In search of the perfect t-shirt (for men and women)

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This James Perse tee costs $50. Photo: JamesPerse.com

The search for the perfect t-shirt can be a harrowing journey — kind of like the search for the perfect jeans, or the perfect swimsuit. Basics, it seems, are the most impossible clothing items to find.

For tees, you could venture into James Perse territory which could set you back $100 or more depending on your tastes. You could also go an entirely different route and end up at Wal-Mart buying a three pack of Hanes, which comes in at about $4 per shirt.

Though most of us probably fall somewhere in the middle, Cheapism.com recently offered a comparison test of affordable t-shirts for men and boys. The results showed that low-end options are most likely of middling quality.

They purchased navy t-shirts for men and boys from Old Navy, Fruit of the Loom, Gap, Target and JC Penney’s house brand, Arizona Jean Co. All of the shirts were priced under $20 and were tested for fit, shrinkage and durability.

None of the shirts proved a perfect 10. Here’s how they fared:

Old Navy T-shirts ($10 for the Classic men’s crew-neck, $8 for a boys’ jersey ringer tee) and Fruit of the Loom T-shirts from Wal-Mart ($4.50 for men, $3.50 for boys) earned top billing, in Cheapism reviews. Fruit of the Loom shirts won’t win in the softness department, but they do have the durability that some wearers seek.

Fruit of the Loom t-shirs fared well in Cheapism.com testing.

Fruit of the Loom t-shirs fared well in Cheapism.com testing.

Gap T-shirts ($16.50 for men, $15 for boys), had a tendency to stretch out in the collar. Cheapism suggests buying them when they are on sale.

Cheapsim.com road test results for Gap t-shirts.

Cheapsim.com road test results for Gap t-shirts.

Target T-shirts, sold under the Merona and Circo house brands ($13 for men, $6 for boys), also tended to stretch out at the collar, but also scored well overall.

Arizona Jean Co. T-shirts from JC Penney ($12 for men, $14 for boys) were too thin and after washing, the men’s tee had an awkward fit. These are on the avoid list.

I’m not sure the results would be any different had they tested women’s t-shirts. I did a round-up of t-shirt favorites for women from top fashion magazines (Elle, Lucky, etc.) which revealed that many of the favored brands were from designer labels (the aforementioned Perse, Alexander Wang and Vince for example) and almost none were under $20.

This James Perse tee costs $50. Photo: JamesPerse.com

This James Perse tee costs $50. Photo: JamesPerse.com

The challenge for most people, woman or man (and maybe kids too) is t-shirt weight — some are just too thick and shapeless, others are too thin and clingy.

How then are you to get an affordable, wearable, t-shirt? I haven’t found the perfect t-shirt, but since I have a giant problem paying much more than $10 for a tee, my options are limited.

I’ll let Cheapism’s research suffice for men’s t-shirts, but for women, here are a few options that in my opinion are affordable and last longer than a few wash and wears:

H&M: Get basic tanks and short-or long sleeved t-shirts in the $5 – $15. They are often 95 percent cotton and 5 percent spandex which allows for a heavier weight but also a nice fit.

Target: Target’s online Tee &Tank shop gives you a handy guide to the fit and fabrication of their tees which include their Mossimo and Merona brands. Prices start at $9.

Fruit of the Loom: Since they scored high in Cheapism reviews, why not give them a try? But not the ones for women. Buy the tees for men in a smaller size and cut off the neckline (unless you like your t-shirts with a really high collar).

Everlane: I haven’t tried this brand, but I keep hearing about it, so I will soon. The three-year old company has the mission of reducing retail markups, and they offer some good-looking t-shirts in the $15 – $20 range.

The Cotton V from Everlane, $15. Photo: Everlane.com

The Cotton V from Everlane, $15. Photo: Everlane.com

Who makes your favorite t-shirt? How much do you pay for it?


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