The Splurge is a new column in which Men’s Health invites enthusiasts to give us their honest reviews of clothing, tech, gear, and more, which they’ve purchased and tested on their own. This week, Ace Momin, a Houston-based software developer with an interest in fashion, shares the results of his year-long, $ 500 journey to find his new favorite t-shirt.
A few months ago, I went to my closet to pick out a t-shirt and realized the majority of the shirts I owned were in bad shape—deformed, torn, or worn out from years of use.
I decided that I wanted to invest in some quality pieces, shirts that would not only look good, but hold up over time. (I also documented the process on my YouTube channel, which you can find here.)
First, I did some research, trying to learn which factors make a t-shirt great, and which would best suit me. After lots of reading, I purchased several shirts from seven different brands, focusing mainly on the ones I encountered most often—Uniqlo, Everlane, Cuts, and more. In total, I spent nearly $ 500, and over the course of about a year I put all of them through their paces, testing them as thoroughly as I could. (I also made a video about the experience, which you can see below.)
For what it’s worth, I look for three things in a “perfect” shirt: the fit, the feel, and the construction. My personal definition of a “good fit” is a shirt that drapes well, hugs the arms, and is fitted in the chest but leaves some room in the stomach. As for the feel, I look for fabrics that are smooth and soft to the touch. Finally, I like a heavier fabric that won’t shrink and a solid collar that won’t easily lose its shape. Every size I tried was a small or medium, and I went off the measurements on the size charts. (For reference, I’m a medium build—5’10,” 175 pounds. Here’s what I discovered in my search for the perfect tee.
Next, I tried the Split Hem Crewneck tee from Cuts Clothing. You might be familiar with Cuts: Their marketing campaigns are all over YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and other social platforms, especially if you’ve visited their site. Out of the box, the shirt felt great—extremely soft and bouncy. Cuts says they use a fabric called Pyca, which is a blend of cotton, spandex, and polyester. The fabric has four-way stretch for added comfort, and doesn’t wrinkle easily. That gives it a slight ‘performance’ fabric feel, even though it’s meant to be worn casually—not a bad thing, but something worth noting when compared to the other 100 percent cotton options.
Since the fit is on the slimmer end, I opted for a medium, which sat a bit long and bunched up near my waist, making my legs look shorter when I wore it with cuffed jeans. I found I preferred to wear it with joggers or black jeans for a more streamlined look. Cuts also has a “build your own” feature that allows you to choose between three neck styles: crew, v-neck, or henley, and three bottoms—an elongated, split, and classic curve. Again, all three ran slightly long, which might be ideal for streetwear styles. The collar was one of my favorites. It was thin but it feels super strong and has lasted many washes.
The color palette is also on-point with plenty of neutral tones, and new shades added every season. I bought the “Arctic Haze,” a light green shade. The fabric, while thin, didn’t feel cheap and held up well, not shrinking at all after a few washes. At $ 48 per shirt, however, it’s not a budget pick, but the quality speaks for itself—the buttery fabric, the stretch, and the fit. Still, I’ll be keeping my purchase to just one for now.
I ordered Everlane’s Premium Weight Crew in a small. While marked as a slim fit, it was easily the boxiest out of all the shirts I received, leaving plenty of room in the sleeves and through the body. At 6.2 ounces, I loved its weight, but it still struck me the most, well, “basic-feeling” of the batch. It reminded me of a fresh Gildan shirt from when I was in high school, but with even more heft. The fabric felt a little scratchy initially, but softened after about a year of washes and wears.
The neck held up pretty well, too, and I loved the color. Coming in at $ 30, however, I’d say this isn’t especially worth the investment. If you like boxier fits and a wide variety of colors, though, this one might be for you. My suggestion: Check the site’s Choose What You Pay section, where I’ve seen shirts advertised for under $ 20.
Let’s move on to arguably the most widely available shirt I tried: Uniqlo’s Supima Cotton Crewneck. I’d read many reviews singing the praises for this shirt and decided to give it a shot after seeing so many people swear by it. As you can probably infer, the shirt is 100 percent Supima cotton, which is just a brand of cotton grown in California, Texas, New Mexico, or Arizona. Supposedly, in terms of quality, it’s among the top one percent of cotton grown in the world. The extra-long fibers are said to give it more strength, softness, and color retention compared to normal cotton.
The fabric didn’t specify its weight, but it felt thinner in my hands compared to some of the other options I tried. I opted for a small. The fit—somewhere between a slim and a regular—hugged the arms well, left ample room in the stomach, and had a smallish neck opening. It also hung a bit higher than the rest, and shrunk slightly after a wash. The people that sang the praises of this shirt may have been referring to the older shirt, which isn’t available anymore.
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For a $ 15 t-shirt, I’d say it felt decent—the quality, softness, and neck didn’t seem likely to me to hold up after many washes, though, and that’s a sentiment some people echoed in the comments on Uniqlo’s site. Still, for $ 15, it’s a very solid, versatile shirt for anyone on a budget. You might also be able to find affordable and comparable options from companies like Bella and Canvas.
I first heard about Canada-based Robert Barakett when my girlfriend snagged me a white tee from a Nordstrom’s Anniversary sale last year. (Eventually, I bought dark grey and navy blue options, too.) The company bills this option as the ‘Barakett Tee’ but you might also see it referred to as the “Georgia Crew” at discount retailers. It’s made from 100 percent ultra-fine cotton and finished with a heavy enzyme wash that Barakett claims to help give the fabric more of a sheen and a broken-in feel.
The material is smooth and cool to the touch, and the shirts are versatile enough to pair equally well with a sport coat or a pair of joggers. Mine have been part of my rotation for about a year now, and I’ve experienced no loss of color.
I bought all of them in a size small, and while they were a bit large initially, they shrank slightly after the first wash, something to keep in mind when sizing. After the wash, the arms and chest fit perfectly, and the collar still shows no sign of wear, however the length felt a tad too short. The split hem is also a nice feature. At $ 60, they’re among the most expensive shirts I tried, but you can get them for about $ 38 on sale at Nordstrom, and even as low as $ 20 at Nordstrom Rack.
I had known 3Sixteen for its high-quality denim, but didn’t realize they had a cult-like following for their t-shirts, as well. I decided to see what the hype was all about and ordered one of their Pima shirts. Since the regular crewneck was sold out, I opted for a pocket tee with the exact same material and fit. The fabric, made from 100 percent American-grown Pima cotton, was super-soft to the touch and weighed in at roughly 160 gsm (grams per square meter), so it felt substantial. The triple-stitched collar was also impressively sturdy and was finished beautifully.
I opted for a medium, and the fit was slightly baggy—the sleeves didn’t hug my arms, and it looked boxy around my torso. (This could be a sign that I should’ve ordered a small.) Another drawback: The shirts are only available in packs of two, and the colors were limited to black and white, along with henley, longsleeve, and heavyweight options that aren’t made with the same Pima fabric. Despite the impressive quality of the materials and construction, these weren’t my favorite due to the fit, but again, that’s probably my fault for not going with a small.
Lady White Company
LWC built the foundation of its business on a single white tee, so my expectations were high when its shirt arrived. It’s called, simply, “Our T-Shirt,” and it’s notable for its tubeless design which features no side seams. Made from 100 percent cotton grown in North Carolina, the shirts are cut, sewn, and knitted in LA. The construction was flawless: The double-needle stitch sat perfectly on the collar lines and lined up exactly with the shoulder seam. The fit was a little relaxed and boxy, so I was happy that I went with a small to get the fit I look for. LWC claims the lack of side-seams helps give the shirt a more natural drape and allows it to conform better to your body.
They achieve this effect by using circular knitting machines that allow the torso area to be sewn as a “tube” instead of two separate pieces of fabric. At six ounces, the fabric had a decent weight, but felt rougher than I expected—like a vintage tee from the ‘90s, which isn’t my style. It’s dense and sturdy, and not the most comfortable or soft out of the bag—kind of like raw denim. That said, you can feel the heft and appreciate its quality. Given time, I imagine it’ll break in and feel softer. A two-pack in grey, navy, black, or white runs nearly $ 100. Other colors are $ 55 each. Frankly, I wasn’t as impressed as I’d hoped to be simply due to the feel, and wouldn’t be quick to order another one at that price.
Finally, I tried a shirt from Asket, a Swedish company founded in 2015 with a mission to master various wardrobe basics. I’d heard a lot about them and went with their most popular shirt. Asket uses 100 percent Egyptian cotton, and carries a weight of 180 gsm. Soft to the touch, the fabric still carries enough structure for it to feel high-quality, and it flows enough to drape over the body really well. It was probably my favorite fit out of all the options I tried. It helps that Asket offers 15 different sizes—ranging from XS to XL and then breaking down further into short, regular, and long. That kind of flexibility means there’s a fit for almost everyone.
The shirts are dyed, sewn, and assembled in Portugal, and the quality is excellent—there were no stray threads, the ribbed collar felt very sturdy, and even after many washes it still looked like new. Most of all, it fit great—snug in all the right places, but just enough room in the stomach area without looking sloppy. I still got that streamlined silhouette, and it was versatile enough to work with lots of different outfits. I opted for a small, and it fit just as I’d hoped. At $ 45, it’s pricey, but worth it. —As told to Mike Darling
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