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The Tees to Buy If You're Ready to Upgrade From Hanes

The cheapest, the softest, and the most Lauren-est.

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Fanmail T-shirt Photo: Fanmail

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I wear T-shirts literally every day; sometimes, they provide a buffer layer between a sweater’s itchy material and my sensitive skin. Other times, they’re perfect on their own. They’re the proper complement to a pair of blue jeans, coming together to create the prototypical American outfit.

For years, I thought the three-packs of Hanes T-shirts could get me through anything. They were cheap, fit relatively well, and lasted a decent amount of time. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve grown more particular about my tees. Luckily for us T-shirt enthusiasts, there are dozens, hundreds, even thousands of other options out there, from big-name designer brands to young upstarts putting a modern twist on a classic piece of clothing.

So if you’re still committed to the three-pack life, it’s time to broaden your horizons and see what else is out there. We picked out some of our favorites.

American Apparel T-shirt Photo: Amazon

If Price Is Your Primary Concern

For many shoppers, T-shirts are expected to be among the most budget-friendly clothing items. We get that. When it comes to the bargain basket, Uniqlo Supima Cotton tees ($9.90) come in a variety of colors and are cut nicely — not too slim or baggy. They tend to lose their softness after a wash, so proceed with caution.

Muji’s Two Pack (about $12.50) takes inspiration from the multi-packs you find at Target, and the tees maintain the company’s signature minimal look. And American Apparel may be liquidating, but its 50/50 Crewneck tees ($10) are still available on Amazon and are among the best in the game.

Everlane tee Photo: Everlane

If You’re Ready for a Step Up

Once you break the price barrier on T-shirts, it’s hard to imagine spending less than $10 on them ever again. The Everlane Pocket Tee ($16) is my current favorite, and it comes sans pocket ($16) as well. It’s lightweight but not see-through, and it works great on its own or as a layering piece.

John elliott tee Photo: John Elliott

If You’re Searching for the Softest

There’s no point to T-shirts if they aren’t comfortable. Fashion darling John Elliott makes some of the softest tees in the industry. While his unique cuts don’t work for everyone — a deeper neck opening or side slits, for example — the JE Classic Crew ($64) is a perfect middle ground with a simple silhouette and a slightly longer hem.

We can’t forget classic brand Champion when it comes to basics, either. Its Reverse Weave Enzyme Washed Tee ($49) uses a special wash to reach levels of softness few other brands can achieve. One brand perhaps not on your radar is Jason Scott; its Raymond Crew ($65) is, simply put, absurdly soft.

3Sixteen Tee Photo: 3sixteen

If You Need Something Heavy

Sometimes all that softness gets in the way of a T-shirt’s duties, like providing a basic barrier between you and the elements. So it’s always good to have a couple of heavyweights to rotate in when needed. Iron Heart’s Heavyweight Loopwheeled T ($75) uses 6.5-ounce Japanese fabrics and is knitted on old loopwheel machines found in just two factories in the world, giving it otherworldly heft. American brand 3sixteen goes even further with its Heavyweight Plain T-shirt ($85), which comes in a two-pack and uses 9-ounce custom-knit fabric and triple needle-stitching on its collar.

Lemaire T-Shirt Photo: Lemaire

If You Fancy Yourself a Fancier Tee

If the tees already listed feel a bit too “classic” for you, try out Issey Miyake’s Crinkled Crepe T-shirt ($230). The primarily polyester make-up gives it a wrinkly texture, and the wider neck opening feels a bit more fashion-forward than the typical tee. French label Lemaire’s Poplin T-shirt ($252) features a boxier fit, longer sleeves, and a gauzy fabric that’s meant to keep you cool in the summer heat. Indie brand Fanmail offers a Raglan T-shirt ($115) with some small tweaks like side slits, raglan sleeves, and french terry fabric, making it halfway between a sweatshirt and T-shirt.

Greg Lauren tee Photo: Notre

If You Like the Laurens

You don’t get more American than T-shirts and designer Ralph Lauren. RL’s RRL Classic Jersey Tee ($65) gives us a nice, soft cotton jersey feel with the worn-in look Lauren is famous for. However, Ralph’s nephew, Greg Lauren, may have outdone him here with his label’s Slouchy Tee ($265). It has an oversized neck opening and an on-trend slanted hem, making the back longer than the front.