Look, we can all admit that a graphic tee isn’t the most stylish thing to wear as an adult. It made sense to represent your favorite brands with huge logos in high school and college, but now that we’re all grown up, it’s time for our clothes to grow up, too.
However, you don’t need to go through your closet and throw away all of your graphic t-shirts just yet. There are ways you can wear them while still looking like an adult. Or at least, there are ways to wear some graphic tees while looking grown-up and sophisticated.
Graphic Tees Will Always Be Casual
An important to note is that a graphic t-shirt will always be casual. Depending on the style of graphic, it’ll vary from very casual to less casual. It’s important to realize that any of the advice we offer here will apply to casual situations. You’re never going to wear a graphic tee to a meeting with your work colleagues, no matter how you spin it. Then again, it’s probably not wise to wear a t-shirt to an important meeting whether it has a graphic on it or not.
The quickest way to determine where on the casual scale a graphics tee falls is by simply looking at the graphic. Generally speaking, minimal designs will be less casual. Larger, busier prints will fall on the more casual side of the scale. Brand logos and band shirts tend to be more casual, while abstract shirts and all-over prints tend to be less.
Fit Is Everything
Fit is going to be a reoccurring theme when it comes to looking stylish, regardless of what article of clothing you’re talking about, and that’s making sure your t-shirt fits correctly. You don’t want your t-shirt to be too loose around the arms. It’s also important that it doesn’t look like the shirt is pinching your biceps.
As for the all-important torso area, you generally want to be able to pinch an inch or two of fabric on either side of your torso. This applies whether you’re thin or carrying a little extra weight. If you’re on the bigger side, this can be a little hard to get used to, but in the long run, your shirts (whether graphic tees or otherwise) will look better.
If you’re wearing a v-neck, you want the bottom of the collar to line up with your armpit. Any deeper than that and it looks messy.
If you’re going to wear a graphic t-shirt, following these basic fit rules will make the shirt look nicer, rather than looking like something you just wore to sleep in the night before.
Think About What Else You’re Wearing
Your gut might tell you to contrast a printed t-shirt with some more formal pants and shoes. Generally, this isn’t a good idea. Instead of creating a nice contrast, it ends up looking out-of-place. Your upper body is sending a completely different message than your lower body, and it’s better to keep the two separate.
If you’re going to head out of the house in a graphic t-shirt, you’re going to want to do it in a pair of jeans and sneakers. Going any more formal won’t look right and will throw off your whole outfit.
Err on the Side of White or Black
Generally, when you want a graphic tee to look more stylish and less casual, you’re going to want to wear white or black. This creates a clean look that’ll go with any pair of jeans and most outerwear.
When you choose to wear a shirt with a graphic on it, you’re already making a statement, and adding in bright colors or complicated patterns is overkill. We keep coming back to keeping things as simple as possible when it comes to wearing graphic t-shirts, and that applies to the color of the shirt just as much as it does to the graphic on it.
Layer It Up
This actually builds off the last point, because wearing a graphic t-shirt in a simple color allows you to layer it. If you want to make it more formal, and actually have it be less of the focus of an outfit, you can layer up. If you want to stay casual, you can rock a leather jacket over your t-shirt.
If you want to create a more formal look (though one that’s less popular than it was a few years ago), you can actually wear a blazer over your shirt. Going this way will actually open up some more options for pants and shoes, as adding the more formal outwear will let you step up to a pair of nicer shoes and chinos.
Unfortunately, a lot of the graphic t-shirts you already own probably don’t fit into these requirements. Most of the ones wore through my younger years were baggy, gaudy, and just not very stylish. But it turns out that a few of the simple band shirts I owned still work today, and we’re willing to bet you still have some shirts in your closet that will work!
If not, consider shopping for a few that are more adult and stylish. It’s a good first step of many on your way to a slicker and more stylish you.
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