The T-shirt is the essential building block of any travel wardrobe.
The legend of El Dorado seduced generations of Spanish conquistadors. The promise of the fabled City of Gold even lured Sir Walter Raleigh to the New World. Of course, no one ever found the place, owing to the fact it didn’t exist. But the tale reminds us of our own seemingly eternal and fruitless search for the perfect T-shirt to take on the road.
T-shirts are perfect for travelers. They can be dressed up or down, they’re light and breathable, they go with everything, and they take up minimal space in a suitcase. Because the travel tee is so fundamental, the standards for it are high, which is probably why you feel like you’ve been searching for the perfect one your whole life, with little success.
Is the El Dorado of travel wear, aka the perfect tee, a futile quest or does it actually exist? In the spirit of those intrepid explorers of the 17th century, we set out to find the perfect tee. While we would have welcomed the chance to ply the jungles of Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil like those 17th-century trailblazers, we ended up searching the Web instead (sigh). What are the characteristics of the El Dorado tee? High-quality yet hassle-free, easily washable, quickly dryable, unfussy, resilient, cool and non-boring.
Here’s what we found.
Top Picks for You
Get Out of the Boxy T-Shirt Box
Didn’t know “performance cashmere” was a thing? The Laurel Performance Cashmere Tee by MPG weaves together modal and cashmere to create a hassle-free, luxury-feel tailored tee. The advanced tee is designed for the active person who cares about luxury. It’s incredibly lightweight with a high-low hem, a classic drape, and darts in the back. Those thoughtful details steer it clear of unflattering boxy tee territory and into flattering land. Available in black, charcoal grey, and dusty blue.
Wrap Yourself Up in a Wrap Tee
The Reese Short-Sleeve Wrap Tee by Modern Citizen is basically a wrap dress in T-shirt form. The cropped version elevates the basic wardrobe staple to a whole new level. It comes in black and white.
The Love Child of a Kimono and a T-Shirt
What happens when you take the building block of the classic American wardrobe item and dress it up with wide square-cut kimono-shape sleeves? You get the Kimono-Shape Sleeve Jersey Top by Cos. Made from a substantial cotton jersey, you can throw it in the washing machine. We love it in white but we really love it in (Fodor’s) orange.
A Living, Breathing Tee
The Made It T-shirt is Aday’s take on the silk tee. A mix of nylon and elastane, the lightweight, sweat-wicking, wrinkle-free tee has built-in UV protection. Our favorite model of the shirt has laser-cut perforation in the front & back so your skin can breathe while you’re making tracks. In five color combos.
The People’s Tee
Can 1,700 people be wrong? This democratically priced crewneck tee, which comes in a two-pack, is the Number 1 bestselling women’s tee on Amazon. Just the right blend of cotton, modal, and spandex, it gives just the right amount of breathability and stretch. Offered in more than 30 color combos.
The Watch Your Back Tee
We couldn’t choose between these two genius tees from the famous clog brand, No. 6, so we are including them both. The Draped Back Tee in Off-White by Sakaya Davis offers a delightful detail with an adjustable neck strap in back. The Back Cropped Tee in White similarly shakes things up with an adjustable cinched hole in the back. It can be worn tight to the body or in a slightly oversized shape. Both are made in Japan of organic cotton and come in One Size only.
The $100 Tee
If you have a Benjamin to throw at a T-shirt purchase, you couldn’t be better served than to direct it over to the Vintage T by Frank and Eileen, whose T-shirt game is perfect. This company actually has something called a Tee Lab and works exclusively with a centuries-old, family-owned, fabric mill in Northern Italy. We are in love with the body-flattering side slits and the curved raw hem. (And the fact that it comes in a dozen colors.)
The T-Shirt for the Purist
If you believe a tee needs to be pure cotton with no stretchy man-made fabrics, we feel you. Consider the Women’s SS Crew by The Classic T-shirt Company. Made of 100 percent preshrunk organic cotton, this tee always snaps back to its original shape no matter how many times you wash it. In white, black, navy blue, and light pink.
The Tee That Put the V in V-Neck
There are two types of people in this world. Those who prefer the crew-neck and those that opt for the V-neck. For those in the latter category, the Love Tee V by lululemon gives just the right amount of V. Made of Pima Cotton with a dash of Lycra for shape retention, it comes in eight color options.
A Variation on the V Tee
Another V-neck option in a sustainable hemp/cotton mix is the Paige V-Neck by Jungmaven, a brand that is made in the USA. The wider V feels more relaxed. It comes in 16 colors so you can wear one color every day of your next two-week vacay.
The Extra Tee
For those who have to be fully extra about everything they do and wear, we present the Metallic Scoop-Neck Short-Sleeve T-Shirt by Majestic. We’re not even going to go through the specs because the only thing that matters is that it’s shiny! What else do you need to know?.
The Tee for Guys
The Slub Curved Hem Tee by Buck Mason is arguably the most perfect tee for men ever made. It’s the kind of perfect that will make normally honest people “borrow” it from their boyfriends and never return it. It’s a loose-knit, lightly textured, slub cotton miracle of a tee. Choose the classic hem or the curved hem in a neutral spectrum of 18 hues that include names like Coal Venice Wash, Silver Sage, Resin and Elm.
The Girly Girl’s Tee
For the ladies who like their T-shirts ladylike, the Cloud Tee with Puff Sleeves by Veronica Beard should do the trick. The princess sleeves and ruffle trim femme up the staple. Made in Peru of 100 percent Pima cotton.
The Literal El Dorado Tee
If none of these picks is the ideal tee for you, we get it. A T-shirt is a highly personal business. For you, we recommend the El Dorado Kansas Timeless Retro Women’s Tri-Blend T-Shirt by Hometown Apparel. Because it turns out El Dorado does actually exist. In Kansas. Who knew?