We tried on white t-shirts from 5 popular stores and figured out the only brand worth buying

White t shirt comparisonMegan Willett/INSIDERWhich t-shirt is the best buy?

The INSIDER Summary:

• White t-shirts vary wildly in price and quality.
• We purchased white tees from popular retailers to see which was the best.

We all need a go-to white t-shirt.

In our dream world, all white tees would be soft and comfortable, priced right, neither tight nor baggy, and opaque enough to be worn on their own.

But does that fantasy shirt really exist? We wanted to find out.

So we picked up standard tees from a range of bargain and higher-end retailers on a quest to discover the best buy. Here are the five we tried on:

Then, we evaluated each shirt based on five criteria: Softness, opacity, fit, quality, and price.

Each shirt could earn a maximum of two points for each category, earning a total score from 1 to 10. Here’s how they fared, from worst shirt to best:

5. Hanes was at the bottom of the pack.

Megan Willett/INSIDERSoftness: 0/2; Opacity: 1/2; Fit: 0/2; Quality: 1/2; Price: 1/2

Hanes is the white t-shirt standard bearer, but this v-neck fell short compared to other offerings.

We found a three-pack of white v-necks with suggested retail price of $29 — that’s nearly $10 a shirt. Luckily, at Marshalls, they were marked down to $12.99, or just over $4 a shirt. But the discounted price couldn’t make up for this shirt’s itchy, uncomfortable fabric and odd, chemical smell.

Hanes did perform better than average on opacity, since this shirt was thicker than most of the other competitors.

TOTAL: 3 out of 10

4. Old Navy’s shirt was way, way too oversized.

Megan Willett/INSIDERSoftness: 1/2; Opacity: 1/2; Fit: 0/2; Quality: 1/2; Price: 1/2

Old Navy is a mainstay for inexpensive basics like tees — this one retails for $12.94. We just wish it was a bit less transparent and a bit more fitted.

Our model normally wears a medium, but the medium looked so big we purchased a small — and she still felt like she was swimming in it. The Old Navy tee also lacked the softness that set the top three apart. (PS: Excuse the water splatter on the shoulder: We got a little zealous with the garment steamer.)

TOTAL: 4 out of 10

3. Gap had the softest t-shirt, but it was also very see-through.

Megan Willett/INSIDERSoftness: 2/2; Opacity: 0/2; Fit: 0/2; Quality: 2/2; Price: 1/2

True, this t-shirt was shaped more like a tent than a human body — and it suffered from major opacity problems (check that painfully visible tag in the back!). But this $24.95 tee was also the softest out of any we tried.

And if you’re a person who prefers a very relaxed fit, this could be the one for you.

TOTAL: 5 out of 10

2. J.Crew had one of the best fits.

Megan Willett/INSIDERSoftness: 1/2; Opacity: 1/2; Fit: 2/2; Quality: 2/2; Price: 0/2

It’s tough to justify spending $29.50 on a t-shirt, we know, but this tee had a knockout combination of super-soft fabric and a more flattering fit: The v-neck fell in just the right place and the waist was slightly tapered.

Our only qualms? It’s pricey and not quite as opaque as we’d like, which knocked this shirt from our number one spot.

TOTAL: 6 out of 10

1. H&M was the clear winner across categories.

Megan Willett/INSIDERSoftness: 1/2; Opacity: 1/2; Fit: 2/2; Quality: 2/2; Price: 2/2

We set out to compare v-necks, but the H&M location closest to INSIDER HQ didn’t have any on display. We selected a scoop-neck instead — and it immediately rose above the rest.

For one, it features the thickest fabric of any shirt we tried: A slightly stretchy blend of cotton and elastane that felt more luxurious and expensive than the other retailers 100% cotton shirts. And even though it wasn’t completely opaque (seriously, does any manufacturer make a truly opaque white t-shirt?!) it was by far the least see-through of the bunch.

We also loved the close-but-not-clingy fit, and the rock-bottom price: Each single shirt costs $5.99, or 2 for $10.

TOTAL: 8 out of 10

The bottom line:

Alas, we still haven’t found the perfect white tee of our dreams — our number one H&M pick only earned an 8/10 on our scale.

There are also lots of wear-and-tear factors that determine a tee’s ultimate worth (How does it hold up after 100 washes? How fast will the pits stain?), but when it comes to the look and feel of a brand new shirt, H&M still bested the competition.

If it’s softness you want, go to Gap, and if you’re looking to spend, J.Crew has a nice offering, too.

Did we forget your favourite t-shirt brand, or is there something else you want us to try? Send us an email: [email protected] and [email protected]

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