need to wear an undershirt with a linen shirt. It will protect your linen shirt from sweat stains and odors. For a comprehensive look at wearing undershirts under linen shirts, check out this article.
How to Stay Cool When Wearing an Undershirt
You might think that layering two different fabric will overheat you.
If you are going to a really hot climate or are going to be wearing a dress shirt in the summertime, pick an undershirt made from fabric that is lightweight, breathable, and wicks away moisture.
Always pick undershirts that keep you cool by letting your skin breath and absorbing and wicking away sweat. For a list of undershirts that will keep you cool, check out my article about thin lightweight undershirts.
What is the Best Undershirt To Buy
Now that you know which color of undershirt to wear with a white dress shirt, what is the best one? There are so many to choose from. When you are choosing an undershirt, look at the fabric, comfort, fit, and style. Pick something that will feel and look like a second skin.
First, always pick out an undershirt with breathable fabric.
Fabric breathability is dependent on many factors, including yarn denier, yarn blend, weight, knit style, and any other special finishing treatments performed on the fabric.
When picking undershirts, be sure you keep the above in mind to ensure the greatest level of thermal comfort.
Since an undershirt hugs so close to your body, you need something that is extra soft. Pick something that feels like a second skin.
Something else to keep in mind when you are buying undershirts is to buy the right size. Always pick an undershirt that hugs close to your body. This will help the undershirt do its job, which is to absorb the sweat and protect your skin.
Finally, buy an undershirt with a neckline that matches how you wear your white dress shirts.
Keep your undershirts hidden. If you like to unbutton your dress shirt a bit, then wear a v-neck or even a deep v-neck.
Summary: Wearing an Undershirt Under a White Dress Shirt
Undershirts are just as essential as underwear.
Picking the right type & color undershirt to go with your white dress shirt doesn’t have to be stressful. Choose something lightweight and in a color that matches your skin closely, and you’ll be well-groomed and ready to take on the world.
Always keep comfort and style both in mind when you are choosing an undershirt. Then, slide into your white dress shirt, suit up, and nothing can stop you!