Mixing casual items with formal ones can work well, but definitely needs to be done the right way to avoid awkwardness. So, can you wear a T-shirt with a suit jacket?
A T-shirt can be worn with a suit jacket in casual and smart-casual settings. Choose a casual-looking suit jacket made from a rugged, wrinkly fabric such as tweed, linen, or chino cloth. In addition, wear a slim-fitting crew neck T-shirt and consider tucking it in.
That’s the short answer, but there’s more to it.
After going through some essential tips for wearing this combination in the best way possible, I’ll talk through a few FAQs on the topic to really round things up nicely.
Let’s get to it.
8 Tips For Wearing A T-Shirt With A Suit Jacket
Consider all of these tips when putting your outfit together.
Only Wear It In Casual Settings
The T-shirt and suit jacket combination should only be worn in casual or smart-casual settings. It should never be worn in formal or even business-casual dress codes.
While the suit jacket may be an emblem of formal attire worldwide, the T-shirt is a staple of casual wear and shouldn’t be thought of as anything more.
No matter how “formal” a suit jacket may look, wearing it over a T-shirt will always dress it down.
It’ll dress it down to a point where it could never be considered anything more than a casual outfit.
This is fine.
In fact, it could make for a great smart-casual outfit.
Think garden parties, sporting events, dinners at mid-level restaurants, and so on.
Once you know the combination would be suitable to wear, it’s time to consider the type of jacket and T-shirt to go for.
Consider A Blazer Or Sports Coat Instead
First, strongly consider whether a blazer or sports coat would look better over a T-shirt than a suit jacket.
In many cases, they would.
Suit jackets look more formal than blazers and sports coats. They come with a matching pair of suit pants made from the same roll of fabric.
Suit jackets are generally more structured and tapered, while blazers have a looser and more relaxed fit.
Blazers are less structured and generally look more casual as a result.
Sports coats look even more casual. They usually have a fit that’s more relaxed than blazers and are even less structured.
They’re also often made from “casual” fabrics with rugged textures – tweed is a good example.
The main point here is that the structured, tapered, and formal appearance of a suit jacket may look more awkward when worn over a T-shirt than a blazer or sports coat would.
This isn’t to say that you can’t wear a suit jacket over a T-shirt – just that there are better options.
If you were still keen on going with a suit jacket, read on to find out how to do it the right way.
The Suit Jacket Should Be “Casual”
When wearing a suit jacket over a T-shirt, try to pick one from a more “casual” suit.
The more casual a suit jacket looks, the more likely it’ll pair well with the ultra-casual vibe of a T-shirt.
Formal suits tend to have more sheen, more structure, and a more tapered fit. Worsted wool is a common fabric used to make formal-looking suits like these.
Features of a more “casual” suit include:
- A more relaxed fit
- Shoulders with less padding
- A less structured appearance
- Made from rugged fabrics with little sheen (eg. linen, tweed, corduroy, chino cloth)
- Generally more wrinkly
A “suit” is simply a jacket and pair of pants made from the same roll of fabrics.
While most people think of shiny business suits made from worsted wool when they hear the word, you can get very casual-looking suits.
The more casual the suit jacket, the better it’ll look when worn over a T-shirt.
Go For A Slim-Fit Crew Neck T-Shirt
A slim-fit crew neck T-shirt would be the best option when wearing one under a suit jacket.
Crew-necks tend to look better than V-necks here because they generally have a more modest and conservative look to them.
As you’d expect, this looks better when you’re wearing a formal item over it.
A chest-revealing V-neck would usually look a little more awkward.
The fit shouldn’t be too baggy or too tight.
A baggy T-shirt worn under a suit jacket would look messy. Baggy items always look more casual than tapered ones.
A slim-fit T-shirt is more likely to look “formal” enough to wear with a suit jacket over it.
Consider Tucking The T-Shirt In
Tucking the T-shirt into your pants when wearing a suit jacket can sometimes make all the difference.
It’ll make the T-shirt itself look smarter than it ever did untucked.
In addition, it’ll make it look more tapered as it’s laid flat against your body.
The combination looks more natural, as most people are used to seeing suit jackets worn over tucked items (usually dress shirts).
Muted T-Shirt Colors
Muted and neutral T-shirt colors look much better than bright and bold ones when wearing a suit jacket.
This is yet another way of making the T-shirt look formal enough to wear with the suit jacket.
Muted, neutral colors look more formal than bolder and more striking colors.
While the term “neutral” can be confusing, in menswear, it’s usually used to refer to colors that are subtle and very easy to combine with other colors.
Neutral colors can form a great foundation over which you can add other items in various different colors.
The most common neutrals you should know about are: white, beige, grey, black, navy blue, khaki, and olive green.
Strongly consider wearing a T-shirt in one of these colors.
Wear Non-Matching Pants
When wearing a T-shirt with a suit jacket, don’t wear suit pants.
Avoid wearing the matching suit pants the suit jacket came with, as wearing a full suit with a T-shirt is very hard to pull off.
It just leads to way more of a formality mismatch, as a full suit will usually look too formal to wear with a T-shirt.
Instead, take the suit jacket and wear it with a non-matching pair of pants.
Chinos work great for this purpose, but dress pants (a.k.a slacks) can work as well.
Pick a pair of pants in a color that contrasts the color of the suit jacket.
For example, a navy blue suit jacket over a T-shirt, with a pair of khakis or olive green chinos.
Contrasting the suit jacket and the pants will lead to a more casual result and make it even more likely that a casual T-shirt will make sense worn under it all.
Loafers Work Well
Loafers are a great option here.
Remember, the T-shirt and suit jacket combo is a smart-casual one.
Picking a pair of smart-casual shoes is important and loafers work really well.
With its slip-on design and laceless construction, the loafer could be thought of as the perfect smart-casual footwear option.
Avoid going for shoes that are too dressy, as they’re unlikely to sync well with a casual T-shirt even when wearing a suit jacket over it.
Oxfords are a no-go for this reason.
Loafers win here, but suede Derbys and monk straps are definitely worth considering too.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few FAQs on the combination to finish up.
Can You Wear A T-Shirt With A Suit Jacket And Jeans?
Avoid wearing a T-shirt with a suit jacket and jeans, as the suit jacket will almost always look too formal to be worn with jeans. A pair of chinos or dress pants would be a better option.
As we’ve seen, suit jackets are already pretty tough to wear with T-shirts as there’s a real risk of a formality mismatch when it’s done the wrong way.
Adding a pair of jeans into the mix makes it even riskier.
There’s just an even bigger risk that the suit jacket doesn’t make sense combined with all of these other casual items.
Can You Wear A V Neck T-Shirt With A Suit Jacket?
Avoid wearing V-neck T-shirts with suit jackets and go for a crew neck T-shirt instead. Crew neck T-shirts tend to look more “formal” and conservative than V-necks. They’re more likely to sync well with a formal suit jacket as a result.
V-neck T-shirts definitely have their place, but usually look more casual than crewnecks simply because of how low-cut they are.
A V-neck T-shirt worn under a suit jacket often looks awkward and out of place. Avoid it if possible.
Can You Wear A Pink T-Shirt With A Suit Jacket?
Pink T-shirts often look too casual to wear with a suit jacket. Muted and neutral T-shirt colors such as white, grey, black, navy blue, and olive green usually look better when paired with formal items such as suit jackets.
While this shouldn’t be considered a “rule”, by any means, sticking to neutral colors for your T-shirt will usually lead to less of a formality mismatch when wearing a suit jacket.
The T-shirt and suit jacket combination isn’t easy to pull off due to the clear difference in formality levels between the two items. However, choosing a casual-looking suit jacket and a neutral, slim-fitting T-shirt should reduce this risk.