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Some of our favorite T-shirts are lot closer to a double cheeseburger than a light salad: they're indulgent, beefy, and, apparently, provoke synesthesia. We're talking about the best heavyweight T-shirts, of course. They're the kind of tees that make you feel like you're being hugged ever-so-gently by a layer so delightfully cozy you'll never want to shimmy out of its embrace—except unlike that double cheeseburger, they won't leave your breath smelling faintly of caramelized onions.
Heavyweight T-shirts differ from their lighter counterparts in a few ways. Because the fabrics involved are thicker, their drape tends to be less flowy and more, well, stiff. They'll get softer with wash and wear, but they operate at a standard level of beefiness the lightweight competition can only hope to approximate. They also retain heat better, so they'll be a regular player in your wardrobe's starting five during the cooler months. Perhaps most important, though, the best heavyweight T-shirts are built tough, and built to last. And since we're talking about a garment that's as elemental as it essential, that longevity actually matters.
So you're that guy—you want hard numbers. Well, this is where things get a little hazy. Fabric weight is measured in ounces-per-square-yard. (For reference, the average pair of jeans is made from denim that weighs around 12-13 ounces; a standard T-shirt usually weighs somewhere around 4-5 ounces.) What gets confusing is how, exactly, individual brands draw the lines between their weight classes. Some brands classify 6-ounce tees as heavyweight, while others might bill them as merely midweight.
On top of that, still other labels measure their fabrics in grams per meter, regardless of their country's system of measurement—and simply converting the numbers from metric to imperial won't quite do the trick. So the not-so-short answer is that most heavyweight T-shirts start at around 6 ounces and can go up to around 9 ounces. (If we're talking GSM, that's about 200GSM to 290GSM). Some truly wild options damn near break the scales at 14 ounces, but that's really more like heavyweight sweatshirt territory. While numbers are objective (at least in theory), they can still translate to a subjective experience. Which is why we handled each and every one of the options below ourselves, and what we lack in fancy laboratory-grade measuring equipment we make up for in good ol' hands-on experience. And besides, who would you rather take your styling cues from—a scientist or a menswear expert? We thought so.
If this were the Grammys, Kirkland Signature would be Beyoncé. We could've anointed its signature crewneck the best budget heavyweight T-shirt or the best value heavyweight T-shirt. We could've given it the crown for best heavyweight T-shirt overall, too, if not a Lifetime Achievement Award for its ongoing contributions to the genre. Because for a tee that costs less than $10 per unit, it has some surprisingly stellar specs. It's made from 205GSM combed cotton (a notch lighter than the beloved 3sixteen option further down the list), comes with taped neck seams and a classic cut, and is best bought exactly as it's sold, in a 6-pack you can scoop with express shipping any time you need to re-up.
3sixteen's heavyweight T-shirt is not messing around. The fabric—knit in Canada exclusively for the brand—weighs in at a chunky 260GSM, and it has a silky hand and a dense, structured feel. On top of that, it's built with a sturdy triple-needle coverstitched collar, so while the fabric will get softer with age, the collar will retain its shape over time. Oh, and it's entirely resistant to shrinkage, too.
If you wandered into the GQ office on any given day of the week, there's a good chance you'd spot a handful of folks wearing this exact tee. The Christophe Lemaire-designed sub-label is a reliable source of thoughtful menswear at prices that belie the quality involved, and its tee consistently tops our list. It's made from a substantial all-cotton jersey with a dry hand and a boxy fit, along with a thick, vintage-inspired bound collar. At just $20, it ain't the cheapest option out there, but it's probably one of the best values. If our word isn't enough to convince you, maybe the fact that Tyler, the Creator swears by 'em will.
Carmy's got great taste in T-shirts. We should note that this is just one of the tees he wears in The Bear (unsurprisingly, the other one makes a cameo immediately below), but it merits inclusion here for reasons beyond its buzzy silver screen pedigree. Merz B. Schwanen makes its tees on ultra-rare loopwheel knitting machines that lend the fabric a dreamy drape and an incredibly dense, inexplicably soft feel. (They're known to shrink a solid amount, so you might want to size up.) It's one of the best slim-fitting tees out there, but if you're looking for a version that's slightly more relaxed, keep scrolling.
Before solidifying Jeremy Allen White's spot between Marlon Brando and James Dean on the Mt. Rushmore of great T-shirt-wearers, Whitesville was a defunct American brand resuscitated by the Japanese. Naturally, the brand's tees are made with exacting era-appropriate accuracy and exceedingly good construction: the jersey fabric, cut from long-staple combed cotton, weighs in at 7 ounces, and is made using a tubular knitting construction that does away with any pesky side seams.
You might not be familiar with Pro Club's tees, but their chunky 6-ounce fabric—in tandem with their old-school, no-frills design—says you care about your style, but not in an obsessive kind of way. Think of of its long-sleeve T-shirt as a hole in the wall restaurant that doesn't bother catering to the cool kids, but inevitably ends up attracting them anyway.
Lady White Co. has served certified T-shirt obsessives since its inception, and its Rugby crewneck is the heaviest in its arsenal, clocking in at a whopping 10 ounces of premium jersey. It's cut, sewn, and knit entirely in Los Angeles—an anomaly in the T-shirt world—and the boxy fit and tight neckline reference Hanes' legendary Beefy T, taken to a sublime extreme. There are plenty of artisanal tees on this list that aficionados will love, but like your homie who insists on bantering with the sommelier, some people just get excited seeing a California label.
Remember James and the Giant Peach? Buck Mason's Field-Spec tee is a lot like the titular stone fruit—thick, airy, and ludicrously soft. Unlike the peach in the movie, though, it's not cartoonishly large; the silhouette leans a just a touch relaxed and slightly shorter than others on this list, which makes it perfect for wearing untucked (and ideal for all you short kings).
Gird your torso: Camber's 302 max-weight tees feel a little like wearing a brick wall. The cult-loved American brand makes T-shirt that are hardy, stiff, and beefy in a way that reassures you you'll enjoy a long life together. If that sounds intimidating, just imagine the drawn-out journey of actively watching (and feeling) your T-shirt get better and better over time. That's what we call personal growth, people.
Front General is one of the best vintage haunts in New York City (and one of the best clothing stores in the world, period), but if the cavalcade of rare secondhand garms doesn't keep you coming back, its in-house line of basics certainly will. We're not exactly sure what they weigh in at, but the retailer's tees feel a hair heavier than 3sixteen's and boast a slightly dryer, rougher hand—though not quite as rough as the Uniqlo option above. Plus, they're made in Japan with no side seams and a sturdy ribbed collar. What more reason do you need to hightail it over there (or make your way to its deceptively extensive website), stat?
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By The Editors of GQ
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