Q and Answer: How to Avoid Having Your Undershirt Show
David writes: I’m preparing for a wedding in July and already have a nice suit, so that’s covered. The problem is the shirt. I bought an all cotton white dress shirt from Brooks Brothers, and while the fabric is nice, it’s a bit see through. Since this will be for a summer wedding, I’ll need to wear an undershirt (as it’ll be very hot), but I hate being able to see the outline of it through my dress shirt. Is this a common problem and is there anything I can do?
It is unfortunately a common problem, but only really with white dress shirts. If you switch to light blue, the issue is almost guaranteed to go away, but sometimes the occasion that calls for a very dressy white shirt. Like that wedding you’ll be attending, for example.
Luckily, there are some things you can do.
Wear a grey undershirt: The easiest solution is to switch from white undershirts to heathered grey. Heathered grey reflects less light than white, so it shows through a bit less as well. This does depend on a number of factors (such as how translucent your dress shirt is), but generally speaking, this is your best bet. You can also try the various lines for beige undershirts on the market, which are designed to match your skin tone more closely. These are available from Albert Kreuz, Sloane Men, and Mr. Davis.
Avoid deep necklines: Next, avoid undershirts with deep necklines, such as the one you see above. Those are great if you plan on wearing your shirt with the first button or two unbuttoned, but if you’re wearing a coat and tie, a standard crewneck or v-neck will be less conspicuous.
Keep your jacket on: Typically, when an undershirt shows through, it’s at the sleeves. The solution? Simply keep your jacket on. If you have to take your jacket off - depending on the situation and circumstances - you can try rolling up your sleeves. This will reduce the area of your dress shirt without an undershirt underneath, which in turn will make that line across your bicep less noticeable.
Get a thicker dress shirt: Of course, you can just get a thicker shirt. The reason why your undershirt shows is because your dress shirt is made from a finely woven material (somewhat ironically, this is common in both low- and high-end dress shirts). Try something made from a thicker, tighter weave instead, such as a good, heavy twill. The trade off is that these will feel stiffer and wear a bit warmer, but on the upside, they’ll be less translucent. A more breathable shirt, on the other hand, will be more see-through, but it might feel more comfortable on a really hot day. Which is right for you will depend on your preferences.
Don’t wear an undershirt: Lastly, consider why you’re wearing an undershirt in the first place. Many men wear them as a first defense against underarm staining. As Jesse noted in our grooming episode, however, that staining isn’t actually a result from sweat, but rather the aluminum in antiperspirant. Switch to deodorant, and you might not need to wear an undershirt at all.