I recently audited my extensive, overstuffed, exhausted-looking wardrobe, and found out that I own a ludicrous 48 T-shirts. My collection includes tees from my favourite sandwich shop, an Aimee Leon Dore mock neck I splurged on while drunk browsing, and a full spectrum of crew necks from my days as a sales assistant at Ralph Lauren (an alarming 14 years ago). But in the last 18 months, no T-shirts have gotten as much mileage as my Pro Club heavyweights.
I first came across Pro Club a couple of years ago while browsing Blacksmith, a small Peckham-based online retailer. Blacksmith sell a mix of its own in-house products and carefully sourced global brands (such as Klemen footwear from Loire, France, and the Korean-based Outstanding Co). But I was drawn to its T-shirts — they looked thick and sturdy and, crucially, at £14, they were inexpensive enough to buy on a whim. A cursory Google revealed that Pro Club was a U.S.-based company specialising in hard-working basics (it also sells sweatshirts, windbreaker-style jackets, and boxer trunks, though Blacksmith exclusively stocks its T-shirts).
Before I clicked purchase, I reached out to my friend Sam Diss, a former editor at football magazine Mundial, as I knew he wore Pro Club tees himself (he even recommended them when he, and other cool people, told us about the best white t-shirts). Sam told me they were thick, hard-working t-shirts – not unlike the £9 Uniqlo U crew-necks that have become the worst-kept secret in menswear. He also said they washed well and were perfect if I, like him, was favouring a boxier, looser fit. On his advice, I ordered a size up and got a Medium.
When it arrived, I was impressed at how soft and thick the cotton was, especially given the t-shirt cost just £14 (it was definitely softer than the aforementioned Uniqlo U tee, too). But I appreciated the small details the most, such as the thicker, reinforced crew neck, which helps the T-shirt keep its shape, and the arms, which hit at the middle of my bicep, rather than riding up my arm when I stretched. The label sewn into the neck, with its blue, red, and navy lettering, brought to mind the nostalgic sportswear aesthetic of Russell Athletic or Fruit of the Loom.
But the proof of the T-shirt is in the wearing. They came in handy on sunny afternoons in the park and, tucked into trousers and worn with a chore coat, were smart enough to wear to dinner (keeping it clean, however, was not as effortless). In fact, I liked the white T-shirt so much I ended up buying a black one, which I might like even more. Both T-shirts, due to their thick cotton, have worn in beautifully. Though they were quite stiff at first, they now feel as comfortable as an old pair of jeans.
While some of my more questionable T-shirts gather dust — like those from my regrettable foray into tie-dye, circa summer 2020 — these Pro Club ones have only got better with age. Over the past year, every time I met with friends, people thought my substantial-looking, thick T-shirt must have been Noah, or Fear of God — one friend swore she had been eyeing up the exact same thing in Dover St Market. Little did she know that my version gave me change from a 20.
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