Black tees have always been a staple in my closet, as I’m sure it is for a lot of you guys. There’s nothing easier than throwing on a nice-looking black tee with jeans for a casual yet put-together look. But for something so simple, it’s been pretty hard finding the “perfect” one, especially in the ethical fashion space. So I thought I would do a quick review of the various black tees I have and how they’ve held up through the wears.
The picture up top is my current collection of black tees and from left to right and going from oldest to newest they are: Organic by John Patrick (organic cotton), James Perse (made in the USA), Everlane (responsibly made in LA), Grana (responsibly made in China), PACT (Fair Trade GOTS organic cotton).
So here’s the TL;DR version of this review: my favorite one out of those top 5 is the Organic by John Patrick. It’s is by far the oldest (at over 10 years old) and most worn out of all of them but has held up beautifully. Yes the brand and sizing tag fell off and I got a couple holes in the front from snagging it on something (but the holes haven’t grown even after another 5 years worth of washings). But this is one of those beautiful tees that just get better with age. It’s soft and feels vintagey and the black hasn’t faded too much considering its age. The neckline is still in good shape and there’s no fraying at the seams. Not coincidentally this is also the most expensive of the bunch. If you were to buy it brand new, you’re looking to spend about $84 (for one tee!). That’s a lot for a tee. I purchased this one one sale at Barneys for around $65 I think. If I were to purchase another one, I would probably stalk The RealReal for one (currently they have this navy one for $35 and this white one for $35).
My second favorite tee and also second oldest is the James Perse tee. All their tees are made in the US (so if they are following US law, should be made under fair working conditions). James Perse has been a crowd favorite when it comes to casual upscale tees for awhile now. But they produce several different kinds of black tees and not all are equally good IMHO. I think the James Perse tees with a thinner collar at the neckline hold up better than those made with a thicker band (which tends to wrinkle). The ones I like best are I think the relaxed casual tees with a larger neckline (they run a tad small for me, especially since I like my black tees to be on the more relaxed side). The one in the picture up top is actually one I purchased second hand for quite cheap and it’s lasted me at least 8 years so far! And no holes yet in this one and the color hasn’t faded at all. I would also suggest buying these tees used because brand new they go from $60-$80 (and I find them pretty often at my local Crossroads thrift store).
As much as I love Everlane, I don’t love most of their tees (which is too bad since that’s what they started their whole biz on). As you can see in the picture below, the collar of Everlane tees tend to get folded, wrinkled and generally mangled-looking. Also if you happen to get a small hole in your tee, you might as well throw it out because that hole will just grow and grow. Overall, the Everlane ones reads a bit like a cheap tee, especially since it also picks up a lot of lint. I’m slightly allergic to dog hair and so don’t like wearing a tee covered in the stuff (I know I have long-haired dogs so I should be okay with this, but I prefer the dog hair to come out with the lint in the dryer and not stay on my shirt). The one great thing about Everlane black tees though is that they keep their color and don’t fade. Also I will say that Everlane’s cotton crew tees keep the collar shape and are one of my favorite tees (though I like them in other colors since the other colors don’t seem to have the same lint problem as the black one does). I have several cotton crews and are a great choice when you want to cover up your chest to prevent sun damage.
So when it comes to comfort over looks, Grana is my go-to. These pima cotton shirts are super comfortable and are made of a nice smooth thick cotton knit. The collar stays nice and flat and these would be my go-to all the time if it wasn’t for the fading of the color. It does not look great after so many washes and wears. My heather gray tees in the same style though are still looking great and are my go to tees when I want to wear gray. These black ones have now been relegated to PJs.
This is my newest black tee and also my least favorite, and that’s because it is basically the lint catcher in the dryer. If I thought the Everlane black tee picked up too much lint and dog hair, this PACT one is ten times worse. The picture below is of the shirt fresh out of the dryer and there was zero lint on it when it went in. For me to be able to wear this, I would need to use a lint roller every time I clean it, which is just too much of a hassle. So that’s also why the collar still looks pristine. Sorry but I can’t speak to how it wears because I just don’t wear it.
I also added Amour Vert in parenthesis in the title because I also wanted to quickly touch upon their quality of black shirts as well. I no longer have the black tees from them because I found that I never wore them so I ended up selling them. The Amour Vert black tee I had was a black version of their Liv tee (similar here) which is made of 93% modal and 7% spandex. The quality of the tee was very stretchy and spring which did give it a nice draping quality (but in a way a synthetic blend tee does, not a good vintagey cotton tee drape). But I personally didn’t like the stretchiness and prefer my tees to be 100% cotton. Also as mentioned by Alice in the comments below, modal will pill after multiple washes so beware!).
Anyway I hope you found this little comparison guide helpful though it does seem to be a bit useless in telling you you need to spend more money for a good simple black tee. But I guess in this case you do get what you pay for. As for me I’m good with my collection of black tees for now, but if you guys have any recommendations for a 100% cotton ethical black tee I’m open to suggestions to add to this review!