The Case for the White Tee

Trying to sleep in on a Saturday. Replacing the alternator in the truck again. Making potato chowder. Stepping on a lego. Eating crackerjacks at a ball game. Holding a baby. Going to the beach on a Tuesday. Drinking coffee. Walking the dog past the Jack Pines. Swearing off jelly donuts. Talking to mom on the phone. Impromptu dance party. Double dipping a chip in queso. Pancakes with the family on a lazy weekend morning. Eating a jelly donut. High-fiving. Listening to Buddy Holly. Drinking beer with old friends around a fire. All the other things.

Look good everyday doing whatever in a white tee. White tees are your second skin - make yourself home.

New or beaten through, they’re part of every life’s uniform, as simple and handsome as the day is long and filled with commitment’s exercises.

But they’re not all built the same. From undershirt to the daily canvas, attention to fit and fabrication makes a significant difference.

White tees are your second skin - make yourself home.

Your preference is in the details. For the uninitiated, quality comes with its own complex industry jargon. To help out, here’s a few terms you won’t find on a three pack of Hanes - terms that add up to the quiet magic of an Xmas blizzard:

100% Cotton: Honestly the best material for a tee. Period. Lightweight, breathable, and wicks moisture like a kid with a straw.

Cotton Jersey is a mix of cotton fibers and a stretchy fiber (usually spandex). It offers some stretch without stretching out. It has that neat heathered appearance and while straight cotton is awesome, if you like a slubbier shirt that stretches a little over time, look for cotton jersey as a superior option to tri-blend shirts.

Double-Needle Coverstitch is a stitch regularly seen hemming up tees, the double-needle coverstitch utilizes two spools of thread simultaneously to reinforce seams. Look for this around the collar especially.

Sanforized means that your new shirt is going to fit better from day one. Sanforizing is preshrinking garments through a controlled compressive process. Sanforization limits further shrinkage of the fabric to less than 1%. Fabric that doesn’t go through the sanforization process is likely to shrink up to 10% on the initial wash and continue to shrink some until the third wash. During the process, uncut fabric is fed into a sanforizing machine and moistened with water or steam to promote shrinkage. The fabric is then stretched through a series of rubber belts and cylinders before being compacted to its final size.

Single Needle Stitching is a lockstitch that uses two threads that reinforce each other by entwining the upper and lower threads - think of your mom’s old Singer sewing machine. Single needle stitching allows for a smoother seam but must be done on a hand-governed machine at a lower speed. This is a specialty stitch that requires a steady hand. For many seams, it doesn’t get better than this, but because of it’s difficulty and pace, is only used by select masters behind no-cheat machines.

Tube Knitting - Tube knits have no side seams and aren’t just better for your overall comfort, but also have a form that stays truer after long use. The cotton or cotton-blend is machine-woven into a tube shape specific to sizing so that it can be cut into sections to make individual shirts.

(Pictured: Knickerbocker Short Sleeve Henley, Lady White Clark Pocket Tee, Lady White Lite Basic Tee, LVC 50's Sportswear Tee)


So there’s all that, but what’s the right personal combination? Highlighted in this back-story are the LVC 50’s Sportswear Tee, the Knickerbocker Henley, the Lady White Clark Pocket Tee and also the Lady White Lite Basic Tee.

The LVC 50’s Sportswear Tee has that old school boxy body with shorter sleeves that sit just below the shoulders. This vintage design also sits a little higher at the waist, about an inch below your natural waist. If you’re in your rock&roll jeans you might show a little skin, but with the right denim, this is the classic rebel uniform tee - a timeless staple with a chest pocket that wants to be used. Size up if you want that modern waistline, but because it’s made with Cotton Jersey, it will stretch a little over time.

The Knickerbocker Henley nods back to the undershirts of the 40’s and early 50’s with a slim fit and shorter length. If you’re looking for a traditional slim henley fit, size true or size up for a looser, less form fitting top layer. As handsome as henleys get. Heavy cotton will last years of use, tube knit to keep its form, single-needle stitched for a cleaner and tighter appearance with less puckering after washing, and then finished off with mother-of-pearl buttons.

Then there’s Lady White - champions of the modest tee. Both the Lite Basic Tee and the Clark Pocket Tee are the harmonious marriage between modern and vintage - cut with sleeves that sit on your muscles and sitting an inch and half below your natural waist. Fits the modern man like his own name. Sanforized and unbleached with a double stitched collar and single-needle everywhere else. Also, the Clark Pocket has a neat history.

Not pictured but worth mentioning is Knickerbocker’s Tube Knit Tee. Just like their henley, the Pocket Tee is a heavier tee, created with all the craftsmanship details that make it better than anything you’ve ever seen or felt from a department store. It’s a slim fit and shorter length standard, so order size based on preference of fit. If you’re looking for something with color, get yourself a Velva Sheen tee (with all the craftsmanship details of the above) - or if you want color and pattern, look at the Jungmaven hemp/cotton blend tees (that also have a neppy quality to them). Oh, and Kapital has a white tee out if you’re looking for something as interesting and artistic as tees can be.

It’s a white tee kind of world. Are you enjoying it to its fullest?

Questions? Tell me about it. ben@shopcanoeclub.com