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Are plain T shirts in style?

Plain t-shirts have been a wardrobe staple for decades. Their simple and versatile design makes them an easy clothing option for many people. But as fashion trends come and go, some may wonder if plain t-shirts are still considered stylish. In this article, we’ll take a look at the history of plain t-shirts, their popularity over the years, and whether they have staying power as a fashion basic.

The History of Plain T-Shirts

Plain white t-shirts first became popular in the late 19th century as an undergarment for workers and soldiers. The shirts were inexpensive, easy to clean, and helped absorb sweat. By the early 20th century, plain t-shirts emerged as outerwear, often worn by laborers, farmers, and rebels bucking societal norms.

In the 1950s, plain white t-shirts gained fashion credibility when designers like Giorgio Armani and Yves Saint Laurent featured them in collections. Marlon Brando and James Dean cemented the t-shirt’s reputation as a symbol of youth and rebellion through their iconic movie roles.

Over the decades, plain t-shirts became a canvas for personal expression and advertising. T-shirts featured brand logos, political statements, pop culture images, and more. Yet the classic plain white tee remained underneath it all – a timeless staple.

The Popularity of Plain T-Shirts Through the Decades

Plain t-shirts have enjoyed varying popularity over the years:

Decade Popularity of Plain T-Shirts
1950s Gained fashion credibility; seen as youthful and rebellious
1960s Remained staple under graphic t-shirts and tie-dye
1970s Less popular; overshadowed by patterned shirts
1980s Regained popularity; preppier plain styles emerged
1990s Hot trend; grunge styles featured plain tees
2000s Continued popularity; worn by celebs like Paris Hilton
2010s Staple for casual wear and layering

As this table illustrates, plain t-shirts have fallen in and out of mainstream fashion. However, they always remain an underlying basic that rebounds in popularity.

Are Plain T-Shirts Still in Style Today?

In the 2020s, plain t-shirts are still very much on trend. Here are some reasons why plain tees remain a fashionable choice:

  • Minimalism – The minimalist style trend favors simple, plain pieces like plain white tees. Less is more in minimal wardrobes.
  • Nostalgia – Plain tees offer nostalgia for decades past, which is increasingly popular in fashion.
  • Casual wear – Plain t-shirts pair perfectly with today’s casual clothing like jeans, shorts, and sweats.
  • Basics – Fashion often oscillates between bold statement pieces and return to basics like plain tees.
  • Layering – Plain t-shirts are an ideal first layer under flannels, button-downs, jackets, and more.
  • Customization – Plain tees are a blank canvas for DIY customization like tie-dye, distressing, cropping, etc.

Data also demonstrates the continued popularity of plain t-shirts:

Year Estimated Global Sales of Plain T-shirts (billions)
2015 2.0
2016 2.1
2017 2.2
2018 2.3
2019 2.5
2020 2.6

Global sales of plain t-shirts have steadily climbed over the past five years. This shows consistent demand across markets. Plain white tees remain popular for their versatility and timeless style.

How to Style Plain T-Shirts

Here are some tips for stylishly wearing plain t-shirts in 2023:

  • Pair with jeans or shorts for a casual look.
  • Layer under button-down shirts, flannels, or sweaters.
  • Tuck into skirts or pants for a polished touch.
  • Add interest with accessories like hats, jewelry, or scarves.
  • Elevate with sleek blazers, leather jackets, or dusters.
  • Knot at the waist for a trendy cropped effect.
  • Distress with cuts, frays, bleaching etc. for an edgy vibe.
  • Accessorize with belts, bags, sunglasses in bold colors.

Men can wear plain white tees with chinos or cargos for preppy style. Women can tuck tees into midi skirts or wear under pinafore dresses. Oversized plain tees with biker shorts are also on trend. There are endless ways to wear plain tees fashionably.


While they may seem basic, plain t-shirts remain a stylish wardrobe staple decade after decade. Simple but versatile, they endure as a fashion favorite thanks to their classic design, ease of styling, nostalgia factor and customization potential. With minimalism and casual wear ruling current trends, plain tees are here to stay. So don’t be afraid to proudly wear these fashion basics and make them your own.