Hi, I’m Mary, and this is my column no one asked for about things I like!
If you know me, you know I love to dress like a casual, elegant man. If you don’t know me, hi! I’m Mary! I love to dress like a casual, elegant man!
When trying to achieve this look, the most important article of clothing is the white t-shirt. In fact, I would argue the white t-shirt is the most essential piece in everyone’s closet, regardless of aesthetic.
If you know me, you know I’m always on a journey. (If you don’t know me, please refer to the opening paragraph.) Perhaps the most important journey I’ve ever embarked on was my quest to find the perfect white t-shirt. In fact, I’ve devoted so much time, energy and money to this mission that I’d be remiss not to say it’s my life’s work.
I went to college during the height of the luxury t-shirt era, when everyone thought it seemed reasonable to spend $60 on a piece of cotton as long as it said James Perse or C&C California on the label. I bought several of these shirts onsale , which meant my options were limited to colors so bold they could only be described as electric. I could never afford a white luxury t, which was a shame because they were paper-thin and Carrie Bradshaw had recently made it cool to wear a black bra under a white shirt.
As you may remember, the style at the time was…tiny. All of my t-shirts were skin tight and hit right at the waist of my jeans, which is embarrassing in retrospect, but at the time I thought I looked like Felicity if she had lost her sweater, or Britney Spears if Disney had allowed her to continue her education past sixth grade.
After I graduated from college (last year JK!), I got a job at CNN and decided to dress like a serious adult woman. I got professional woman clothes at Ann Taylor and Banana Republic, which I would mix with whimsical pieces purchased from an elderly art teacher’s living room I mean Anthropologie because I was, at the time, a girl with bangs.
I liked wearing pencil skirts and blouses and bicycle-print dresses but I always felt like I was in costume, so I rarely wore those items outside of the office. As for my weekend wardrobe, my style was evolving beyond tiny luxury t-shirts, so I began to search for something different. I began to search for bigger t-shirts.
This search kicked into high gear when I moved to Brooklyn and realized that the ultimate power statement is dressing casually. I traded in my heels for sneakers, started wearing jeans to work (gasp!) and my mission to find the perfect white t-shirt became an obsession.
Here’s a list of places where I purchased white t-shirts between 2007–2014, and the reasons why they were bad:
Ann Taylor: too…shiny?
Banana Republic: too much spandex
J. Crew: too sheer and clingy
Anthropologie: too whimsical
Target: too manly
American Apparel: too sheer
Urban Outfitters: designed to be worn inside out, obviously
Madewell: I still have this shirt (which my sister bought for me) and still love it, but it’s embroidered, not a basic white t-shirt
Then, in 2014, I discovered something amazing: Everlane, a clothing company specializing in t-shirts that cut out the middle-man to keep prices low. I’m not sure where I first found out about Everlane, but I saw that they sold basic cotton t-shirts for $15 and I got excited. I ordered the Box Cut T-Shirt in white and black, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that shirt changed my life.
I have five white Box Cut T-Shirts now, and whenever I don’t know what to wear, that’s what I put on. It’s the perfect shirt: loose but still flattering, lightweight but not sheer and it has a pocket. I’ve heard other people complain it’s a little short, but I tuck in my t-shirts because I’m short and curvy and if I didn’t accentuate my waist, I’d look like I was wearing a sandwich board at all times, so the length has never bothered me. Though the material isn’t thin, it’s still a tiny bit see-through, which I know by now is an inevitability with a white shirt. I recently found a bra that, miraculously, isn’t visible underneath, but sometimes I’ll wear a visible bra anyway because I assume people already know I (barely) have tits.
I have a lot of other Everlane t-shirts: the drop-shoulder, the muscle t, etc, and I like them as well, but the Box Cut T-Shirt is the most important article of clothing I own, hands-down. It makes me feel casual, elegant, masculine. Also it’s just really comfortable and easy and it only costs $15! Actually, I just checked the site and it’s $16 now. Still a steal!
As always, I’d like to clarify that this is NOT a sponsored post. I received nothing for it and am, in fact, pretty sure no one wanted me to write it. Still, if anyone is reading and ever wants to give me literally anything for free, t-shirt or not, I WILL TAKE IT!!!!!!
Anyway, I hope this was helpful. I’ll be back with more unsolicited recommendations soon!