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Understanding undershirts: Avoiding the white triangle

June 26, 2013

White undershirtsAlmost every day, I observe the white triangle. You have seen it too, possibly in the mirror. My mission today is to convince you to ditch that triangle and upgrade the area framing your face. I am speaking about wearing a white crew neck undershirt with a polo shirt or dress shirt (without tie). For years, I sported it. In fact, I used to create this tacky presentation frequently never knowing how much it distracted from my face and shirt.

Imagine your underwear showing above your pants a couple inches.

Why wear an undershirt? Primarily, an undershirt takes the brunt of wear and tear – greater than of all your other clothes. It absorbs sweat providing a barrier between the smelly stain-producing body oils and your quality shirts. So, if your closet suffers from a lack of undershirts, make plans to buy some and start wearing them. Your shirts will live longer.

Let’s talk about a few different types of undershirts:

V-Neck – An essential part of a man’s wardrobe. It does what an undershirt should do, but remains hidden beneath that polo and dress shirt without distracting from the face. It protects your shirt from sweat. It also works well behind a v-neck sweater.

Crew neck – Not for use with polo shirts, dress shirts or v-neck sweaters. Crew neck undershirts work well beneath crew neck sweaters and buttoned up shirts with a tie. In general, undershirts should not be seen. However, I do recommend showing a crew neck with color beneath a shirt with 3-4 buttons undone. It’s intentional and accents a casual look.

Tank – I recommend avoiding these. They fail to provide the basic function of an undershirt – to protect the dress shirt. They leave your shirts exposed to the armpits eventually streaking your shirt’s underarms in a tacky way.

Avoid the white triangle!

Avoid the white triangle!

When standing in front of the display featuring multiple brands of undershirts, try to remember a few important points. First, buy long shirts that will stay tucked in throughout the day. Shorter versions tend to create a roll pushing your shirt outward as they untuck. It’s annoying and distracts from the smooth body lines you should have at your sides. Secondly, pay attention to the sleeves. Keep them short and well fitting. You should not be able to fit your leg through it and it should not extend out from beneath your polo shirt. Lastly, get the right size. By now, you have to realize how much I emphasize fit. If you have a small frame, don’t wear a medium or a large.

Last word: Repeat after me, “No more white triangle.”

© Copyright 2013 Fashion for the average man.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. June 27, 2013 5:16 pm

    I advocate V-neck undershirts (I’m wearing one in my profile picture). Crew neck undershirts remind me of the business-casual-look that swept the nation in the ’90s: men wore long sleeved denim shirts, white crew neck shirts, khaki pants, and square-toed black rubber-soled shoes. It was beyond tacky and best avoided. V-necks are a better solution.

  2. Jeff Kelso permalink
    June 28, 2013 9:23 am

    I prefer crew neck for a reason not discussed … it hides that little patch of chest hair that shows through when not wearing an undershirt or v neck.

    So, for me at least, I will choose function over form any day.

    • June 28, 2013 12:11 pm

      What about trimming back the chest hair below the neck hole of the v-neck undershirt?

  3. July 5, 2013 2:09 pm

    Thanks for following my blog and I’m glad I found yours since there are three men in my house. So here’s my question: What about wearing an undershirt under a polo to absorb sweat when you live in a hot climate? Is that tacky? (just trying to make sure my husband and sons are following the fashion “rules!”)

    • July 6, 2013 2:02 am

      Its tacky when you can see the undershirt. Keep it hidden and its okay. I live in Houston, TX and frequently wear an undershirt with no issues.

      You also have to consider the event or situation for which your guys will be dressing. For extended outdoor activities, a simple t-shirt may suffice without an undershirt.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Hope to hear more from you in the future.

  4. July 6, 2013 4:08 am

    Oh My Goodness, you’ve taken on the most obtuse fashion challenge their is, helping the average guy look like he didn’t just roll out of bed or the nearest cave.

  5. July 12, 2013 10:56 pm

    I like when guys wear the white triangle. It lets me know they are straight so I don’t waste time hitting on them.

  6. A-shirt Guy permalink
    November 3, 2013 4:25 pm

    I wear A-shirts (tank) because my chest and back sweat more than my underarms. Plus, there are some brands that are not cut too deep underneath the arms so that you do get some absorption of sweat. They are much more comfortable than t-shirts and the fabric feels better than that of the dress or casual shirt. A-shirts function perfectly for me and no need to worry about the white triangle.

  7. Leif permalink
    March 10, 2014 5:13 am

    Oh I don’t know about all this avoiding the triangle stuff.

    I prefer the neckband to be near my neck not my chest. It feels right and the undershirt with a round neck band functions better at absorbing sweat and keeping my core warm. A V neck feels like an incomplete undershirt, like the compromise between fashion and practicality that it is. When worn with some care, a white crew neck undershirt is a still a good look which doesn’t need to be diminished.

    I don’t think lesser of seeing a guy in undershirt, I think it conveys care and confidence. When I was a kid most all guys I knew had one on under his shirt. It was a given and everyone thought it looked usual and expected. Under T shirts it was a sliver of white under the collar or under a polo or collar a white triangle was always there as expected. We all wore them proudly, It was simpler.

  8. RobRobby permalink
    March 13, 2014 11:02 am

    I dislike the “white triangle,” too. I come from a family of swarthy, blue-chinned, woolly-chested country boys. A patch of fuzz above the top shirt-button is a sign of masculinity, whereas the “triangle” betrays an almost pompous modesty–the notion, seemingly, “I’m every bit as manly, but how indecent of YOU to flaunt it, or even let it show,” or something to that effect.

    I grew up wearing A-shirts under almost any outer shirt, in southern Louisiana, as did my father and uncles, and most of my friends. I see the appeal of the crew-neck undershirt for people with armpit sweat issues (a buddy of mine from before we’d even sprouted short-and-curlies is one of these guys), but my sweating is localized at my chest, belly and back. For this the A-shirt is perfect, and leaves my arms free to move, no sleeves from a crew-neck bunching up in my pits. They’re also more form-fitting, and tuck nicely into underpants so that a lot of bulk–like with crew-neck or Vs–doesn’t ruck up under a nice outer shirt at the belt-line.

    Men of the world, embrace your neck-fuzz and wear A-shirts!

  9. April 3, 2014 5:42 am

    This makes me think of my husband – it is only as he is growing older that is appreciating an undershirt and the difference it makes.

  10. July 15, 2016 11:19 am

    The details that you have explained about the types of undershirts is really excellent, but i prefer v neck undershirts because it suits for me.

  11. July 15, 2016 11:21 am

    The information that you have explained about the types of undershirts is really excellent, but i prefer v neck undershirts because it suits for me.

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