Crewnecks vs V-Necks vs Sleeveless Tank Vests

Caveat Emptor Comparison Series: UNDERSHIRTS & T-SHIRTS

Crewnecks vs V-Necks vs Sleeveless Tank Vests

by Alexander S. Kabbaz, CustomClothier & Haberdasher

The three main styles of men's undershirts and t-shirts are the Crew Neck, the V-Neck, and the Sleeveless Tank - also referred to as a Vest. What is the basic difference between a t-shirt, meant to be worn as outerwear, and an undershirt which is innerwear? In form and style there is none. In use and purpose there are differences.
The fabric used to make each may or may not be different. The most obvious divergence is in purpose for one is meant to be seen; the other not. The preferences of the wearer are paramount in that some like it loose, others skin-hugging, and many somewhere between the extremes.

Undershirts ... and Why

Why wear one? The most often cited reasons are:

  • Absorption of perspiration to keep the dress shirt dry
  • Obfuscation of body hair and nipples
  • Additional warmth on cold days
  • My father always wore one

Sleeveless Tank/Vest, Crewneck, Deep V-neck

Sleeveless Tank, Crewneck, Deep V-neck

The first two reasons have merit for those to whom they apply. Additional warmth? This applies to all and is the only one for me. As a bespoke shirt maker I cut my dress shirts to fit properly sans undershirt.

I might add that a smooth-surface undershirt allows the overshirt to drape more loosely when it would otherwise "stick" to the chest and back due to perspiration.

Insofar as "what Dad wore"? If that's your only criterion grab some sock garters and a 4" wide tie. You'll be all set!

Undershirt Styles ... and Why:

Use of the Crew Neck as an undershirt has an obvious benefit. Because a high crew neck comes up to the collar line of the overshirt, the undershirt's neckline is not visible through even the lightest weight dress shirt.

There are also low crew neck undershirts whose neckline falls at the top of the pectoral muscles and is quite obvious through the dress shirt. Although a number of men wear these, frankly, the reason for their existence has always escaped me. Seeing such a visible neckline through a dress shirt is, at best, untidy and at worst, ugly.

The Deep V-neck also has purpose. When for what ever reason - end of the day; too hot with a necktie - the wearer unbuttons the collar and top button or two of the dress shirt, a crew neck undershirt is quite visible whereas a deep V-neck's neckline cannot be seen.

The Deep V-neck with an open dress shirt

The Deep V-neck Allows Opening the Overshirt

The High V-neck, similarly to the Deep, allows opening of the collar button and sometimes also the top front button depending upon its placement.

And then there is the sleeveless Tank or Vest. In my experiece these are worn more by older fellows than younger ones. The most oft-cited reason is that of not liking the feel of sleeves under a dress shirt. The second reason is "Dad wore 'em".

However, as outerwear, the sleeveless tank shirt - also referred to as a "muscle shirt" - is often used for exercise and gym wear and was made quite popular by Hugh Jackman in the Wolverine movie series.

Deep V-nack vs High V-neck

The Deep V-neck vs the High V-neck

Undershirts ... and Fullness:

The majority prefer their undershirts to fit close to the body somewhere between skin-tight and closely adhering to their body shape. This leaves the dress shirt with the ability to drape on its own merits. Those who prefer a fuller undershirt are willing to put up with the additional fabric between the body and overshirt.


The vast majority of T-shirts sold are Crew necks. Why? "Tradition" ... actually imposed by manufacturers. Their reasoning is simple and exactly what one would expect: The Crew neck is a bit less expensive to make than a properly constructed V-neck.

This is where I usually get flack, not only from manufacturers but also from those who have always gravitated towards the Crew neck. After all, that's the one seen in the vast majority of ads, on TV, and in the movies.

In fact, a High V-neck is optically a much more attractive style for a number of reasons.

Most importantly, the illusion created by the V - a downward pointing arrow - is that of a broader, more muscular chest. The "arrow" directs viewers' eyes away from the neck toward the chest and waist.

For older fellows who have the "turkey neck thing" going on, the tightness of a Crew neck shirt on the neck serves to compress the additional skin into "rolls of fat" emphasizing their presence.

By contract, the High V-neck not only turns viewers' gaze away from the neck, but also by not touching the neck, the additional skin is not compressed and emphasized.

Helluva lot cheaper to buy a few nice High V-neck T-shirts than spend an afternoon with your plastic surgeon!

Crew neck vs. High V-neck

The Crew neck (top) directs the gaze towards the neck whereas the High V-Neck focuses the eyes towards chest and waist


I'll touch on this only lightly - and in a personal way - as the preference of the wearer is key here. My overarching preference is for cotton with 4%-5% Lycra or pure Sea Island cotton which I find well worth the added expense. Cotton, assuming it is of a good, long-staple variety, offers comfort and breathability. A hint of Lycra keeps the shirt close to the body allowing the dress shirt to drape on its own merits. On the colder Winter days I'll switch to a smooth-surfaced MicroModal for its warmth. MicroModal, an "organic" synthetic, is made using of Australian beech trees through the viscose process. Unlike inorganic synthetics such as acrylic, polyester and microfiber, organic synthetics are skin friendly and produce no allergic reactions. Finally, for extreme cold activities such as skiing I'll probably switch to a cashmere/cotton blend. Again, the cotton offers comfort and the cashmere extreme warmth.

An interesting side note here. Bresciani, realizing the need for breathability in their undershirt, makes their bottoms - briefs and boxers - from a slightly heavier fabric offering more support. The undershirts are created of a lighter version of the same fabric which allows greater air circulation. This unique treatment is unlike any other. Having worn these I can attest to the fact that Bresciani's unique goal is well-realized.

Thank you for reading. Please don't hesitate to contact the author with any questions or comments.

Copyright © 2019 Alexander Kabbaz. All rights reserved.