Why You Should Wear An Undershirt Under A Dress Shirt

Have you ever asked yourself Should I wear an undershirt under a dress shirt”? If so, you’ve come to the right place! There are different rules for different occasions and shirt colors, but in general, the answer is yes. 

In this article I am going to cover: 

  • What type of undershirt to wear under a dress shirt
  • Reasons to wear an undershirt under a dress shirt
  • Choosing the best undershirt color for your skin tone
  • Best undershirt material to wear based on your needs
  • Key undershirt styles you need to know about

Ok, let’s get started!

What Undershirt To Wear Under A WHITE Dress Shirt?

If you’re specifically wondering what undershirt to wear under a white dress shirt, be sure to check out this article on RibbedTee.com that covers the topic in detail.

Video Recap of This Article

The folks at RibbedTee partnered up with David from Threadability (YouTube, IG) to bring you this short, but very helpful 6.5 minute video covering the main points in this article.

Now, on to the article!

3 Key Reasons To Wear An Undershirt Under A Dress Shirt

Let’s start by looking at why undershirts are important to wear with dress shirts and the rules for wearing them.

Once you know these rules, you’ll be able to enjoy all the benefits of wearing an undershirt while being able to look as stylish as possible.

Here are the 3 key reasons why an undershirt is going to be a sensible choice under your dress shirt.

Protects Your Shirt

Perhaps the most important reason to wear an undershirt is to protect your dress shirt.

It will help to absorb any sweat, preventing it from reaching your shirt. An undershirt will also protect your dress shirt from body oils. Together, an undershirt will help your dress shirts last much longer.

For many, having visible wet pit stains is embarrassing. Therefore, by wearing an undershirt, it can help you be more confident since you’re not worrying about whether or not there will be underarm sweat rings showing.

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.

Privacy (see-through shirts) 

There are a few different reasons why a dress shirt might give you a lack of privacy. Under intense lights, thin dress shirts can often be see-through.  

Also, it’s easy for your nipples to show through a dress shirt which is something many men try to avoid.

Man wearing no undershirt under thin white dress shirt

An undershirt will add a privacy layer between your dress shirt and your body, allowing you to stay worry-free. It doesn’t matter what light you are in — if you are wearing an undershirt no one will be able to see through your shirt. 

Extra Layer

In cold weather, if you head out there with just a dress shirt covering you, then there’s a good chance that you are going to get too cold a little too quickly.

An undershirt will help to give you that extra layer of insulation. This can also save you from having to wear a thicker outer layer and potentially ruining your look.

How To Avoid An Undershirt Faux Pas

So I’ve established why it’s helpful to wear an undershirt under a dress shirt, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

It’s important to wear it in the right way and avoid critical mistakes.

Don’t Wear A T-shirt Under A Dress Shirt

While you may think you should wear a shirt under your dress shirt, you need to make sure you’re wearing the right type. Wearing a t-shirt as an undershirt is like wearing dress shoes to run a marathon. T-shirts aren’t designed to perform well as undershirts.

A regular t-shirt is unlikely to give you the fit that you need for many reasons, and it can often leave you with outlines that show through your shirt. For more information, check out this article that outlines the main differences between t-shirts and undershirts.

It’s important that you use the right tool for the job. In this case, it means buying a properly designed undershirt. Not only will it be designed to optimally absorb your sweat, but a low-profile, body-hugging undershirt will ensure that it doesn’t show underneath your clothing.

Snug Fit

As mentioned above, you don’t want to wear a regular t-shirt as an undershirt. Generally speaking, t-shirts fit more loosely, are thicker than undershirts, and would show more prominently underneath a dress shirt.

Another important aspect of a proper fitting undershirt is to make sure you have a close or snug fit. An oversized undershirt would add unnecessary bulk, and show creases and folds that you don’t want to show.

In order to avoid this, you need to make sure that the undershirt is close fitting to your body. It shouldn’t be restrictive, nor should it be too loose.

Also, it’s important to make sure you’re choosing the right size undershirt. Be sure to follow the sizing charts provided to make sure you get the perfect close-fitting undershirt.

Make Sure It Doesn’t Show

If you have a crew neck t-shirt under an unbuttoned dress shirt, then the t-shirt collar is likely going to show. In some style circles, that is a fashion no-no.

Man wearing crew neck undershirt under button up shirt

Therefore, when wearing an undershirt under an unbuttoned dress shirt, I nearly always recommend wearing a v-neck undershirt.

If you keep only the top button of your dress shirt unbuttoned, then you could opt to wear a regular or shallow v-neck undershirt. If you prefer to have the top 2 or 3 buttons unbuttoned, then go for a deep v-neck undershirt.

Lastly, some ask if there is a special “suit undershirt”, or rather, an undershirt that is specifically designed to be worn with a suit. 

The short answer is no, there isn’t. If you follow the guidelines in this article, the undershirt you pick can be worn with a suit, or under a dress shirt alone.

Wearing A Tank Top Undershirt (Vest)

Many men think that purchasing an undershirt means getting a tank top undershirt (also known as a vest in the UK).

While a tank top is a type of undershirt, tank top undershirts provide less coverage than full undershirts. Specifically, there is no underarm sweat protection. So, keep that in mind when deciding between wearing a full undershirt and a tank top undershirt.

Tank top undershirts do provide privacy-related coverage mentioned above (i.e. they help hide your nipples).

Man wearing ribbed tank top under white dress shirt

Plus, a tank top undershirt will give you sweat & body oil protection on your chest and back, and offer a bit of insulation. That said, wearing tank top undershirts under dress shirts is generally not a great idea stylistically speaking.

Therefore, I usually recommend against wearing tank tops when wearing dress shirts and recommend wearing lightweight undershirts instead.

If you’d like to learn more about lightweight undershirts that range in weight from 100gsm (super duper lightweight) to 140gsm (lightweight) please click here.

Getting The Right Color Undershirt

Many men don’t even consider the question of what color undershirt is best to wear under a dress shirt. They automatically think that white is the best choice.

What undershirt to wear under your depends on your dress shirt color and your skin tone.

White Undershirt

This is going to be the most visible of all undershirt color choices. Especially under a white dress shirt, it can be easy to see the contrast.

White reflects the most light, so it will be most visible under light-colored or white dress shirts.

Of course, if your dress shirts are darker in color, wearing a white undershirt under a dress shirt is perfectly acceptable.

Light Grey Undershirt

For light-colored dress shirts, a light or heather grey undershirt would be a great color to consider wearing. In most cases, light grey will blend with neutral skin tones as well as the shirt you are wearing. 

The combination will blend in more discretely and therefore you won’t have to worry about the undershirt being as visible as a white undershirt would be.

For more information about grey undershirts, check out my The #1 Reason Grey Undershirts Are Better Than White article.

Tan Undershirt

A tan or nude color undershirt is the least visible option and is the color I recommend regularly when wearing white dress shirts that have some transparency. Some brands refer to this neutral color-range as invisible undershirts. For more articles related to skin toned undershirts, click here.

Keep in mind that you also need to consider matching your undershirt to your skin tone color. The darker your skin tone, the darker undershirt you’ll be able to wear under your dress shirt.

Man wearing tan crew neck undershirt under white dress shirt

If you have fairly light or pale skin, a white undershirt may wind up looking better under a white dress shirt. As such, it’s important to experiment with different undershirt colors under different dress shirt colors.

Here is more information about which undershirts are least visible under light-colored dress shirts, and how your skin tone affects your undershirt color choice.

Skin ToneSuggested Undershirt Color
Light, paleWhite or very light nude
FairLight grey
MediumLight grey or nude
OliveTan / beige / nude or light grey
Naturally BrownMedium tan / beige
Very Dark Brown / BlackDark tan, dark beige

Best Undershirt Material For Dress Shirts

There are a few important considerations that you will want to make before getting an undershirt. As well as having the right color and the right fit, there are a few key features that are going to make your undershirt work best for you when it comes to material.

The two key features in terms of undershirt material are absorbing & wicking. Let’s look at those now.

Absorbing Materials

There are times that you’re going to sweat no matter what.

It could be that you’re at a humid venue, you could be dancing the night away, or it could simply be a very hot day.

There are undershirt materials available that perform better than others in trapping sweat.

So, if your main objective is to prevent sweat from getting to your dress shirt, then you’ll want to focus on finding undershirts that have better absorption characteristics.

Fabrics that absorb sweat well are cotton, TENCEL, MicroModal, Modal / Viscose / Rayon / “Bamboo” (Rayon), & Nylon. If absorption is a key issue for you then these are the materials to focus on.

Wicking Materials

For those that don’t know, wicking is a material’s ability to transfer heat and moisture away from your body and into the air. It’s often found in clothing such as hiking socks, but it can also be an important part of undershirt performance too, in certain circumstances.

If you want to be able to keep cool, then an undershirt with some wicking ability could be ideal for you. However, keep in mind, If you sweat a lot, you may need to avoid wearing wicking undershirts.

They transfer moisture (sweat) faster than absorbing undershirts, and as such, it may result in visible sweat stains on your dress shirt. For more information about this, check out my areticle about moisture wicking undershirts.

Key Undershirt Styles You Need To Know About

The undershirt has grown in popularity and with it, new styles have developed and it can be a bit overwhelming. So I’ve broken it down here to make it super simple.

V-Neck & Crew Neck — The advantage of wearing a v-neck undershirt is you can leave your first button undone and your undershirt will not be on display (one of the top faux pas to avoid!) The crew neck is the most common undershirt available, it is the best undershirt to choose for formal occasions when you are wearing a fully buttoned shirt & tie. 

Tank Top Undershirts (vest) — These are sleeveless vest undershirts, generally made from ribbed materials, and are worn for privacy than anything else. They can show lines through the shirt and don’t have underarm sweat protection. But, many men prefer wearing them because they can be cooler to wear in some cases.

Muscle Shirts / Undershirts — The rarest of all undershirts, these a simply regular undershirts without sleeves. They are available in crew neck and v-neck styles.

Long Sleeve Undershirts — Generally these are made in thermal materials to provide warmth. If you live in a very cold place then they could be worth looking into.

Compression — There are also compression undershirts (men’s shapewear) available which help to flatten out bumps or gynecomastia (man boobs). If this is an issue for you, compression undershirts are worth looking at.

Should You Wear An Undershirt With A Dress Shirt?

In most cases, yes, it will be better to wear an undershirt with a dress shirt. Of course, the devil is in the detail. Here a 4 more rules to consider:

Rule 1: Wearing an undershirt with a dress shirt will help you feel more confident, be more comfortable, plus it will protect your clothing.

Rule 2: Be sure to get an undershirt that is specifically made for the task.

Rule 3: Regular t-shirts won’t do because they weren’t designed to be worn under dress shirts.

Rule 4: Make sure you choose the right color.

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