Sometimes, the best style moves are seemingly simple on the surface – but there’s always more than meets the eye. Take the humble pocket T-shirt. We’re big fans of both the history and the style behind the pocket tee here at Primer, and we’ve also talked about how it might be the only casual T-shirt you need this summer.
First worn by service members abroad in World War I and then brought back Stateside, it’s yet another daily style staple that evolved from functional military use into trusted, time-honored civilian wear – like the chino or the field jacket, for instance. That touch of history gives it an air of effortless cool, as does the fact that everyone from James Dean to Daniel Craig has rocked the reliable pocket T-shirt over the years.
It’s also a staple of some of the best casual summer looks. You can wear it all on its own or you can rock it underneath a light layer like a denim jacket or shawl collar cardigan, and it can accommodate many style aesthetics like minimalist, preppy, streetwear, or Americana, all the better for versatility and dependability.
Because of this, it’s one of our obvious picks for upgrading to a higher quality, more unique, or more sustainable version once you’ve realized its wearability on an entry-level option.
You’re in luck in that regard: Plenty of brands are making the classic pocket T-shirt here in the U.S.A., with all the care and attention to detail that goes with that approach. American-made options are labeled below. To amp up your summer style in a way that’s classically cool, shop these Primer-approved picks for the best men’s pocket T-shirts.
American Giant Heavyweight Pocket Tee
The white T-shirt is a timeless classic, without a doubt, and the white pocket T-shirt falls within that same wheelhouse, too. American Giant is a sustainable menswear brand with relationships with their cotton farmers that builds its tee in the States using “sturdy and substantial” jersey fabric, which is going to give this T-shirt some nice structure and shape. That also means it’s easy to wear on its own if the day gets a little breezy – a threadbare tee, this is not.
Taylor Stitch Heavy Bag Tee
The simple T-shirt takes on new meaning in the hands of San Francisco-based Taylor Stitch’s design team. The trick here is the beefy fabric, the kind that drapes well and layers nicely on breezy days (or wears well entirely on its own in the summer heat). The fact that the fabric blend itself is a sustainable mix of upcycled cotton and recycled polyester? That’s even better.
Buck Mason Slub Classic Pocket Tee
When you find a brand as committed to excellence in the small details as Buck Mason, it’s worth shopping them time and time again. Take the company’s founding focus on perfecting the T-shirt. They’ve gone above and beyond with this slub cotton fabric, which will only get better with age. The fit is also on–point, and flatters multiple body types (think trim but not overly tight).
Huckberry Merino Pocket Tee
If you’re new to the world of merino wool, prepare to meet what might just become your new favorite fabric. It’s lightweight and breathable, with anti-microbial and anti-odor properties popping up naturally in the fiber itself. And it’s so durable that Huckberry put these tees to the test for 72 hours of grueling wear – in a row. Merino wool is a pricier option than others on this list, but well worth it when you consider the qualities and versatility.
Relwen Pique Pocket Tee
Relwen draws inspiration from old-school military staples, and then reinterprets it all through a modern lens in terms of fabric and fit. It makes perfect sense, then, that they’d make one heck of a premium pocket T-shirt, using a 5.9oz. Cotton pique fabric that’s at once breathable and substantial. The production makes a difference, too – the ringer collar adds nice visual interest, while blind-stitched sleeves help create a clean, streamlined look.
Goodlife Clothing Slub Pocket Crew
Goodlife knows how to dial in the details as far as men’s basics are concerned – casual wear is the brand’s sole focus, after all. The slub cotton has been pigment-dyed to add texture and depth for the perfect worn-in look, and this subtly stylish pocket tee is also available in a range of suitably sunny, washed-out colors. Best of all is the fact that it’s made right here in the U.S. of A.
Todd Snyder Homespun Slub Pocket Shirt
The classics get a makeover in the hands of Todd Snyder, it seems, and that goes for big-ticket items (like his lauded Dylan Suede Snap Trucker Jacket), as well as the more simple style picks. This pocket T-shirt checks all the right boxes in our book, from the made-in-Los-Angeles construction to the use of garment-dyed cotton for a soft look and feel. Available in a series of colors like this handsome olive or go with classic white to really nail the throwback vibes.
→ Read more: These 32 Men’s Clothing Brands Make Great Style Dead Simple
Flint and Tinder Heavyweight Pocket Tee
You can always count on Flint and Tinder – perhaps Huckberry’s most famous in-house brand – to deliver on rugged style staples aplenty, including a souped-up take on the pocket T-shirt. Premium heavyweight cotton is the kicker here, and it helps that dusty, summer-friendly color options like Sand are a nice change of pace from traditional white or black T-shirts, too. Wear this on its own with light wash jeans and canvas high-top kicks for a casually cool weekend happy hour.
Proper Cloth Slub Pocket Shirt
Can a T-shirt be a bit elegant or even refined? That might seem like an odd concept, but Proper Cloth is looking to flip the traditionally laidback tee on its head with a tee that’s ever so slightly dressy and extremely well-made. Japanese slub cotton – some of the best stuff on the planet – is the real difference maker here. We’d say this is one super-soft T-shirt you can wear with an unlined blazer for a nice mix of high-low summer style.
Everlane Uniform Pocket Shirt with 365 Day Guarantee
There’s a reason why guys like Marlon Brando and James Dean became style icons – they knew the beauty of simplicity, like wearing a simple-yet-rugged T-shirt and dark jeans. It’s fitting, then, that the “tee and jeans” combo continues to work well for guys everywhere – and that’s precisely the idea behind the Uniform line of simple, well-made, nicely priced basics from Everlane, which comes with a 365 day guarantee. Investing in a nicer t-shirt doesn’t have to come with the risk that it won’t hold up. You just found your new go-to smart casual uniform.
String King Pocket Tee
There are T-shirts that feel like they were made for you, and there are T-shirts that really, truly were in fact custom-made for you. That’s the idea behind String King, a sports apparel company that allows you to dial in the perfect fit on a pocket T-shirt, from the fabric to the color to the sleeve length and of course, the fit style itself.
The process is about as premium and well-considered as you could hope for in a T-shirt: For starters, you’re getting made-in-Los-Angeles construction for a mere $30, and they offer free returns. You can also select from soft pima cotton or anti-odor fabric options, another seriously nice touch. And because you can select from Sharp or Relaxed fit options, it’s a great bet for guys who have a tough time finding a proper-fitting T-shirt. Truly, every single detail on this shirt was precisely made just for you.