Introducing: The tapered T-shirt
I’ve always loved Japanese circular-knitted T-shirts. They have so much body, and such a nice hand compared to regular tees.
By comparison mainstream T-shirts can feel flimsy, almost like underwear.
But the problem, usually, with Japanese tees is that they’re cut in a traditional (‘authentic’) shape, which is short and square. If you’re remotely slim, they’re not very flattering.
Brands do vary in proportions, but they can’t do anything about the fact that the body is one piece, like a tube. This stops them from having the tapered shape of a normal T-shirt, as most people are used to.
Just over a year ago I started talking to Japanese makers about making a simple change: adding side seams to a normal circular tee, so it could be tapered.
The most successful collaborator was Taka at Clutch Cafe (above), who under his own brand Allevol, makes T-shirts in the well-known Eiji factory in Osaka, Japan.
I already have a couple of Allevol tees, having covered them previously on PS, and really like the make and feel. They're strong but soft, deliberately recreating the aesthetic of sports shirts from the 50s and 60s.
So I was pleased when (after a few iterations) we managed to produce a T-shirt together that had all that quality and handle, but in a more standard T-shirt shape.
This is the model we’re launching today, exclusivelyon the PS Shop: an Allevol collaboration of white and navy heavy-duty, circular-knitted T-shirts.
Their fabric is the result of several years’ development on Taka’s part, creating a material that has a dense, slightly slubby hand, but drapes really nicely on the body.
It uses a high-grade raw American cotton, which is spun in Japan into 14-count yarn (for context, most high-street T-shirts are around half that, as well as of course using lower quality fibre).
The material is then knitted slowly on vintage circular machines, referred to as Taimaru. These are similar to loopwheel machines in how they work, but tend to create a denser material and a richer feel.
The result is a seamless T-shirt, which we then cut up the sides, taper, and resew.
In deciding how much that taper should be, I compared several mainstream and higher-end brands.
The average was roughly a drop of 4cm between chest and hem. So, if a medium measured 59cm from pit to pit, the hem at the bottom would be 55cm.
I also wanted our T-shirts to have a fairly generous chest, so I added one centimetre to the chest measure on each size, creating a 5cm drop overall.
The result looks quite different to a normal circular-knitted tee, where both chest and waist have to be the same. Those have little shape in the waist, but can also be quite small in the chest, to make sure the waist isn’t too big.
The other small change I made to our T-shirts was the neckline.
The Allevol model already had a nice height on the front, but it was quite low at the back - again the more traditional or authentic shape. That might have been fine when everyone was wearing a shirt over the top, but worn on their own, this height at the back isn’t that flattering.
So we squared off the neck, creating a height at the back that looks much better, particularly compared to something like the Warehouse tees we covered last year (when I also commented on that low cut).
Interestingly, I’ve also found that a T-shirt shaped like this makes crewneck sweaters and sweatshirts easier to wear. I showed in this article why some low-cut sweaters can be unflattering - but if you have the perfect T-shirt neck underneath, it fills in the gap and creates a better neckline.
In these images, Taka and I have worn various combinations to show how we wear the shirts.
Of course, no one needs a lesson in how to wear a white T-shirt, but given it’s more casual than most things we cover, I thought readers might like to see how it fits into my wardrobe.
It’s nearly always worn at the weekend, and usually with denim or chinos - but I’ll still be dressing in a more put-together way than most guys. So in the image above, I’m wearing the white T-shirt under a grey shawl-collar cardigan and old Armoury chinos.
And below, I’m wearing the navy underneath a Ralph Lauren Purple Label suede Harrington. (This model, the Torrence, has that nice high cut and blousy body that I commented on in the recent Chapal article.)
I also particularly like - at the weekend - the contrast of clearly very worn jeans with a smarter navy piece on top.
I’m not sure everyone will wear navy T-shirts regularly either, so I thought this combination was a useful one to show.
I’ve also pictured it below with my vintage M-65 jacket, to illustrate how nice the colour is with that faded olive. (And so would also be with green chinos, or fatigues.)
Overall, I’d say the navy is a particularly nice colour with mid-blue trousers, white or beige, and olive. But you can also wear it with khaki or black, as Taka is elsewhere.
I thought it was nice to include Taka in the shoot because his style is so different to mine, and he shows elsewhere in this piece how the white tee works with a white shirt and beige chinos, while he wears black leather and jeans with the navy version.
I was originally planning to do mid-grey as the second colour, but you can't get a good melange with this weight and make. I might look to do one in the future, but it would mean using a different factory.
There are a few other quality, or technical points worth making.
The T-shirts have a bound collar, a separate piece of material which uses three lines of stitching to attach it to the body. This stops the collar stretching out over time - compare it to a mainstream T-shirt, and it’s remarkable how flimsy the latter feels.
But it also uses a little technique to stop the collar being too stiff of bulky, which is putting the last line of stitching on the body, attaching only to the collar on the inside.
The cotton material is robust and will only get better the more it is washed and worn. However, I'd still recommend treating it as you would a dress shirt: wash cool and hang dry rather than tumble dry.
Also - rather like the PS oxfords - this dense and malleable material has some natural stretch from the way it’s woven. So after washing, don’t be afraid to give it a little stretch one way or the other, to gently add some length or width.
This is the same thing denim does after its washed, coming in a little and then going out as it’s worn again, adapting to the body. Doing this reshaping after washing is just accelerating that process.
(This attribute of fabric is something I’ll cover elsewhere, as I find it interesting and it's not something you really get with smarter clothing.)
The 'tapered T-shirt' as we're calling it, is available on the PS Shop now.
Here's the sizing detail, followed by a round-up of the product details. If anyone has any questions at all though, please do ask in the comments.
- The T-shirts fit like any regular tee in the body (from Sunspel for example) which all have a slight taper
- The only difference you will notice is that the chest is a little larger, and the shoulder seam slightly dropped. Both of which I find quite flattering
- In the images above, I am wearing a Medium, while Taka is wearing a Small
- However, I also like a Large for a slightly oversized look, and the nice thing about the taper is that it doesn’t look too big. I have shown a Large below
|Chest (pit to pit)||49cm||52||55||58||60||63|
|Hem (bottom width)||44||47||50||53||55||58|
|Length (from back neck)||60||62||64||66||68||70|
- 100% American raw cotton, spun into a 14-count yarn
- Although heavier than most mainstream T-shirts, this is a common weight for Japanese makes, which are designed for heavier duty and to retain their shape
- I find the weight is fine throughout the summer. You might feel the difference in a tropical country, or when it’s 35 degrees and above, but not otherwise
- Circular knitted, in Osaka, Japan, before being cut and sewn in the sides
- Wash cold and hang to dry
- There is little shrinkage, due to the density of the weave and the structure created by the side seams. But a small change, of a centimetre or so, can be changed with the reshaping after washing described above
- Available in white and navy - a soft, off-white and a washed-looking navy
- Cost £58 plus VAT
- Ships from London
- Available on the Permanent Style shop here
Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt