The white t-shirt is a wardrobe fundamental – something that every man has at least one of in his arsenal. This versatile item has gone from the hallmark of the teenage rebel to the uniform of the everyman, acceptable in all walks of society and at (almost) any occasion. To celebrate this Sunspel favourite, we decided to revisit a few of the most iconic men who’ve made the white t-shirt their own.
Marlon first gained international acclaim, and an Oscar nomination, for his role as the tight t-shirt-clad Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. It was this t-shirt, in fact, that led Truman Capote to mistake him for a stagehand, and led the rest of the world to fall head over heels for the American heartthrob. How to wear one like Brando? Make sure your sleeves are slightly too short and your trouser waist is just high enough – cigarettes and six-pack optional.
He may have been known for some slightly more eye-catching looks in later life, but there’s no denying that a young Elvis knew how to pull off a plain white t-shirt in his military days. If you’re looking to up the nonchalance stakes, take a tip from the King of Rock and Roll and roll those sleeves up, but maybe steer clear of the peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
BAFTA-winning actor Jake Gyllenhaal is a master of the ‘smart casual’ dress code, with his uncanny ability to look good in any combination of t-shirts and tailoring. If you’re wondering what his secret is, it’s in the exceptional tailoring of his jackets, although the LA suntan can’t hurt either.
What do you wear when your talent does all the talking? You guessed it. American jazz musician Chet Baker favoured a clean white crew neck, with only a trumpet and his perfectly coiffed hair for accessories. So while we can’t promise a t-shirt can make you as musically gifted as Baker, we can promise you’ll look great all the same.
Well, we couldn’t do a piece on white t-shirts without mentioning him, could we? The undisputed face of teenage rebellion, the image of Dean is almost always that of a brooding young man in a white t-shirt, worn tucked into his jeans or peeking out from under a Harrington jacket. And, we’d be happy to argue, there may still be no better, or at least no more effortless, way to wear one to this day.