A British summer requires a very specific wardrobe. Next week’s predicted heatwave notwithstanding, in most parts of the country, the likelihood of vacillating temperatures is high. Women have their own ways of dealing with these vagaries, most of them involving cardies. For men, however, August is a peak T-shirt month.
To some extent, every month is T-shirt month if you’re a man. In autumn, T-shirt necks peep out over sweatshirts in a contrasting hue. In winter, they’re hidden under knits. In spring, they’re layered under a shirt. However much or little they are into fashion, every man knows that his choice of T-shirt matters; that it says something about him without him ever having to open his mouth. But what if it says the wrong thing? A naff thing? A lame thing? Here, we break down the most common types of T-shirt dominating summer 2022, and what they say about the wearer.
Graphic Logo Man
Not all logos are created equal, and nobody knows this better than Graphic Logo Man, who’s been a font nerd ever since he discovered Neville Brody as a student. A designer/ architect/ copywriter/ art director by trade, to say he overthinks the logos on his T-shirts is an understatement.
He has a proud selection of vintage Atari, Sega and Mythos (it’s a Greek beer) T-shirts amassed from the frequent trips he took to New York, Tokyo and Athens, back in the day before he had kids and loved nothing better than rooting around second-hand shops for obscure, imaginative finds. But RedBubble ruined things: now, anyone with a credit card and £25.99 can buy a Sega T-shirt, and don’t even get him started on the preponderance of NASA tees flooding the shops. That he now can’t stomach wearing his own, original NASA tee – bought for £85 from a shop in the Shimokitazawa district in the ’90s – is still a sore point. As is the fact that his teenage daughter has taken to wearing it as a nightie.
Shopping outlets have a lot to answer for. So, too, does David Beckham. Between them, these sartorial bellwethers have created a monster, and its name is Superdry Man. At BBQs all over the country, you can see him in his natural habitat, next to the Weber, swigging on a Peroni as the burgers gently char.
In his mind, Superdry is the sort of T-shirt that nobody can call you a w----- for wearing, because, well, it’s Superdry. Which is why he has 15 of them, including a white one that says Superdry in black letters, a khaki one that says Superdry in yellow letters and a washed-out black one that says Superdry Vintage in a retro font. His grey Osaka 6 T-shirt, bought in 2005 shortly after Becks wore it, he keeps for special occasions. He doesn’t want any BBQ detritus splattering onto that, thanks.
White T-Shirt Man
He’s old enough to know who James Dean is, and tasteful enough to admire the classic white T-shirt the fabled actor wore in Rebel Without A Cause, as well as the one sported by Marlon Brando in The Wild One.
After a few too many Red Stripes, his wife once spotted him posing in front of the mirror, ciggie in mouth, doing his best Brando impression, an effect somewhat ruined by the fact that the ciggie in question was actually a blueberry flavoured vape. Alas, the lack of similarities between White T Shirt Man and his idol in The Wild One days don’t stop there. Far be it from his wife to body shame – she loves a well-upholstered man – but she does wish he’d buy his white T-shirts a couple of sizes up, and with a touch less Lycra in the mix. White is such an unforgiving colour on a paunch.
Low V-Neck Man
This is a perplexing choice of T-shirt. Its patron saint is Simon Cowell, but no one other than his wife – and even that’s debatable – can possibly think that he looks good in them. Russell Brand and Chris Hemsworth are also fans, each man neatly illustrating the V-neck’s biggest ick: namely, how brazenly it shows off a man’s chest hair, or lack of it.
Hairy men with a thick, curly rug a la Cowell look like they’re boasting about their virility, while smooth, hairless men like Hemsworth look weirdly effeminate. Conclusion: the V-neck seems to diminish any man who appears in it. Choose a crew-neck instead, and let your chest topiary remain a mystery to everyone but your loved ones.
Polo Shirt Man
Polo Shirt Man comes in several mutations, each with a very different meaning. The dominant strain is the man in heritage blue, mint or lemon Polo Ralph Lauren, the default summer holiday choice for Russian oligarchs, Surrey fund managers and KPMG auditors who last went clothes shopping circa 1996, the week before their honeymoon.
As T-shirts go, it’s a solid, inoffensive choice. The problems arise due to the sizing: by the time they’ve bought one generous enough to cover their gut, it’s too long in the body, and looks like a mini dress.
Band Tee Man
He knows he can’t wear a Rolling Stones T-shirt any more, not least because his son does (bought off Depop for £49.99 because they clearly saw him coming). Nirvana is equally out of bounds –for some strange reason the parents in his leafy West London enclave like to dress their pre-school kids in toddler versions, because why not dress your three-year-old in homage to known drug user Kurt Cobain?
Now in his late fifties, Band Tee Man has been a music lover all his life and has the T-shirts to prove it. Whenever pub nights roll round, he feels their loss acutely and resents having to overthink which ones he can get away with. The Doors? The Smiths? Prince? Can he risk wearing his old Metallica T-shirt, or has Stranger Things rendered that out of bounds as well? Sod it: he’s going to wear the Motorhead, and his kids can roll their eyes if they wish.
So, what should you wear?
Clockwise from top left: AIRism cotton t-shirt, £14.90, uniqlo.com; Lightweight t-shirt, £35, asket.com; Embroidered t-shirt, £39, percivalclo.com; Cotton polo shirt, £115, sunspel.com; Midweight t-shirt, £17, arket.com
When it comes to finding the perfect T-shirt – or even a half-decent one – you have to kiss a lot of frogs. A quick straw poll of midlife men reveals that the T-shirt of their dreams resides in Uniqlo. Its U Airism crew-neck tee is generously cut, comes in eight sizes (XXS-3XL), 10 muted colours and has flattering sleeves that cover the upper arm (which can be just as much a source of contention for the midlife man as it is for female counterparts). Best of all, it costs £14.90. There is absolutely nothing not to love about this T-shirt – unless you’re after something less plain and want to make more of a statement.
For a wider, bolder range of colours, including a good range of stripy options, try Sunspel: excellent quality, but pricier at £75. Arket’s T-shirt game is also strong this summer, and includes terry towelling options for those who prefer the comfort of a heavier fabric (from £55). Their descriptions (“lightweight” / “heavyweight” / “oversized”) make shopping online a clearer, simpler process than most. Not to be confused with Asket, whose “Care, Repair and Revive” programme promises a high degree of sustainability, and whose T-shirts come in responsibly sourced Egyptian cotton. And if you’re after a quirky but discrete graphic, try Percival (from £39). They won’t be to everyone’s taste, but at least they’re not available on RedBubble.