If there’s one item in your wardrobe you can always count on, it’s a white T-shirt. Trends come and go, but throughout history, the humble white crewneck has never run its course as a menswear staple. Chances are, you already have more than one stowed away.

Once a Second World War uniform regulation, the white T-shirt has an illustrious history. Starting life as an undergarment, way back in the medieval period, before eventually becoming a part of the British naval uniform, it wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that brands such as Fruit Of The Loom began manufacturing white T-shirts in bulk. Picked up later by the likes of Chanel in the 1920s, it soon became a fast-fashion staple. After all, everything Chanel does, others will copy.

Over time, its simplicity has been a blank canvas for portraying the age we live in. Whether a symbol of the working class (just look at the iconic photos of the workers constructing the Empire State Building) or rebellious teens (see James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause) it has long served as a men’s fashion staple. The white T-shirt has been championed by everyone from Kurt Cobain to John Travolta’s Danny Zuko and its staying power is second to none – Harry Styles, David Beckham and Robert Pattinson are all advocates of the humble white T-shirt. It’s easy to see why – going with absolutely everything, worn under a suit or with a pair of jeans in any colour, it is fashion’s safest bet.

Here, we’ve outlined what exactly to look for in the perfect white T-shirt, along with a selection of the very best you can buy for every budget.

What’s the best material for a white T-shirt?

Unless you’re shopping for a white T-shirt to work out or play sports in (in which case, a sweat-wicking polyester is probably best), you should ideally be looking for cotton, due to its lightweight, breathability and ultra-durability. For extra softness and breathability, some brands have also delved into lyocell fabrics, which is especially popular for those more loungewear-centric styles.

How should a white T-shirt fit?

A tighter fit could prove flattering for musclier men, so you might consider buying lighter-weight cotton T-shirts that cling to the body better, à la James Dean. Alternatively you can accentuate a svelte physique by going a size down in a heavier cotton. For looser fits, look for a T-shirt on which the seams fall below the shoulder. Otherwise, hit a happy menswear middle ground by coveting a seam that sits perfectly on the shoulder.

How should I wash a white T-shirt?

White T-shirts can be particularly prone to stains, be it a clumsy spill or discolouration under the pits (our guide to the best men’s deodorants should soak some of that up, though). The important thing to remember is to keep whites separate to colours in your washes and though hot is better, stick to what the label says to avoid shrinkage. A good whites detergent, such as that of The Laundress (£15.50 for a litre. At Selfridges. will do its bit to keep your white T-shirts pristine.