Color Your Undershirt World

Is it time to color your undershirt world?

by “C in Cali”

Have you checked out the undershirt and underwear aisles when you last went shopping? You’ve probably noticed that something has changed there. I’m referring to the number of packaged undershirts and underwear now available in living color. Of course there are still plenty of white undershirts in all styles and lots of bright-white briefs, but it’s actually become more difficult to find boxers and boxer briefs in white, and undershirts from the major manufacturers are increasingly dyed in black, grey, and an assortment of reds, greens, blues, and teals. Bucking the trend are V-neck shirts that may appeal to a more conservative wearer; the shirts are still primarily sold in white.

The obvious questions: why are undershirts showing their colors, and does this trend really matter?

Color sells. Some of us remember the transition from gray PC’s to colorful i-mac’s. Apple’s i-pods come in a wide array of Pantone colors. Kitchen mixers, washer and dryers, blenders and microwave ovens: color, color, color. Is it so surprising to see undershirts and underwear (I use the latter term for boxers, briefs and boxer briefs) dyed in color to match, or set our mood?

I’m not sure that color assorted undershirts are a “must have” item, but since undershirts offer great value in relation to price, and mainstream undershirt price points are generally low, it may be worth filling your shopping cart with an extra package or two just for a brighter day. Think of colorful undershirts as an affordable luxury.

But the question remains, is there a reason to color your undershirt world?

After all, few people, if any, will get to see or comment on your colorful style sense. Nonetheless, we seem to be riding a fashion trend here. Just try finding boxers in solid white amidst all those tartan plaids. If you like boxer briefs in navy blue, red, or teal, you’ll have no problem finding them. White, well, let’s keep looking.

Of course, more conservative merchants may still be selling undershirts and underwear only in white, but the trend setters can now match or clash their undershirts to their colorful boxers and boxer briefs—all in good taste.

So about now, you’re asking whether there’s a reason to supplement, or even replace, your white undershirts with ones in color. As it turns out, there are several reasons.

When your undershirt is allowed to peek out, as in the case of wearing a knit outer shirt or a formal Oxford dress shirt in an increasingly tie-less world, a complementary colored undershirt breaks away at the white rim produced by a crew neck (I always thought that a tank top is a far better mate to a knit shirt than a crew neck undershirt, but some may want a little extra warmth or underarm protection).

We all have differing interpretations of style and comfort, but a white crew neck does seem to call lots of attention to itself and diminish the impact of a bright or even muted knit shirt. And for those who wear really thick crew neck shirts, a white one just seems to add a “scarf” look. Lastly, a white crew neck accentuates the unfortunate waffle look for older shirts whose collars have stretched or gone one too many rounds with the dryer. And, white T-shirts don’t stay white forever. Is there anything less professional than “yellow around the collar”?

So, if you like wearing T-shirts in place of V-neck shirts and tank tops, color may make sense if done with discretion—some colors just don’t work together or with your complexion.

The new stylish business casual look can include wearing an undershirt, like this heather grey one. Image courtesy of GQ.com

In some cases, your undershirt isn’t allowed to peek. This is mostly the case with tank tops whose collar line is generally deeper than that of a knit shirt or a business shirt with the ever popular one-or-two opened buttons. In this case, does color really matter? Actually it does. Many men probably prefer the comfort of a tank top to a crew neck but feel a little uncomfortable with the show-through neck straps. For some unknown reason, grey and even black tank tops don’t show through when wearing a white or lightly colored dress shirt. I haven’t tried the full pallet of colored tank tops, but I suspect they work in a similar way.

Still not convinced to add a bit of color to your undershirt inventory? Let’s try a little peer pressure.

I have no hard data, but if we were all “stuck on white,” why would the mass merchandisers be devoting more sales space to colored undershirts, and why are the major manufacturers turning out products like 4-gray/black packs and 6-packs of tank tops in assorted colors? Sounds like a possible case of supply adjusting to demand. Apparently, black and gray undershirts sell, so why not stretch the boundaries? As noted above, just try to find ever popular boxers and boxer briefs in pure white; sure you can, but you’ll have to do some digging.

There’s a possible “cool” factor to wearing undershirts in color. They telegraph a sense of individuality (despite their popularity) and, depending on your point of view, they just plain look good in just about any setting from casual business attire to heading into town for a night out.

Here’s more anecdotal evidence for the popularity of colors in undershirts and underwear.

I’ve noticed that the “lounge wear” and pajama aisles (remember pajamas?) are not exactly competing with traffic on the 405. In fact, those aisles are usually tucked away in dark corners near fitting rooms in the men’s departments. Maybe more of us are hanging out at home in the comfort of our undershirts, and I suspect undershirts and underwear have become our first choice in sleep-wear. Now, colors have no effect on comfort or function, but they might add a little something to our life. Some color might even make you feel that you’re not sitting around the house in your underwear! Sorry, but you still have to cover up your colorful boxers when you head down the driveway to pick up your newspaper or take Rover for a walk.

Bottom line: for a very modest investment, color your world.

Leave a Comment


Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.