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.