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What to Wear Underneath Knitwear

2024-01-30
What to Wear Underneath Knitwear

While we often wonder together what to wear under a jacket, the title issue is usually ignored... although, in fact, it can also determine whether we look (and feel) good or not.

It is a seemingly trivial question - but ever since I consciously asked myself it for the first time (while writing our Shetland Sweater Story), it has been haunting me ever since.

I know that this issue is dangerously close to one of the "first world problems", "nightly reflections of a self-conscious dandy" or just "manic obsession" - but mind you, we are not menswear preachers and you are not laymen taking their first steps in the world of nice clothes; I bet that topics discussed here on Everyday Classic may in general seem weird to a normal, ahem, uninitiated person since we are all a bit crazy about clothes.

Well, let's save ourselves more of this self-irony and move onto THIS question:

Gentlemen, what you should wear underneath the sweater?

 

1. Nothing

No base layer, just a sweater directly over your bare torso. Frankly, my number one choice!

This is obvious in the case of delicate merino wool - I can't imagine having any layer under a thin merino turtleneck - but may depend on the personal sensitivity of the wearer with other, rougher types of yarn (eg. Shetland sweaters may be found itchy by some). Personally, I don't have any problem with this; I think I've worn every single one of my sweaters this way.

Pros? First of all, thermoregulation. Everyone on the Internet is talking about how great wool is at wicking moisture away and keeping us from overheating (when it's warm) and from getting cold (when it's freezing) - and that's kind of true, okay, but for the system to work really well, there should be no layer with different properties between the skin and the woolen fabric. For example, a cotton T-shirt worn underneath a sweater can make you actually feel colder when moist, due to the cotton being absorbant while wool would wick the water away. Therefore, if we are active during the day or exposed to frequent temperature changes (entering and leaving indoor spaces, traveling) and therefore more prone to sweating, this solution is simply practical.

In addition, sweaters (especially those in light colors) often simply look better when there is nothing underneath them so that the contours of the undershirt are not visible and the colored border around the neck does not stick out.

Minuses? The above-mentioned "itching" of the wool and possibly also the need for more frequent washing. Even though wool does not absorb odors and does not require as much maintenance as cotton, you have to take into account if you wear it often... and some sweaters have to be washed by hand, which complicates matters.

 

You'll have to take my word for it that I wore this sweater over a shirt that evening, but I don't have a photo to prove it. Neither do others in "polite" styles.
 
2. Collared shirt (with v-neck and crewneck sweaters)
 

It seems like an obvious choice, but in my opinion it's not really versatile.

Someone might argue that this is be the most classic solution and I could agree with that, but not without adding that it will make you look, hmmm... polite. The collar and cuffs sticking out from under the sweater are more “good boy” than “cool guy”; there are some associations to that look. This is ok, but not in every situation - since the shirt is always visible and the whole thing seems a bit more elegant.

Pros? This combination looks great under a jacket - the shirt collar provides a "frame" for the face and at the same time protects the cloth from rubbing at the neck. On its own, it also works well for the occasions when you might want to dress a bit nicer, but are afraid that the jacket could look too serious.

Minuses? In addition to limited use, there is the matter of comfort and/or aesthetics choice. A loose, comfortable shirt will be sticking out around the waist area; a well-fitting, cut close to the body may seem too tight and pinch when you sit down or move your arms. It will feel stiff, literally and figuratively.

One more thing: let's skip the controversial topic of wearing a shirt with a turtleneck entirely here.

 


3. White t-shirt (for round neck sweaters only)
 

Once upon a time I would have said "NO, that doesn’t work", today I’m not this radical.

It's true that I criticized the "rim" around the neck earlier, but now I will make an argument in its favor: if the sweater is in a strong color, the T-shirt is snow-white, and the ribbing fits well at the neck, it simply looks good and neat. It's another thing when the T-shirt is old, dirty and torn; I’m not talking about a good way to dispose of items that are no longer suitable for solo wear here.

Pros? The white accent, despite the fact that it is de facto another color in the styling, often calms the outfit down and helps tame a strong color, creating a buffer between it and your face - sometimes it might even be the only way to wear a certain tone for some skin tones. Also, if the sweater has a wide neckline or a stretched ribbing, a T-shirt helps to fill the strangely empty space.

Minuses? A white t-shirt doesn't look good with very light sweaters, it often doesn't work on dark skin tones and it just doesn't appeal to everyone. Oh, and I would like to emphasize once again that not every T-shirt is suitable for this purpose, you have to pay close attention to its condition.

 

Okay, so what to avoid?

I'll say keep it brief here:

  • T-shirts in a color other than white - I guarantee that you could not find an example that will convince me to the idea,
  • so-called “invisible undershirts” - its color might be close to your skin tone but the seams are often still visible on the sweater looking strange, I see no advantages there,
  • dark shirts - the collar that sticks out from under the sweater simply needs to be a bright spot, otherwise it looks heavy,
  • polo shirts - unless you want to look like a rich kid from the east coast and you feel the preppy style really well,

and a sweater-over-sweater look, unless you're a natural like Princess Diana or desperately need to wear many warm layers at once.

Thank you, this is my opinion.

We could end the article there - but Beniamin let me know that "maybe it would be better to turn it into a discussion, a clash of different views?" and that "everyone has a different opinion and stands by it, it's a bit like your favorite ketchup." He was right: I stand my ground, but let it be said that there is an alternative.

 

 

Beniamin:

On the one hand, Mateusz is right - everything he wrote makes sense at first glance and is well explained, the pros and cons of each option correspond to reality - but I wear my sweaters differently!

In my opinion, the best way to wear them should primarily depend on what kind of sweaters you wear and what style you like - I always wear mine with a shirt, a t-shirt or BOTH underneath.

 

In all photos I am wearing a shirt and a T-shirt under the sweater, except for the turtleneck - only a T-shirt there.

My wardrobe mainly consists of thick knitwear, mainly turtlenecks and crewnecks. Thanks to this, problems such as a peaking shirt/t-shirt do not occur at all. Similarly with the issue of thermoregulation - maybe wool actually insulates better if there is no additional layer between it and the skin, but I'm already warm enough. Besides, you can always add another layer by putting on a jacket, right? I don't even need to say much about the fact that not having to worry about having to wash your sweater frequently is invaluable.

 

There is still the matter of aesthetics. Does a sweater with a shirt look polite? Even if it does, I'm just not bothered by it. I like wearing it like this, I like the combination and I feel good in it. It's simple, classic, comfortable and warm!
 
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