The White T: The Most Adaptable Piece of Clothing

Photo courtesy of "The White T" by Alicia Harris

I just finished Alice Harris’ book, “The White T”, and it dawned on me that literally everyone wears a white tee shirt; from the homeless man in the the prince in the super models on the runway. In this article, we will discuss how the most adaptable piece of clothing came to be and how I used a plain white tee to achieve 3 drastically different looks.

A quick history lesson...

The white t-shirt was first introduced in 1913 when the US Navy first issued sets to sailors to be used as undergarments. After the war, it became the symbol of the working class man. Harris refers to it as the “Proletarian Uniform”.

It was practical, comfortable and functional, but most admittedly, it just looked good on. It was only a matter of time before it would take the world over; one rock star at a time. Because of its male bravado during the mid-1900’s, the white tee easily adapted into the wardrobe of global rock starts. No longer thought of as the attire of the worker, celebrities elevated its perception to that of a rebellious bad boy. Perpetuated by rolled sleeves, cigarettes, leather jackets and motorcycles; we were well into the era of Sex, Drugs, and Rock-n-Roll!

It took decades for the white tee to morph from a staple of masculinity to a unisex piece that is more functional than a pair of jeans. Present day, the white tee transcends income, social status and personal style. A garment of clothing that stemmed from such meager beginnings is now an essential item for every wardrobe. Personally, I wear one nearly every day in some form (crew neck, v-neck or tank). Here is how I achieved 3 looks with 1 simple white tee…


Under a well-fitting suit, the tee makes for a simple canvas for dramatic accessories.

Night Out

Adding a back knot to the shirt and paring with a tulle skirt, leather sandals, and statement neck piece makes a bold statement look that easily transition from day to night.

Weekend Market

A white tee and jean shorts is a given casual look. However, adding boots and a chunky cardigan create a comfy outfit for frolicking at the farmers market.

Pictured above, is a v-neck men’s shirt from the House of Abbydale. I love how this neckline is a little deeper than a traditional v-neck and gets softer with every wash.

Regardless of how you wear it, the white tee is an iconic staple and should be in every wardrobe and worn in every season. Because of this, buy multiples, in difference sizes and neck lines. What is your favorite aspect of the white tee shirt and why?


M. Renee

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