Update: This post was originally published on June 9, 2016.
There's a reason that through decades, trend cycles, the rise of fast fashion and beyond, the white tee has remained a constant in our closets. (That's why they call it a classic, right?) For me, even as a fashion writer with an affinity for things like
tie-dye, crop tops, and clothing with piercings, no garment has ever made me feel more amazing than a solid, worn-in white tee.
But there's just one problem: countless brands also know the magic of a white T-shirt and have offered up a take on it...and each brand is marketing its own as the absolute best. From classic American brands like Gap and Hanes to fashion labels like Reformation and Everlane, all of these names claim to make
the perfect tee.
So, I'm taking a magnifying glass to those from some of R29's favorite brands to get to the bottom of who's actually making the closest-to-perfect version of this timeless wardrobe staple. While I wish I could've tried them all, I narrowed it down to six that claim to be the best in the biz. Read on for the honest reviews of each (along with a few additional options), and let us know in the comments: Who makes
your holy grail white tee?
The Tee: Gap Vintage Wash Crewneck Tee The Price: $19.99 - $24.95 What Makes It “The Best": "Gap’s Vintage Wash Short Sleeve Crew continues to be one of our top T-shirt styles. It's the effortlessly cool staple that takes you anywhere and makes a great foundation for any look. We love how our unique wash techniques give the 100% cotton tees an especially soft hand while keeping the style incredibly flattering. These tees are the epitome of a classic American wardrobe and a favorite of customers who make them an essential component of their unique, individual style.” — Alessandra Brunialti, Gap’s VP of Women’s Global Design
What Kept It 100: Gap has left any bells and whistles behind. All you get is a white T-shirt in its purest form — no showy branding, contrast topstitching, or unnecessary design elements. It's even tagless at the neckline, which was a nice touch. It's opaque and sits well over a normal T-shirt bra; the sleeves are long enough to be flattering, but not too long, as is the length of the shirt overall (it hits right at the hip). It's a straight silhouette with a slightly relaxed fit that still looks polished. And no one can hate on the price.
...And What Didn’t: There's no real cool factor — it's the same white tee your mom would probably wear. The tee also wrinkles fairly easily and has a little more stretch than I find necessary. It also has a curved hem — it's personal preference, I know, but I prefer straight (curved hems can look a little mumsy when it's not tucked in).
On The Scale Of 1 - Best: Meh. No major complaints, but not jumping up and down, either. Photographed by Collins Nai. Illustrated by Anna Sudit. More
The Tee: Everlane Cotton V The Price: $15
What Makes It “The Best": "Our Cotton V is made from Supima cotton, the highest-quality cotton you can use, and garment dyed. This makes for a super soft, yet long-lasting T-shirt. Our tee is domestically produced in Los Angeles, CA, where our vendor has been in the garment industry for 30 years. The V is just low enough to feel a little sexy, yet still still classy." — Kelli Dugan, Everlane Head of Product Strategy
What Kept It 100: It's near-impossible to compete with Everlane's transparency. You know exactly where this tee is coming from and can see a breakdown of what you're paying for on the product's page (and you're not paying very much). It's got a clean, classic look and the cotton is admittedly super-soft.
...And What Didn’t: Is it possible for a tee to be too polished? I had a strong urge to dirty this up and throw it in the washing machine a few times. And while neckline is also a completely personal preference, a V-neck just feels outdated to me. Everlane also says to size up for a more relaxed look, and I wish I did.
On The Scale Of 1 - Best: I feel the same about this T-shirt as I usually do when I order pizza from Domino's: content, but also slightly underwhelmed. Photographed by Collins Nai. Illustrated by Anna Sudit. More
The Tee: American Giant Premium Crew T The Price: $34.50
What Makes It “The Best": "The Premium T was a massive labor of love; our designer said she’d stake her career on this thing after working on it for over a year. [It's] a big promise to make — but she delivered — and the reception has been wild. It starts with the cotton slub fabric, which is made out of the highest quality cotton and yarn. It took us nearly a year of working with our yarn suppliers to develop it. Slub often has problems with transparency and twist that we wanted to eliminate in this tee. It took us a long time engineering the knit structure and the sewing to do that. The fabric is notable for its heaviness, grit, and quality — however, it feels light, soft, and comfortable and can be worn on its own or layered. You feel the texture and heft when you pick it up, which gives it a very flattering drape when you try it on." — Bayard Winthrop, American Giant Founder and CEO
What Kept It 100: This tee's weighted slub fabric gives it a super-substantial hand that makes it feel like it will probably last your entire life, no matter how many times you wash it. It comes from a company that definitely knows what it's doing as far as basics go (remember the world's best hoodie?). And it's already selling like crazy, so people must be into it.
...And What Didn’t: It's the little details that throw me off with this tee. It's slightly too long (which is a bummer for someone like me who likes to tuck in) and has a visible seam down the entire backside that I could live without. It also has canvas tab details on the bottom of each side seam.
On The Scale Of 1 - Best: This tee is like the Kardashians: You'll either love it or hate it. Photographed by Collins Nai. Illustrated by Anna Sudit. More
The Tee: Reformation Plush Fitted Crew Tee The Price: $28
What Makes It “The Best": "One Ref tee saves about 900 gallons of water compared to an average cotton tee. That's like, two hot tubs, and nobody needs two hot tubs. One hot tub is enough — even for Kanye. Also, they feel and fit really good." — Yael Aflalo, Founder and CEO of Reformation
What Kept It 100: Reformation has mastered the effortless-sexy feel with its fit and fabrics, and the tees are no exception. It's an added bonus that the brand continues to make strides in minimizing its impact on the environment — hearing how much water is saved in the production of this tee definitely makes it more appealing. When you can buy a tee and feel good about it, it's a win-win.
...And What Didn’t: I tend to prefer a true crew to a scooped crewneck, but other than that, nothing else turned me off.
On The Scale Of 1 - Best: Close to perfect, but not The One. Photographed by Collins Nai. Illustrated by Anna Sudit. More
The Tee: Re/Done Hanes 1960s Slim Tee The Price: $78
What Makes It “The Best": "Our tees are 100% made in America. The fabric is as soft as a vintage tee that has been washed hundreds of times. We actually created our own fabrics using the same techniques that were used to make fabric in the '50s and '60s, so they have that slightly slubby-sheer look to them, but are 100% cotton. The cuts are all inspired by the most iconic decades of the last century. They are updated classics that you can never have enough of in your wardrobe. Plus, the women in our office don’t want to wear any other tees anymore! That kind of says it all." — Sean Barron, Re/Done cofounder
What Kept It 100: This tee and I have a complicated history — when they first dropped, I threw some shade at the brand for charging close to $80 for a Hanes tee, when you can get a pack of multiples for less than that at your local Walmart. But I have to admit, it's a damn good shirt. To clarify, Re/Done isn't using actual Hanes tees to produce this pricier variation. Instead, they've developed special new fabrics that mirror that of a worn-in Hanes T-shirt. It has the feel of the one you love and have washed a million times, but is still flattering and doesn't take the lived-in look as literally as the Wildfox tee did with its roughed-up edges. It's like your old favorite, minus the holes and pit-stains, and the fit is super-flattering. Plus, the small tag at the neck is made of fabric almost as soft as the tee itself, and made In America is always a plus in my book.
...And What Didn’t: Some people hate a cap sleeve and this sleeve length is, in fact, on the shorter side (though not fully cap-level). It's a more shrunken, body-hugging fit, which again, might not be for everyone. But it's difficult to find any other flaws — there are no obvious deal-breakers, like obnoxious logos or superfluous add-ons. The tee is currently sold out, but the brand let us know it should be restocking in the next month, with even more new styles and colors to come in July.
On The Scale Of 1 - Best: I kind of hate myself for loving the most expensive option, but I take it all back, Re/Done! I humbly admit: Your tee is the fucking best and I never want to wear any other tee ever, ever again. It's everything I want: Comfortable, minimal, classic, and with a well-loved feel. Julia Stiles sums up my feelings completely. Photographed by Collins Nai. Illustrated by Anna Sudit. More Read More Uniqlo Women U Crewneck Short Sleeve T-shirt, $19.90, available at Uniqlo. More Old Navy Relaxed Crew Neck Tee For Women, $7, available at Old Navy. More Zara Ribbed T-Shirt With Contrast Piping, $15.90, available at Zara. More Madewell Whisper Cotton V-neck, $19.50, available at Madewell. More H&M Jersey Top, $5.99, available at H&M. More Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here? Cute Clutches That Actually Serve A Purpose Everything You Need To Master The Most Confusing Dress Code Short Girls, We Found The Perfect Pants For You