NYC's best: T-shirt stores and sites

You've gotta wear something under your $500 spring coats.



Photograph: Veronica Rafael


At its three-story, 36,000-square-foot flagship, the big-box emporium has dedicated a massive wall near the entrance to exhibit more than 100 different tees (starting at $16) designed by top Japanese artists, including Yayoi Kusama and Takashi Honma. If the towering stacks of tops seem daunting, tough it out: Shoppers in Asia and Europe can only buy these items online, so it’s worth craning your neck to nab the premium-cotton prints by Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. 546 Broadway between Prince and Spring Sts (917-237-8800)


East Village

Though apparel isn’t the mainstay at this housewares chainlet, the small, quirky selection of retro shirts ($18–$24) should please kitsch lovers. Splashed with familiar downtown iconography (defunct music club CBGB, $20) or altered corporate logos (iPot, $22), its candy-colored tees telegraph your love of indie rock and doobies. To represent the town that you live in, snag new york city tees ($20) with a choice of a gothic font or español for the text. 115 Ave A between St. Marks Pl and E 7th St (212-475-7250); 47 Greenwich Ave between Charles and Perry Sts (212-229-2966)

Urban Outfitters
Let’s face it, most of the T-shirt designs at this haven for the ironically hip are played out. But we did dig a wigga please tee, featuring a gold-trimmed white-boy graphic ($28). 162 Second Ave between 10th and 11th Sts (212-375-1277); 374 Sixth Ave at Waverly Pl (212-677-9350); 628 Broadway between Bleecker and E Houston Sts (212-475-0009); go to for more locations.


West Village

American Apparel
Despite its sleazebag rep, this antisweatshop chain is synonymous with ultracomfy, frill-free staples, and is the largest T-shirt manufacturer in the U.S. Stop into its obscenely lit outposts to scoop up fine-jersey short-sleeve styles ($15) in more than 30 colors, and unisex track shirts ($18) that blend cotton and rayon to skim your silhouette. 712 Broadway at Washington Pl (646-383-2257); 121 Spring St between Greene and Mercer Sts (212-226-4880); 142 Fifth Ave between 19th and 20th Sts (212-620-4960); go to for more locations.

James Perse
The casualwear cognoscenti have long worshipped this L.A. designer for his minimalist essentials that are as soft as a newborn’s bum. Upgrade from your ratty, holey numbers with lightweight jersey crews and V-necks ($40–$46) for guys, and women’s short-sleeve numbers ($39–$55) that are ideal for layering. >Men’s store: between Charles and W 10th Sts (212-255-5801). Women’s store: 411 Bleecker St at 11th St (212-620-9991).



Forever 21
Don’t let the hordes of prepubescents stop you from venturing into this fast-fashion emporium. Wonderfully affordable silk-screened graphic tees abound for any wardrobe. Don the 100-percent-cotton Argyle Plaid style ($9.90) on Casual Fridays and the burnout Rocker tee ($15.80) for happy hour afterward. Solid color round-neck tees are available in coral, gold and mint, and for $4.80 each, there’s no harm in loading up. 50 W 34th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-564-2346); 40 E 14th St at University Pl (212-228-0598); 568 Broadway at Prince St (212-941-5949); go to for more locations

The ubiquitous purveyor of all things boring also makes an excellent resource for well-crafted tees for adults, teens and kids. Tops for men ($16.50) include ringers, basic crewnecks, stretch V-necks and undershirts ($12 for two), while ladies shouldn’t miss the fitted reversible shirts ($16.50). Inspi(red) by the colossal ads that have eaten Manhattan? The scarlet Global Fund tees cost $28, and proceeds go toward the battle against AIDS in Africa. 60 W 34th St between Fifth Ave and Broadway (212-760-1268); go to for more locations

If everything’s a tad too Eurotrash at this Swedish retail giant, go for the multitude of wallet-friendly tops ($5.90–$12.90) in virtually every shape and color, for both genders. Since its stock is updated daily, expect to compete with scads of runway copycats, bargain hunters and dazed tourists, especially at the chain’s gargantuan midtown flagship. 640 Fifth Ave at 51st St (212-489-0390); go to for more locations


Upper East Side

Petit Bateau
Though it’s closed for remodeling until the end of the month, this French boutique for tots understands the importance of baby-soft garb. So pencil in a date in April to check out its newly refurbished digs and array of comfy, cotton pieces for women. The curve-hugging long-sleeve pieces also sport pretty details like a Tunisian-style neckline ($35.70), scallop trim ($37) and a bow-bedecked scoop neck ($51). For children, ringer tees and striped designs come embellished with images that convey stories when seen through a mirror ($28–$32). 1094 Madison Ave between 82nd and 83rd Sts (212-988-8884)



Premium Goods
In 2002, Brooklynite Clarence Nathan launched his own T-shirt line and store to combat the slew of “poorly designed tees cashing in on the Japanese craze,” as he puts it. The result: his collection of durable, brightly colored threads emblazoned with street-inspired graphics. Urbanwear enthusiasts and Maclaren-steering mommies alike can stumble into his sneaker-filled nook to paw through designs inscribed with the store’s logo, or limited-edition graphics by such under-the-radar brands as 10.Deep, Acapulco Gold, Rogue Status, Eriffs and Nike White Label ($30– $36). 347 Fifth Ave between 4th and 5th Sts, Park Slope (718-369-7477)


Founder Greg Alterman began hawking shirts out of his car, and today his online shop boasts 69 preshrunk varieties for women, and 30 for men (starting at $11). Though the brand’s moniker bears some resemblance to another tee retailer, his site carries a wider range of motif-bearing staples such as camouflage prints and houndstooth designs for girls and guys ($24). Their eco-friendly line Alternative Earth touts organic cotton and recycled polyester spun into heather grey V-necks and hooded tees ($24–$38).
Named after a 19th-century slang term for pistols, this design collective crafts T-shirts (starting from $45) that harken back to the forgotten backstory of Manhattan’s underbelly. And its NYC-centric pieces are often sartorial history lessons in themselves. To wit: The all sorts long-sleeved V-neck ($45) was inspired by a Bowery dive where unfinished drinks were added to a can so that patrons could pay a penny for a glass of the leftover concoction. Though these vintage-feeling items are sold at high-end spots like What Goes Around Comes Around, this Web boutique stocks past editions marked down 25 percent.
Yeah, we’re sure you’re tired of your friends bugging you to buy crap they’ve designed on this online marketplace. But does carry gazillions of designs (text, graphics, cartoons, photos, etc.) that can be printed on a shirt, along with 20 quirky categories, including geek and technology, for wares by sellers other than your MySpace buds.
There was a time when our biggest concern was whether Gargamel could outwit Papa Smurf, or if the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would ever realize they were taking orders from a giant rat. Ah, youth. Founder Kevin Stecko caters to our nostalgic yearnings with a line of tops inspired by ’80s pop culture (starting at $10) like Pac-Man ($20), the faux-vintage MTV insignia ($28) and original hair-metal band Mötley Crüe ($20).
Bethesda, MD-based Dan Lachman supplies tees for national apparel chain Up Against the Wall and sells his own collection at this website, where his artful array of designs ($22 for men, $23 for women) change every two months. The subtle, innovative graphics, dreamed up by an international roster of 16 designers, range from a bug’s exoskeleton to paper planes soaring, then plummeting from a leafless tree.
You won’t find the cutesy, contrived designs that seem to plague every tee emporium at this Illinois-based site, but rather sophisticated, smart illustrations rendered in soft cotton blends. New tees come in every week—the current crop includes a vintage Buddha bust and a politically charged gun-shaped American flag (both $20).
For the past 24 years, Soho boutique BasicBasic has been an under-the-radar source for tailored tees. Its website, launched in 1999, carries even more styles than its brick-and-mortar digs. Log on to snap up unbelievably soft threads ($24–$86) from Splendid and budget finds by LAmade.
Though the designs tend to be canine-centric at this oddball online retailer, other categories include whimsical Norman Rockwell images and environmentally conscious themes. The more preshrunk crew- and scoop-neck tees ($10–$14) you order, the more you save, since you’ll nab 10 percent off a pair of shirts and 15 percent off when you buy six.
Through an ongoing call for submissions, this online T-shirt community allows folks to upload avant designs that are voted upon by members and visitors. A percentage of submissions are selected for printing (winners receive a cash prize) and sold online (from $12). Not only are you supporting indie talent, but you’re guaranteed that no one will be wearing the same tee as you on the subway.
If you can’t decide among the thousands of vintage, music, novelty and ’80s-inspired tops available at this website, you can simply create your own. The user-friendly site makes personalizing a shirt easier than picking one up at a store, allowing you to browse or upload your fave images. The basic option snags you a Hanes Beefy-T made from 100 percent preshrunk cotton, while other styles offer Hanes and American Apparel canvases.