For several seasons now, the ubiquitous T-shirt—that ever-reliable, fail-safe layer—has been reimagined by luxury brands as a decidedly more polished garment. These knit tees are fully-fashioned—meaning they’re constructed as one piece, like a sweater—for an unquestionably more elegant, sophisticated alternative to the standard cut-and-sew iteration.
As Mr Porter’s style director Olie Arnold explains, this evolution can be traced to the fact that “men have become more comfortable dressing casually for dressier occasions, and that there’s an increased appetite for elevated basics.” Indeed, the knitted T-shirt’s rise is symptomatic of the relaxing of dress codes. But how does one wear this novel hybrid? Arnold has a few thoughts: “Knitted T-shirts are as natural to incorporate into one’s wardrobe as an elevated t-shirt. Think of them as such, just with a bit more character—and responsibility of care.” In plainer terms, wear them anywhere and everywhere you might opt for a tee that can’t be mistaken for workout gear.
As to Arnold’s point about care, the knitted cultivars upgrade tees from a material context, too. At the premium end of the spectrum, Connolly offers a wonderful blend of silk and cashmere that’s almost dangerously delicate (but not too delicate for a cold cycle with Woolite, or the dry cleaner). If you’d prefer something of a more robust handle, options are aplenty. British knitwear specialist John Smedley recently unveiled its ‘Lorca’ model in a 30 gauge Sea Island cotton. Tom Stubbs, the celebrity stylist and Savile Row attaché, is more than a fan. “It’s about the Lorca. The Sea Island cotton is just the right weight and effectively matte-looking with a good link into the wide neckband. It fits well and it’s not snug—it’s a real coup,” he tells us.
Another heritage purveyor of British knitwear is Johnstons of Elgin, which has the added bonus of a brand new Scottish knitwear factory with state-of-the-art machinery. Alan Scott, the brand’s creative director, explains that the ‘Murray’ T-shirt is “knitted using Shima Seiki 3-D technology on a 15 gauge machine. It’s therefore seamless, which improves comfort and wearability and it is a whole garment, meaning it is made as a complete piece. This ensures consistency and quality in sizing and fit.”
One of the most interesting evolutions of the knit T-shirt has to be The Anthology’s cropped iteration, which allows high-rise trousers to sing properly. Co-founder Buzz Tang explains that “in consideration of how our tailored trousers style normally sits with a mid to high rise, we figured having a shorter length done with a slightly extended ribbed end that hugs around the waist firmly would offer that drape-y look.” Cut from organic cotton with a silk-like texture, they’re available in five different colors that afford ample options for stylistic play.
Particularly during this time of anything goes dress codes—whether you’re at the office or working the #WFH beat—knit tees strike an ideal balance between comfort and chic. Here are eight of our favorites to buy now.
John Smedley ‘Lorca’ T-shirt
A stalwart among British knitwear makers, Smedley’s prowess is displayed in this T-shirt made from lightweight Sea Island cotton (the rarest cotton in the world) and features a flattering neckline with ribbed cuffs and hem.
Doppiaa Navy Knitted T-shirt
This knitted T-shirt from Doppiaa keeps things simple with a standard fit, a thin neckline and ribbed trims—a style that works as well with jeans as it does suit trousers. Based in Milan, this brand is one to watch.
Peregrine Zero Waste Knitted T-shirt
Peregrine is a family-owned knitwear specialist based outside of Manchester, England and its seamless Zero Waste collection is made from organic Egyptian cotton by the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), which promotes sustainable practices that minimize damage to the environment and support fair pay for farmers.
Connolly Classic Cashmere Silk T-shirt
Connolly is best known for its luxurious leather, but the house’s textiles are equally sublime. This take on the knitted T-shirt features a decadently soft blend of cashmere and silk in muted pink that’ll pair beautifully with neutral navy and gray.
Jacquemus Brushed Knit T-Shirt
For a more wintery take on the knit T-shirt, look to this model from French fashion favorite Jacquemus. It’s knit from a blend of mohair and wool for a cozy, slightly shaggy texture that’ll easily add some visual interest to any outfit.
The Anthology Knitted T-shirt
In an autumnal rust tone made from organic cotton, The Anthology’s knit T-shirt is shorter in the body to accommodate high-rise trousers. It’ll also look dapper when layered beneath a blazer.
Mr P. Plain Knitted Cotton T-shirt
Mr Porter’s in-house collection has added the knitted tee to its roster of elevated wardrobe staples. This is a more relaxed vision of the style, with seamed shoulders and the addition of a small breast pocket for your sunglasses.
Johnstons of Elgin Murray Superfine Merino T-shirt
At its factory in Hawick, Scotland, Johnstons of Elgin uses cutting-edge machinery from Japan to craft this version in vivid red worsted wool. Take note: don’t follow this model’s presentation—the ribbed bottom should sit at the top of your waistband, not the hips.