Should I Stop Wearing Crew Neck Undershirts?

Here’s a great question from a reader, who normally wears crew neck undershirts, wondering if he should stop wearing undershirts completely.

Begin email

Crew Neck Undershirts Under Button-Ups & Polos

Hello, I hope you are staying well.

When I was in middle school I remember a lot of guys started wear white crew neck undershirts underneath their button up and polo shirts, and some wore them under T-shirts as well.

I liked the look so in my early high school years I asked my mom to get me some and I started wearing them too.

My senior year I switched to ribbed white A-shirts because I thought they’d be more comfortable but I still wore white crews under by button ups.

In college most of my friends wore crews shirts under everything, be it button ups, polos, T-shirts etc. So I switched back to white crews exclusively.

When we reached our late 20s I noticed one by one my friends stopped wearing them. I’m wondering why that is.

I notice in pictures these days, most guys seem bare chested under their button ups and rarely do I see people with the white T-shirt collar poking over their outer T-shirt.

Undershirts In Early 2000s

Contrast that to photos from around 2000-2010 or so and I see plenty of white collars above both T-shirts, polos and button ups.

It also used to be common to wear a matching or contrasting colored crew neck undershirt under button ups and polos. For example wearing a brown or green crew neck under a shirt with stripes of that color.

I used to do this too. I even used to have T-shirts and some polos that had a sewn in crew collar under neath to give the appearance of another shirt.

I’m wondering if the undershirt thing had to do with hitting puberty, since that’s when I saw it first appearing. But I cannot tell if it’s just a thing teens/early 20s guys like to do or if it was an early to late 2000s fad that faded out.

Did their parents influence this or was it on their own accord? I know for me my Dad never wears undershirts, except perhaps with flannel shirts in winter.

Undershirts: Today

These days I still wear white crews almost every day under all of my shirts, with few exceptions. For example, I don’t wear any undershirts with tank tops, for V necks I either go with no undershirt or use an A-shirt.

On the weekends if I’m doing something messy outside I’ll often just wear a white crew with nothing else.

If I’m wearing a tighter fitting T-shirt I may go undershirtless if it’s more comfortable.

To me the crew neck undershirts have a good use – they allow me to wash my sometimes expensive and sometimes hard to find outer shirts much less often.

The cheap white crew neck undershirts catch both underarm odors and body oils from coming into contact with my outer shirts. When I was thinner they also made me feel more filled out in appearance.

Never Liked V-Neck Undershirts

I’ve never really liked V neck undershirts for some reason and never bought any.

For me, ribbed a-shirts (ribbed tank top undershirts) tend to be tight and uncomfortable. I used to wear colored ones when I’d run in my neighborhood or also for rowing since they gave good exposure to the sun and were cooler than T-shirts.

Some of the shirts I wear to the gym are older graphic sports T-shirts I have that I cut the sleeves off of to make into muscle shirts.

With these I will often wear a contrasting colored A-shirt underneath because I think it looks nice, plus the A-shirt helps fill in on the ones I have cut larger armholes in.

Other than that I don’t wear A-shirts on their own anymore.

Just wondering if my undershirt choices are still ok, or if I need to move to no undershirt.

I’m probably just over-particular about my clothes than most, but it seems most guys I’ve known who used to wear undershirts don’t wear them anymore.

Maybe I’m trying to keep a youthful look by keeping them in use (Lol)?

I’m guessing women don’t like them as much because it seems relationship often equals no more undershirts.

Have you noticed a similar trend in no undershirt wearing?

This topic seems strange to discuss with most people so I don’t talk about it much.

For some reason as a kid I was very shy about wearing them and had a hard time asking for them from my mom.

Thanks, Cole

End email

My Response

Heya Cole,

Good to hear from you buddy and thanks for sharing your story, thoughts and questions with me!

I don’t have any evidence to suggest that people are wearing undershirts less than before. However, I do know there has been a dramatic change in what style of undershirt men are wearing.

As you so aptly observed, crew neck undershirts were once the undershirt style of choice to wear under nearly anything.

I can’t say for sure, but the likely reason for that was because of two things — the military & advertising.

The Military: Undershirts As Standard Issue

Unless I’m mistaken, most or all military require undershirts as part of the uniform.

While I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of the exact uniform requirements in the early-to-mid 1900s, I would assume that crew neck undershirts were more often recommended than tank top undershirts.

Of course there are likely exceptions, and depend on the year and the location of the solider.

Military uniforms: wearing crew neck undershirt

So, young men entered the military, wore all the elements of their standard-issue uniform for many years (including underwear briefs, undershirts, and shirt stays), and continued wearing the same items after they left the military.

Undershirts In Advertising

Looking at old underwear ads, in many cases, brands showed only crew neck & ribbed tank top undershirts.

vintage underwear ad shows crew neck undershirts

Obviously crew neck undershirts provide more coverage than tank top undershirts, so between those two options, they ultimately become the defacto undershirt of choice.

Good advertising & marketing is similar to a form of brainwashing. Not that all brands have bad intent, but they want you to buy what they want you to buy.

So, if they were convinced that men should be wearing crew neck undershirts moreso than anything else, they would have been placing crew neck undershirts in their ads more often than any other type of undershirt.

More ads of crew neck undershirts equals more men thinking they should be wearing crew neck undershirts.

The Shift

When I started this site in 2008, the crew neck undershirt was the most popular type of undershirt people were looking for.

wearing white crew neck undershirt under open collar shirt
Image courtesy of this visible undershirt discussion on reddit

In a somewhat gradual manner, the demand for crew neck undershirts diminished, while the demand for v-neck undershirts grew.

visible white crew neck undershirt under open collar shirt
Circa 2013. Image Credit: ivy-style.com

In trying to look at this in the macro sense, it is very possible that the introduction of “Business casual” dress was the catalyst to the de-popularization of the crew neck undershirt.

See, if men no longer had to wear a suit, or a shirt & tie, then wearing shirts with open collars became more pervasive.

For information on wearing undershirts in a professional setting, please check out this article.

As that became more common place, I suspect people started to recognize that the appearance of a big white pizza wedge, under a nice shirt, did not look as nice as without.

Since men still want the sweat protection of an undershirt, more and more started choosing v-neck undershirts over crew neck undershirts.

In more recent years, and as a result of an even more relaxed and less formal dress attire (I.E. More relaxed open collars), deeper v-neck undershirts have been even more popular than high v-neck undershirts.

Generally speaking, and when people ask, I recommend wearing a v-neck undershirt with an open collar shirt, and a crew neck undershirt when wearing a tie.

If you want to see my top rules to wearing undershirts, you can find them here.

Undershirts: Personal Preference

All the above said, I’m not suggesting that you switch to v-neck undershirts, or no undershirt at all.

I’ve always been, and will always be a person who supports personal preference over socialital norms.

There are some really nice thin & lightweight v-neck undershirts that you may want to try, to see if you like them. You can read more about them here.

Regardless, I say continue to be your own person and continue wearing crew neck undershirts if you still feel comfortable wearing them.

Hope the above helps. Thanks again for emailing me (:

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