How to Wear a Graphic T-Shirt and Still Look Like an Adult

How To Wear A Graphic T Shirt And Still Look Like An Adult Featured

While you might love to wear a graphic t-shirt, they’re not always considered mature attire. It made sense to represent your favorite brands with huge logos in high school and college, but now that we’re all grown up, it’s time for our clothes to grow up, too.

However, you don’t need to go through your closet and throw away all of your graphic t-shirts just yet. There are ways you can wear them while still looking like an adult. Or at least, there are ways to wear some graphic tees while looking grown-up and sophisticated.

Graphic Tees Will Always Be Casual

An important to note is that a graphic t-shirt will always be casual. Depending on the style of graphic, it’ll vary from very casual to less casual. It’s important to realize that any of the advice we offer here will apply to casual situations. You’re never going to wear a graphic tee to a meeting with your work colleagues, no matter how you spin it. Then again, it’s probably not wise to wear a t-shirt to an important meeting whether it has a graphic on it or not.

supreme side by side
the larger print on the right shirt makes it more casual. Image source: supreme

The quickest way to determine where on the casual scale a graphics tee falls is by simply looking at the graphic. Generally speaking, minimal designs will be less casual. Larger, busier prints will fall on the more casual side of the scale. Brand logos and band shirts tend to be more casual, while abstract shirts and all-over prints tend to be less.

Fit Is Everything

Fit is going to be a reoccurring theme when it comes to looking stylish, regardless of what article of clothing you’re talking about, and that’s making sure your t-shirt fits correctly. You don’t want your t-shirt to be too loose around the arms. It’s also important that it doesn’t look like the shirt is pinching your biceps.

As for the all-important torso area, you generally want to be able to pinch an inch or two of fabric on either side of your torso. This applies whether you’re thin or carrying a little extra weight. If you’re on the bigger side, this can be a little hard to get used to, but in the long run, your shirts (whether graphic tees or otherwise) will look better.

If you’re wearing a v-neck, you want the bottom of the collar to line up with your armpit. Any deeper than that and it looks messy.

If you’re going to wear a graphic t-shirt, following these basic fit rules will make the shirt look nicer, rather than looking like something you just wore to sleep in the night before.

Think About What Else You’re Wearing

Your gut might tell you to contrast a printed t-shirt with some more formal pants and shoes. Generally, this isn’t a good idea. Instead of creating a nice contrast, it ends up looking out-of-place. Your upper body is sending a completely different message than your lower body, and it’s better to keep the two separate.

If you’re going to head out of the house in a graphic t-shirt, you’re going to want to do it in a pair of jeans and sneakers. Going any more formal won’t look right and will throw off your whole outfit.

Err on the Side of White or Black

Generally, when you want a graphic tee to look more stylish and less casual, you’re going to want to wear white or black. This creates a clean look that’ll go with any pair of jeans and most outerwear.

image source: uniqlo

When you choose to wear a shirt with a graphic on it, you’re already making a statement, and adding in bright colors or complicated patterns is overkill. We keep coming back to keeping things as simple as possible when it comes to wearing graphic t-shirts, and that applies to the color of the shirt just as much as it does to the graphic on it.

Layer It Up

This actually builds off the last point, because wearing a graphic t-shirt in a simple color allows you to layer it. If you want to make it more formal, and actually have it be less of the focus of an outfit, you can layer up. If you want to stay casual, you can rock a leather jacket over your t-shirt.

If you want to create a more formal look (though one that’s less popular than it was a few years ago), you can actually wear a blazer over your shirt. Going this way will actually open up some more options for pants and shoes, as adding the more formal outwear will let you step up to a pair of nicer shoes and chinos.

Go Graphically!

Unfortunately, a lot of the graphic t-shirts you already own probably don’t fit into these requirements. Most of the ones wore through my younger years were baggy, gaudy, and just not very stylish. But it turns out that a few of the simple band shirts I owned still work today, and we’re willing to bet you still have some shirts in your closet that will work!

If not, consider shopping for a few that are more adult and stylish. It’s a good first step of many on your way to a slicker and more stylish you.

Embrace Denim

You never outgrow denim. It matches most everything and lets you wear graphic t-shirts, while still looking like an adult. Pair your graphic tee with a pair of denim jeans. Wear a slimmer cut if you have a baggier t-shirt. This prevents your ensemble from looking like a grungy teen.

How To Wear A Graphic T Shirt And Still Look Like An Adult Denim
Image source: pexels

Of course, you can keep with the layering theme and wear a denim jacket. This works well whether you’re wearing denim jeans or slacks.

To make it more adult, tuck it in. There are multiple ways to tuck in a shirt, as this guide for women shows. Even a loose tuck shows you’re not just a teen that grabbed the first shirt that didn’t smell off of the dirty clothes pile in your floor.

Understand Your Shirt

A good rule to follow is if you don’t understand or relate to what’s on your shirt, you shouldn’t be wearing it. For instance, wearing a band tee of a band you can’t name any songs from could leave you in awkward situation if someone strikes up a conversation about your shirt.

How To Wear A Graphic T Shirt And Still Look Like An Adult Confident
Image source: pexels

When you relate to what’s printed on your graphic tee, you feel more confident and comfortable wearing it. Part of being a mature adult is being comfortable in your own skin. Wear graphic t-shirts with confidence and it’s hard not to be seen as an adult. After all, look at all the rock stars confidently rocking graphic tees of their own idols.

Wear Them Sparingly

An adult wardrobe has more than graphic t-shirts in it. While you can still wear your favorite graphic tees as long as they fit you well, they shouldn’t be all you wear. Have a healthy mix of solid colors and simple patterns as well as graphic tees. This shows you know how to dress like an adult, but still love the fun and whimsy of graphic t-shirts.

After all, even adults should get to have fun. If your graphic tee makes you feel happier and younger, wear it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do with my old graphic tees?

If you don’t think you can still wear graphic t-shirts you bought years ago, you don’t have to throw them out if you’re attached to them. If they still fit, wear them to lounge around the house. You could also frame a few favorites or collectible shirts. You might even cut out the fronts and backs (if they have graphics on them) and make a graphic tee blanket out of them.

Are graphic tees okay if they're vintage?

Odds are, you’ve noticed the surge in vintage or retro clothing. Part of this is graphic t-shirts featuring retro bands, TV shows, quotes, and other trends from previous decades.

The great part about this trend is it’s more acceptable than ever for adults to wear graphic t-shirts. Just remember, even though it’s trendy, it’s still a casual look and not a formal or business one.

Is it ever okay to wear a graphic tee to work?

Usually, the workplace isn’t the place for graphic tees. However, some highly casual workplaces encourage it. If you’re not sure, pay attention to what others are wearing. You could even ask HR if it’s okay.

Image credit: Corey Watson via Unsplash

Crystal Crowder

Crystal's spent over 15 years as a tech geek who writes about everything from gadgets to lifestyle and everything in between. She not only wants to live her best life, but help others do the same.