The Search for the Perfect White T-Shirt

I shared with my husband my frustration in not being able to find the perfect white t-shirt.  Of course, he is so witty that he immediately compared it to Captain Ahab's search for the white whale in Moby Dick. (white whale = white shirt, get it.  He thinks he's hilarious.)   I can tell you that comparison never came to my mind.   As much as I Iove reading and literature,  I'm pretty sure I have tried to block Moby Dick out of my mind since high school.  The thing I remember most is just trying to get through the book and I think Ahab dies by the end of Moby Dick (sorry for the spoiler).  Either way, I guess it is kind of a good analogy, though I don't think I really want to think about dying in search of the perfect white t-shirt.     Every time I think I may have found one, I buy it and it ends up being either too sheer (I don't want to have to worry about wearing a tank under my shirt, it defeats the purpose of the easiness of a t-shirt), not the right length, or it doesn’t hold its shape.  You get the idea.  This concept of the "perfect white t-shirt" has proven to be my nemesis. 

Since I like to try to make myself feel better, I assume that many of you have had this same dilemma.  So, I decided to invest some focused time and effort to try to find the perfect white t-shirt, hoping that since I am investing more time than I have before, I might have success.  I spent a fair amount of time over about a three week period buying shirts, trying them on numerous times and rating them.  I made $80 as the maximum price I would pay.  There are some shirts that are as much as $200.  I know I always say to invest in quality pieces and think about cost per wear, but I just couldn’t justify that much for a t-shirt.  If it cost more than $80, then it may be the perfect t-shirt for someone, but it isn't the perfect t-shirt for me.

I bought 17 shirts on my quest.  (Thank goodness for generous return policies) and rated them from 1-5 in several categories, with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best.  Here is a list of the categories:






I also noted where they were made, the cost, and the fabric content.   You can see my findings here:

There are a variety of factors that can cause a t shirt to be more expensive, other than just the manufacturer's pricing strategy.  For one thing, sometimes it can take up to a year to design, develop and produce a t-shirt.  I know this probably sounds crazy to a lot of you because we just see the finished product and don't realize all of the design and testing that goes into getting the shirt to the store.  In addition, Supima cotton and combed cotton are more durable than simple cotton.  T shirts that have used plied yarns (two yarns twisted together to offer better strength) should hold their shape better too.  I hate when a t-shirt loses its shape after just a few washes and wears.

As you can see, my favorite shirt was the Three Dots V-neck.  I gave it 5’s all the way across.  I loved the fit and the length and it was not so sheer that I would have to worry about wearing a tank under it.  As a bonus, it was made in the USA.  At $44, it was not the most expensive shirt I tested, but it was certainly not the least expensive either. 


If you don’t want to spend $44 on a t-shirt, the next best one I liked was the Banana Republic- Timeless Classic V-neck.   I actually liked this one just as much as the Three Dots.  The detail that kept this shirt below the Three Dots in my ranking was the fact that the care instructions are imprinted on the inside of the shirt near the back of the waist and you can kind of see them through the shirt sometimes depending on what color pants are up against it.  It also was a little more sheer than the Three Dots.  At $10, this shirt is a fantastic buy.  I had a coupon, so I paid even less than that.

The others that I would recommend were the Pure Body V-neck from Gap and the Perfect Crewneck from Old Navy.  The Gap shirt was a little sheer for my taste.  Both were also cotton blends and not 100% cotton like the Three Dots and Banana Republic shirts.  Candidly, I usually prefer a t-shirt that is a blend because often I find that the shirt lays better and overall looks nicer than 100% cotton.  That said, in my quest, I found that in this sample of 17 shirts, the 100% cotton shirts seemed to lay better than the blends.  I did give an overall score of 4 to the Banana Republic Luxe-touch piped tee, but did not recommend it because the satin edge made it a little dressier and it wasn't as basic as I liked.  However, it is still a nice shirt if you want a t-shirt that's a little dressier.

Most of the shirts that were over $44, I gave a rating of 5 for feel.  They really felt the best, but the problem was they were either too sheer or the fit was just not right. 

So, there you have it, my thoughts on the prefect white t-shirt.  You may not find the Three Dots shirt to be your favorite, but hopefully from my notes and findings can prove to be a reasonable guide map on your own quest to find the elusive "perfect white t-shirt."  I enjoyed my quest and I ended up with a couple of great t-shirts.  Sadly, I don’t expect this to be the end of my search for the prefect shirt because usually when I find something I like, the designers change it just a little so I have to start my search over again.  So I may yet meet Captain Ahab's fate in this process.