But what do you do when they are no longer pristine? Guest blogger Dino Bonacic lists ten ways to work those ratty tees.
Not by scientific findings, but by plain common sense, the white t-shirt is all of the above and much more.
Possibly loose or possibly skin-tight, made out of polyester or perhaps in the finest organic cotton, a white short-sleeved t-shirt is a piece worth holding on to. It's not defined by age, gender, body type or sexual orientation – everyone can wear it. In this age of over indulging in those “BUY! BUY! BUY!” tags jumping out of every virtual and physical corner, here are 10 reasons why you shouldn't just put it in the bin.
No 1: A hole is not a bad thing
When life gives you lemons, make the nicest lemon pie. Simply put, when you’ve worn out your t-shirt and it has started looking like a fine Swiss Emmental cheese, do not think of throwing it away. If there ever was a moment in your life you thought of embracing your inner punk, give your old and ratty white tee another chance – Vivienne Westwood would definitely approve.
No 2: Trend-less-ness
Forget about everything new and amazing that's going on – it's just a white t-shirt. If there's a time and a place to have a no-nonsense attitude in fashion, white tee time is definitely it – any cut or textile you've got in your wardrobe will go with that favourite pair of jeans of yours. There are always seasonal must-haves, but don’t treat your little (or big) white t-shirt as a trend, but as an investment. Just because it’s cheap, it doesn’t mean you need a new one.
No 3: Memories
This may be the hoarder in me talking, but clothes definitely have a way of re-telling stories you went through while wearing them; and a white t-shirt is a common companion. Instead of casting it off, just remember the last time you had fun while wearing it. Do you still want to change it?
No 4: A carbon diet
If you weren't aware before, there is a little thing called a carbon footprint, which counts how much greenhouse gas emissions all your life decisions have produced. Yes, it's absolutely impossible to accurately calculate it, but consumerism and overproduction are two of the biggest growing factors in that equation. Slow your pace down, and think twice before buying a new t-shirt.
No 5: Google your favourite celebrity/blogger/style icon
They all wear it – each in their own (or their stylist's) special way, so you are bound to either get -new ideas on how to wear your old torn piece (see: Kristen Stewart) or maybe feel cool about yourself because one of them is wearing the white tee with a leopard coat and a pair of hot pants -just like you did last summer (see: Alexa Chung).
No 6: Drink it up
Yes, it's true – producing cotton t-shirts uses lots of water. More accurately, the production of a single one takes around 2,700 litres. Wouldn't it be better to leave that for all of us to drink, and leave your t-shirt on for a while?
No 7: Let it dye
Yes, bleach is not the most environmentally friendly chemical, but it’s still way less wasteful than throwing away and/or buying a new top. When your favourite white tee has gone into a not-so-hot shade or attracts a couple of resilient stains, give it a little colour makeover.
No 8: Parent trap
Inspiration goes a long way, and if you don't find celebrities to be style icons, try looking at the supermodels within your own household. Look at your parent’s or grandparent’s old photos – they most probably owned a white t-shirt, and wore it in a style you never even thought of.
No 9: Inside out
Maison Martin Margiela has built its aesthetic on the very subversive way of repurposing and wearing common objects in a slightly off-kilter way. Why not start with the basic and just wear your plain t-shirt on the “wrong” side. But don't forget to snap the tag off.
No 10: Mop away
Finally, if your t-shirt becomes truly unusable in terms of wearing, don't just think it's over because it's still got a whole other life. Convert your t-shirt DIY style into a mop. In-store cotton mops are a true environmental no-no, so repurposing is definitely the way to go. And remember, cotton mops make the best hard-surface cleaners.
This article was originally written for Again Magazine, created by students from the MA Fashion Journalism course at the London College of Fashion and inspired by the ethos of Love Your Clothes.