Wearing a suit jacket over a T-shirt is an edgy combo you see on social media, but is it a good look?
Plenty of men’s fashion trends get a lot of attention on social media but fail to translate to real life: shirts with big logos, extra-distressed denim, and spray-on jeans, to name a few.
But sometimes, it’s more difficult to tell whether you can actually pull off a certain style, and wearing a T-shirt under a suit falls into this category. It’s a go-to look for celebs, and you’ll see it on many men’s fashion Instagram accounts, but does it work in everyday life?
The short answer is that you can sometimes wear a T-shirt with a suit — but you might not want to.
Breaking Down the T-Shirt With Suit Look
Many men’s fashion styles are created when casual and formal elements are combined. Sometimes, this is less noticeable, but other times, it’s purposely dramatic to accentuate how certain pieces are being dressed up or down.
The T-shirt and suit look is a more extreme result of this approach. This outfit is almost always worn with the suit jacket open, and as a result, the T-shirt brings the suit way down in formality.
A big reason why this look stands out so much is because it breaks some of the long-held rules of traditional men’s tailoring.
Historically, wearing anything less formal than a dress shirt with a suit was virtually unacceptable. It’s also an unspoken rule to button your suit when standing. Wearing a suit jacket not only unbuttoned but also with a T-shirt is a major step away from those conventions.
This is also why the suit and T-shirt look isn’t universally acceptable. There are times and places where you can pull this off, but you’ll need to keep context in mind.
When Can You Wear a Suit With a T-shirt?
It’s best to think of the suit with T-shirt outfit as a niche look that’s only appropriate for a handful of casual or semi-formal events.
For the most part, today’s society still operates using rough formality guidelines that dictate how sharp you should look. There’s no denying that clothing has gotten overall more casual in the last couple of decades.
However, there are plenty of cases where traditional ideas of formality are still in effect. (For example, you’d get some looks if you wore a T-shirt and shorts to most weddings).
This means that when you’re thinking of wearing an outfit that mixes formal and casual elements, you’ll need first to consider how appropriate it is for the situation. This will also help you ensure you won’t be underdressed, which is much more of a faux pas than overdressed.
So when can you get away with wearing a T-shirt under a suit jacket? Here’s a breakdown of a few common situations to help you figure it out.
I’ve found that as a general rule, the newer your company is, the more likely you can wear a suit with a T-shirt.
For example, if you work at a creative agency that meets up at a coworking space, you can absolutely wear a T-shirt with a suit. On the other hand, if you work at an accounting firm with a downtown office, you should absolutely avoid wearing a T-shirt with a suit.
Wearing a suit with a T-shirt is a solid outfit choice for more modern workplaces.
In other words, if you even have to think about it, the answer is no. Formality in the workplace is not something you want to get wrong — especially if you have a white-collar job in which aking a good impression is vital.
A good rule for knowing what to wear to a wedding is to double-check your invitation. In most cases, the invitation will note the formality level. You can also ask whoever invited you if you need more specifics.
However, it’s tricky because the T-shirt and suit combo doesn’t squarely fall into any formality category. (It’s probably closest to smart casual). Remember, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed when in doubt.
A light, casual look can work well for casual summer and beach weddings.
Generally speaking, the suit and T-shirt look will be fine for weddings that are decidedly casual. You can also probably pull off the look for a beach wedding, but again, there’s no harm in double-checking first.
How To Wear a T-shirt With a Suit
If you’ve determined that the suit and T-shirt look will be appropriate for the occasion, then you’re almost good to go. There are just a few more things to keep in mind when putting together this specific outfit.
Choose the Right T-shirt
Even though wearing a suit jacket over a T-shirt is pretty casual, you still want to look somewhat dressy, so stick with solid-color T-shirts. (Do I even have to tell you to avoid graphic tees)?
Overall, crew necks are best. Shallow V-necks can work for a more informal look, but the more chest hair you expose, the more casual your outfit will be.
Make sure that the fit of your T-shirt is on point. Since you’re pairing it with a suit jacket, your T-shirt should have a fairly slim, tailored fit. Avoid anything too snug or baggy.
The weight of the shirt matters, too. A heavier tee works better with this look because it provides more depth and structure. Look for fabrics that weigh 180 grams per square meter (often abbreviated as GSM or g/sm) or more, depending on how heavy you want to go.
Get the Colors Right
For the suit and T-shirt look, go with a white shirt (or an off-white shirt) unless you have a good reason not to. A crisp white T-shirt matches nicely with most suit colors and keeps things looking neat and crisp.
A black t-shirt under a grey suit jacket is a great casual pairing.
That said, there are a few instances where other colors can work. Black, grey, and light blue shirts work with suit jackets that contrast in color.
Consider a Suit Jacket Alternative
Even if you’re just a suit-and-tee kind of guy, you should know about some alternatives that give you a similar look. It’s information that might come in handy if you want an outfit that’s a little less edgy.
Instead of a traditional suit jacket or sports coat as an outer layer for this look, try a more casual blazer or a refined chore jacket. For a more unique vibe, try a safari jacket.
T-Shirt With Suit FAQ
Here are a few answers to some common questions about wearing a suit over a T-shirt.
Is it ok to wear a t-shirt with a suit?
This outfit sometimes works, but it’s best for more casual atmospheres. If you’re going to places where a more laid-back dress code is okay, then you’re good to wear a T-shirt with a suit.
Is it ok to wear a t-shirt with a blazer?
For the open-jacket-over-T-shirt look, a blazer is a bit more versatile than a suit jacket, but it’s also less formal. In most cases, a blazer is better since it more closely matches the formality level of a T-shirt.
Can I wear a t-shirt and a suit for a wedding?
This all depends on the wedding. Check your invitation, and when in doubt, ask whoever invited you to check.
At the end of the day, the suit and T-shirt look isn’t as great as social media makes it out to be. Outside of a handful of situations, this outfit is best saved for casual outings (maybe to an upscale coffee shop or a gastropub).
Questions? Comments? Leave them below!