Every modern wardrobe is built on tees. They're like the Subway for New Yorkers: a great equalizer, used by the rich and not-so-rich, by artists and bankers and tourists and natives alike.
But unlike that transit melting pot, the basic tee is no samey one-size-fits-all thing. While a $150 model from Maison Margiela and a slick $35 NEED tee both beat the sleeves off a standard Hanes, there are important differences between them
It's important to remember that price alone doesn’t correlate exactly with quality. It's usually a good reference point, but the main indicator of a garment’s value is the material it’s made from. Cotton jersey is a tightly woven, naturally flexible and very insulating material which can hold its shape well. A silk-jersey or rayon, on the other hand, will have more of a draped look. The country in which the garment and fabric are made will affect price and quality as well, with tees made in Europe, the U.S., and other high-wage countries costing more to produce. Seams and hems on higher-end tees will have more stitches and no loose threads. The 6-pack from your local big box is inexpensive (and cheap) because it is made with a looser weave and less time and labor were invested on construction.
So, if the difference between a $1.99 shirt and a $35 model is obvious, what about between a $35 and $150 model? Both are made in either the U.S. or Europe, have no loose seams or dangling threads, and are made from cotton jersey. The luxury tee will inevitably have a few finer details like a heavier cotton and more precisely-fitted shoulders. Sleeve length and width are also given special attention. Overall, high-end designers tend to focus on how exactly the shirt fits at the shoulders, waist, and neckline, so their tees are often more flattering and natural-looking than less expensive styles.