Tee off

Some things to keep in mind when entering T-shirt territory.

Ah, the humble T-shirt. At first glance they’re a pretty pedestrian part of our wardrobe but, depending on how you wear them, they can come to define the person underneath. This might sound a little lofty, but put a man in a plain white tee next to someone sporting one tucked into his jeans that reads "I may be drunk, but you’re still ugly” and tell me you haven’t formed two very different character evaluations.

While all men may be created equal, that egalitarian ideal quickly fades as we grow older and signs emerge that indicate how different we truly are. T-shirts are but a drop in the ocean of inequity – albeit a glaringly obvious one.

With that in mind here are some things to keep in mind when popping on that tee.

The joke is on you
As stated above, you can wear your heart on your sleeve but you should probably think twice about wearing anything emblazoned across your chest. Beyond being mildly offensive to those struggling with drug and alcohol issues, your “Rehab is for quitters!” T-shirt doesn’t make you look like the mischievous jokester you think it does. No, my friend, you just look like a bit of a tool, and an enabling one at that.

Though, as with everything, there are exceptions to the rule. I once saw a guy walking down the street in one that simply read: "T-shirt." I wanted to go up and shake his hand.

Political slogans outside of a rally context are also an interesting issue. Far be it from me to try and quash your political freedoms but don’t be surprised when you spark arguments on public transport. Actually, that’s always fun to watch so please carry on. As for the ubiquitous Che Guevara tee, journalist Hannah Charlton summed it up best when she wrote: "T-shirt wearers might wear Che's face as an easy replacement for real activism, or as a surrogate for it." Which loosely translates to: “Don’t write cheques your arse can’t cash.”

Back to basics
If you steer clear of offensive and idiotic slogans there isn’t a whole lot of room to go wrong. But some of us will find a way. My father used to force us to tuck in our T-shirts before going to school, which led to an untucking rebellion in the dunnies after being dropped off. This may be the reason that I find tucking in your T-shirt to be ridiculous. Usually worn in conjunction with faded jeans and a brown leather belt, if you want to look like Michael Lohan on your days off then be my guest. But you may as well pull your pants up to your bellybutton and really own it.

Beyond that, when it comes to more everyday offences, refrain from wearing a dark T-shirt under a light coloured shirt to work. We all get cold, but try and match the colours if you don’t want to look like a 15-year-old work experience kid.

And though society is probably right when it dictates that no one other than older, cheery secretaries should wear seasonally themed tees – the Australian version of Christmas jumpers – this should merit a pass for hilarity alone.

Location, location
If you’re lucky enough to work in a casual office environment or doing manual labour then T-shirts are your best friend. Ditto when it comes to slouching around the house or doing yard work. But there are some places where T-shirts don’t belong. Funerals for one. And if you’ve been given the go-ahead for casual Fridays in a corporate office, know that they usually mean smart casual, which is still shirt territory.

A similar rule applies when you go to meet your grandmother for lunch. Whether it’s at her house or down at the local club, even if you can get away with a T-shirt, don’t. Show the woman some respect and pop on an ironed shirt, and brush your goddamn hair. Grandmas are awesome and this seems important to them so just deal with it.

When it comes to the first cousin of the T-shirt – polo shirts – there are also a couple of location-related things to consider. While they are right at home on the golf course or the halls of a toffy university resident’s college, they can be a bit naff. But if preppy is your thing then opt for classic Ralph Lauren. Fred Perry also gets special consideration. Why? Because they’re dead cool.

Do you have any particular likes or dislikes when it comes to T-shirt territory?