Thermal T-shirts are the unexpected trend creeping into menswear

Tom Barker

There’s a certain apathy around oversized fits currently. The type of ‘been there done that’ which causes fashions cyclical nature. They are not out of fashion, but eyes are wandering towards what’s next and, as is so often the case, the next fashion phenomenon is the complete opposite to the previous trend.


It may be the Hedi effect or it may be the growing up of streetwear, but the past few menswear seasons have seen a seismic shift towards a focus on tailoring, much of which has been cut close to the body to expert precision. To match this move towards a more tailored slim silhouette, t-shirts are turning skintight, in complete contrast to the oversized fits we have become accustomed to.

The seeds of this trend were planted last year when Jean Paul Gaultier’s tattoo shirts came back out of archives and onto the backs of influencers on Instagram. The T-shirts act a second skin for the wearer, mimicking the effect of having a body covered in tattoos. As the resale value on these tops rose, similar styles quickly made their way onto the racks of fast fashion boutiques and influencer labels to eventually kill off a short-lived fashion moment.

This, however, has not stopped tight underlayers coming to the forefront of outfits, trend-setting labels such as Off-White, Misbhv and 1017 ALYX 9SM (in collaboration with Nike) have all put their own twist on thermal shirts that directly reference sportswear, taking an athleisure angle on the trend. High fashion boutique LNCC is even stocking a Nike mid-layer shirt as it’s only t-shirt from the brand, proving that they believe this could be a big trend in the industry.

Jonathon Anderson certainly agrees that the skinnier the better for this seasons T-shirt selection, showing models in skintight long sleeves for his own label JW Anderson as well as Loewe. These came without the loud prints and colours but were made to look refined and luxurius. Also taking an approach that focuses less on loud prints, Pieces Uniques and Staatsballet have both put their twist on the form-fitting tops, choosing to use thumb holes for a practical design.

Deciding throw function out of the window, GMBH’s Fall 2020 collection presented a mock necked thermal long sleeve with thumb holes at the end that had holes cut into the fabric running along the sleeves and body of the t-shirt. Paired with high waisted trousers this produced a sophisticated look with a seductive quality to it.

If you are now convinced that these practical T-shirts that have been reserved for high performance sports are a must have in your wardrobe, here are some of our favourite ways they have been styled on Instagram.


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