T-shirts vs Shirts - What’s the Difference? by Tapered Menswear

T-Shirts vs Shirts - What’s the Difference?

Understanding the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle distinctions between t-shirts and shirts may seem obvious but there are some smaller details that are often overlooked.

So what is the difference between t-shirts vs shirts? The difference between them is lies in formality and structure: T-shirts are casual, usually made of stretchy knit fabric with no collar, while shirts are more formal with a collared, button-up design  that provides a more formal silhouette. 

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Knowing what sets them apart is your secret weapon to looking on point for the given occasion.

So let's delve into the world of these two garments, clarify their similarities, distinctions and provide you with the best fitting t-shirts and shirts for men, right here at Tapered Menswear.

What is a Shirt?

A shirt or referred to as a “dress shirt” by our friends across the pond in the US, is commonly described as a piece of clothing that has a collar, sleeves, with cuffs and buttons running down the front.


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Its history dates back to times, where it started as tunics and gradually transformed into the structured forms we are familiar with today. Whether you call it a dress shirt or a button down they come in a wide range of styles to suit different events and occasions.

What is a T-shirt?

A t-shirt everyone knows, but if you’ve been living under a rock it’s a piece of clothing with a T shaped outline when laid flat.

The t-shirt we're familiar with today evolved from undergarments worn in the century and eventually became a standalone outerwear item in the mid 20th century partly because of its comfort and easy maintenance.


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Why is a Shirt Not Called a T-shirt?

The distinction in naming stems from both form and function. Historically, shirts were designed as a more formal piece of clothing with a structured fit and were part of the outer ensemble.

T-shirts began as undergarments and took on their name from their 'T' shape. This T-shape is absent in traditional shirts which have a more complex construction.

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What is the Difference Between a Shirt and a T-shirt for Men?

Whether it's a men or womens t-shirt they all have the common differences. Lets look into each in more detail: 


Shirts are designed for formality, they bring a structured and polished fit to the table, complete with a collar, a button-up front, and long sleeves with cuffs.

Depending on the fit, they are usually tailored to hug your body, although you can buy regular fit nowadays which are a lot looser. You’ll find them crafted in finer fabrics such as cotton or silk.

On the flip side, T-shirts keep things laid-back. Crafted from comfy, stretchy materials like jersey knit, they are your go-to for a relaxed vibe. Designed to slip on easily over your head, T-shirts come with short sleeves and do away with the collar.


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They hang a bit looser, designed with your comfort in mind, and are often finished with a simple crew neck or a V-neck, keeping things effortlessly cool.


Shirts are typically made from woven fabrics such as cotton, linen, or a cotton-polyester blend, which offer a crisp and formal finish.

These fabrics are chosen for their to present a clean, pressed look suitable for professional and formal settings.

The weave of the fabric can vary from broadcloth to twill, adding subtle texture and sheen.

Nowadays the options for shirt materials are vast!

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T-shirts are generally made from knit fabrics like jersey, which is a soft, stretchy material composed of cotton or cotton blends. This knit construction allows for more give and flexibility, prioritising comfort and casual wear.

The fabric is lightweight with a single knit stitch pattern, providing a relaxed drape that conforms to the body without constraining movement, making it ideal for everyday use.


Shirts feature long sleeves with a high armhole to define the shoulder's shape more precisely, typically ending in a cuff that closes with buttons or cufflinks if it's a double cuff style.

Though shirts can also come in short-sleeved variations, they maintain a closer fit in your arms.

The design of the sleeves is supposed to create a more formal silhouette, fitting close to the arms while still allowing for a range of motion.

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But as mentioned this does also depend on the overall fit of the shirt. Read this article here for more information on other shirt fits

T-shirts, on the other hand, usually have short sleeves that are either set-in with a lower armhole for a casual fit or raglan sleeves that extend in one piece to the collar, offering ease of movement. 

The sleeves of T-shirts are not designed to be close-fitting, providing a relaxed and comfortable wear.

With that being said there are a plethora of t-shirt fits on the market today that offer a much closer fit.

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Shirts are carefully made to ensure a fit and a polished appearance. They come with features, like collars with stays, button plackets, back yokes, darts and cuffs.

These require stitching and assembly to achieve a finish both on the inside and outside of the shirt. The seams are usually flat felled for durability.

On the other hand, T-shirts have a construction with fewer pieces and details. Generally they have a body without side seams or with side seam structure. The sleeves can. 

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Be set in or in raglan style. The neckline is finished with a ribbed band for flexibility. Unlike dress shirts T shirts prioritise comfort and freedom of movement over reinforced areas or interfacing.

They are often mass produced using seams, for speed and stretchability.

Dress Code

Although you can wear shirts for casual settings (depending on the shirt!), they are commonly worn in business settings.

They are a choice for office attire, formal events and ceremonies complementing suits, ties and formal trousers.

By wearing dress shirts you convey a sense of formality and acknowledge the importance of the occasion.

On the other hand T-shirts are associated with wear and align with informal dress codes. They are typically worn for activities, leisurely pursuits and informal gatherings.

But with that being said , their versatility allows them to be dressed up or down as needed while maintaining their association with comfort.

Is Shirt and T-shirt Size Different?

When it comes to sizing, shirt and T-shirt makers take different routes to match their distinct purposes.

Dress shirts go for precision, measured by the circumference of the neck and the length of the sleeves, ensuring that tailored fit that's non-negotiable for formal wear.

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This sizing approach makes sure the shirt sits just right at the neck and the sleeves end precisely where they should on the wearer's arms.

Plus, the fit of the dress shirt's body gets categorised into types like slim, regular, or athletic to further define its shape.

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T-shirts, meanwhile, take a more laid-back approach. They stick to the general sizing labels: small (S), medium (M), large (L), and so on, designed to be forgiving and fit a range of body types comfortably.

They're all about kicking back, with a fit that's more about freedom than conforming closely to every curve and contour.

It's no surprise then that someone might find themselves choosing different sizes for dress shirts and T-shirts, given these varied sizing strategies and the fit each garment aims to achieve.

What is the T in T-shirt Stand for?

The 'T' in t-shirt isn't just for show—it comes from the distinct T-shape the body and sleeves form. This straightforward but telling name has weathered the changing tides of fashion history.

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Crafted to be descriptive, the term 'T-shirt' reflects the garment's design with eloquent simplicity. Its staying power in our fashion vocabulary is as clear as the shape it represents, having been consistently used and recognised since its inception.

T-shirt vs Short Sleeve Shirt

T-shirts, known for their ease and comfort, get their shape from a single piece of fabric for the body, feature a simple round or V-neck without the fuss of buttons, and are crafted from knit fabric that offers both stretch and a laid-back drape. 

Identical to shirts (other than the sleeves!) Short sleeve shirts are cut from a different cloth, both literally and figuratively. 

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They mirror the more formal structure of dress shirts, with added details like collars, a full-length button opening, and sometimes a chest pocket. 

While they take a step back from the formality of their long-sleeved relatives, short sleeve shirts fit right in with business casual needs and situations where a tidy look is called for.

When to Wear Shirt vs T-Shirt?

Choose a T-shirt for casual settings where comfort is key and you want a laid-back vibe. It's perfect for layering or on its own during warmer days.

Opt for a shirt with a collar and buttons for more formal occasions or business events when you’re dressing to impress!

Best Fitting Shirts and T-shirts for Men

In choosing between a shirt and a t-shirt, consider both function and fashion, and how each piece fits into your personal style and the demands of the occasion.

Looking to buy a T-shirt that fits you well and compliments your body? Check out our range of t-shirts at Tapered Menswear which feel like they're tailored for you.

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At Tapered Menswear, we produce T-shirts that work with the curves and contours of your muscular build, to show off the areas you want in the most flattering way.

Each and every component of our T-shirts has been carefully thought out and crafted, so that you get quality and style out of every piece.

Every T-shirt and dress shirt is expertly cut in a V- shape to fit effortlessly to your torso, without an unnecessary fabric hanging around where you really don’t want it to.

Sleeves are also cut close to the biceps, so you never have to worry about that shapeless look ever again.

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The World’s First V-Taper Cut T-Shirt

Fully fitted in chest and shoulders whilst tapering sharply down, giving a tailored look. No more bagginess in the waist.


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Closely Fitted in Biceps

Moulds to your arm and cut to the optimal length to emphasise the bicep peak.


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Stretch Cotton

Super soft, breathable and allows complete freedom of movement.

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