Experimentation: Tee Shirts and Trousers

Tee’s and trousers.  Can they work?  I think so.

Tee shirts used to be seen as underwear, worn beneath button up shirts. Most people think it was Marlon Brando in Streetcar Named Desire  that popularized the view that tees could be worn on their own.  Other recall that greasers rebelled against the styles of the 1950’s/post-war period and began wearing their “undergarments” outside.  While these may be true, history has shown us that tee shirts have been worn by themselves for quite some time.  Big thanks to my pal Florian from GoldenEraSuits; all the pictures were taken from his reblogs!



Denim was definitely available ever since the 1920s, but they were still seen as a working class piece.  So instead of wearing a tee shirt with jeans as many guys do today, gentlemen in the 1930’s-1950’s wore them with normal trousers!  They varied from plain or striped to even ones with text! This was the ultimate streetwear.


No breaks?  This guy knows the importance of good tailoring.

Note the fit of these shirts.  They are fitted in the body and the sleeve, which is a huge contrast to shirts now.  Personally, I prefer a shirt that fits snugly but not too tight.  However,  I am really in love with this idea of a tight shirt and straight-slim pants.  It’s a subtle high-low outfit!  As in my polo shirt post, we can learn two things:  fitted is better and the 1990’s ruined everything.  


1938 – Frederic Prokosch


Secondly, note that these shirts are all crew necks.  I firmly believe that crew necks can be worn out, but v-necks deserve to be undershirts ONLY.


1937 – Fred Astaire’s choreographer Hermes Pan (on the left) wearing a tee and cuffed trousers.


This outfit is heavily inspired by this picture of two Japanese-American teens.  They’re wearing pretty fitted striped crew neck tee shirts with some epic high-waisted drop looped pants.  These details on the pants mark this picture taken in the mid 1940’s.

While I have plenty of vintage trousers, I decided to do some experimentation with by channeling the look with a modern interpretation using  modern pieces.  Keep in mind that my trousers are not as  roomy like vintage ones or overly tight like modern ones; these are the perfect fit of slim-straight, which creates the straight-line aesthetic that I do. Combined with a no-break pant, I don’t think the outfit looks half bad!  Anything too baggy or ill-fitting will not look as good.


Since it was pretty hot, going with cream cotton trousers and sockless tassel loafers was a no brainer.  Dealing with warm weather isn’t an excuse to dress without style! I really think that this look could be repeated with linen pants for a perfectly comfortable spring outfit.




A vintage bomber jacket completes this 1940’s inspired look!

Personally I think that when everything fit well, it looks great.  I’m not saying that this is an excuse for you to wear tee shirts to the office, but it’s definitely an inspiration for your casual wear.  When it gets hot, don’t let your dress pants go to waste! Pop on a tee! Don’t look at GQ’s latest trends; sometimes the best inspiration comes from the past.

Tell me what you guys think of this experiment by commenting below!  Do you think we can take a page from the Golden Era of men’s fashion and try tee shirts and trousers? Or do you think that we’ve evolved to a point where tee’s are only casual wear and can’t be elevated?

Always a pleasure.

Ethan W.

Street x Sprezza

Photography by Gabrielle U. 


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