Small Changes: Shabby vs. Chic T-shirt
Small Changes with Big Impact
Some of the most entertaining posts from The Oatmeal (one of my favorite cartoonists) are contained in his Minor Differences series. I think of this series often in daily life, and while I lack the artistic chops to create entertaining graphics, I want to adapt a similar, more practical version of the concept here to illustrate how some small changes can pack a big punch.
First up, a wardrobe item.
Shabby T-shirt vs. Chic T-shirt
In many professions (academia included), it is completely acceptable to wear a T-shirt to work. However – and this is an important however – the type of T-shirt matters. Many people have the misconception that all T-shirts are created equally, but this is untrue. T-shirts vary wildly in both style and price, from the fugly freebies you get at conventions, to disturbingly priced fashionista favorites (I see you, The Row, charging $280 for a damn tee). But somewhere in the middle is a moderately priced wardrobe workhorse that will keep you comfortable yet presentable across a wide range of settings. I therefore emphatically recommend investing in several perfect-fitting tees – preferably in neutral hues* to maximize their usefulness. And if you’re on the fence about what makes a shabby vs. a chic T-shirt, here are a few pointers.
- May be boxy and ill-fitting
- May be of thick, stiff fabric
- May feature a logo
- May have words on it
- May be discolored, torn, and/or stained from wash and wear
- May have been free**
- Is not something you should wear in a professional setting
- Fits you appropriately (neither hugging nor gaping awkwardly)
- Has smooth, flowy fabric
- Is either a single color or a tasteful subtle pattern
- Is attractive
- Is versatile (e.g., could be worn to the beach or under a classy blazer)
- Is something you could envision a very put-together person wearing
A nice T-shirt will generally set you back between $10 and $30, and while that may seem like a lot of money for a T-shirt, I swear this is some of the best money you can invest in professional attire. T-shirts are fantastic staples because they are comfy, are great for layering, wash easily, and are versatile. If you buy them in only gray, black, and white (as I do), they go with nearly everything, eliminating the need to actually plan an outfit most days.
Some Examples of Chic T-shirts:
- Madewell Whisper Cotton Crewneck Tee $19.99-29.50
- J.Crew Vintage Cotton V-Neck T-Shirt $14.99-29.50
- Topshop Soft Washed Tee $20
- Zara Silky Feel T-Shirt $15.90
- Zara Organic Cotton Relaxed Fit T-Shirt $9.90
- Zara Linen T-Shirt now $9.99
- Topman Slim Fit T-Shirt now $12
- Topman Crew Neck T-Shirt $10
*As mentioned, my favorite t-shirt colors are gray, black, and white. White is tricky for women though, because it must be thick enough that it does not reveal even a skin-colored bra.
**If you have a sense of style and know how to rock a (possibly wacky) free t-shirt in a fashionable way, then rock on – nothing against that. But that is advanced stuff and may be best left to the pros.