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Not ready to buy? Why not read our style notes for all you need to know before choose a mens trench coat
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Not ready to buy? Why not read our style notes for all you need to know before choose a mens trench coat

Your online guide to choosing your perfect mens tops for 2012

Mens  tops form the basic layers of a man’s wardrobe. We all wear them and we probably all look and feel good in them whether we’re sartorially challenged or designer fashion god Marc Jacobs himself. Whereas the humble t-shirt or vest was once simply something to layer under a jacket or dress shirt, they have come into their own as a main item of an ensemble. And mens top sales are continuing to boom in 2012 as men realize the importance of a simple top in an outfit.

Whether you’re looking for a total image overhaul for 2012 or you’re just looking to compare and shop for cheap and cheerful basics online, we’ve got your complete guide to all things tops. We break down the styles and looks so all you need to do is narrow your options down over on our shopping pages. With the help of our comparison pages this should be a breeze. Happy shopping!

Men's tops: 2012's best styles

Polo shirts A polo shirt (also known as a golf shirt or tennis shirt) features a collar and normally two or three buttons on a placket. The original style was designed by tennis champion Rene Lacoste in 1926 and featured a crocodile on the left breast which would become the emblem for fashion design giant, Lacoste.

Vest tops Men’s vest tops (aka a tank) are a sleeveless style of mens top featuring thin or thick straps across the shoulders. This style is often associated with sporting events and athletics and is great for summer days and vacations. Vest tops can be worn under other tops for the colder months or under shirts for an added layer at work.

T-shirts Mens t-shirts are normally a casual item of clothing made of stretchy fabric – usually cotton - and can have either long or short sleeves. Tees are great for casual wear and are ideal for layering in chillier months. A tee is often the basic of a man’s casual ensemble.

The most on-trend cuts and necklines

V-neck v-neck mens tops aptly feature a ‘v’ shape on the collar and are currently a popular look to pair with  knitwear and chinos or jeans. A V-neck can be dressed up or down and is great for casualwear or a night on the town. Be careful when wearing this style of top with a v-neck sweater or cardigan because this can look proportionally odd. Also be wary of tops for men that feature a very low ‘v’ – this is a difficult look to pull off and is best avoided.

Crew neck characterized by a tight-fitting, rounded collar, which sits at the bottom of the neck, crew-neck men’s tops are a great all-rounder. Easy to wear on all casual occasions, versatile and easy to match with other items in your closet, your crew neck tee will be your new best friend!

Boat neck made popular by Jean Paul Gaultier’s classic man, the boat neck is a tricky look to pull off if you’re not a fashionable, French Adonis but can look great if you get it right. The boat neck collar is similar to the crew neck but cut longer so that the neck is shaped like a boat.

Henley A collarless shirt originally worn by rowers in Henley (surprisingly!) this style is long sleeved and features two or three buttons on the placket.

Which colors will flatter my complexion?

Deep complexions You have blue, red or pink undertones to your skin and you are generally brunette with dark eyes. Bold, clear colors look great on you – think white, black, blue and red. Whereas neutrals, beiges and biscuit tones are best avoided.

Warm complexions You have golden or yellow tones to your skin and usually have red or brunette hair and darker skin. Your perfect color match will mimic the warm tones in your skin – camel, beige, orange and gold look gorgeous on you whereas cool tones such as blue are no-nos.

Light complexions Your skin has golden undertones and is often be a creamy white or peach color. Strawberry blonde hair and blue or green eyes are characteristic of light complexions. Warm, orange-based colors and dirty tones fit you perfectly.

Cool complexion Blue, red or pink undertones characterise a cool complexion. Your skin is often pale or pink and you have blonde or brunette hair with light-coloured eyes. Pastels and lighter tones look fantastic against your skin.

The golden rules

Whether you’re reinventing your style and looking to shop for new designer mens tops or just wanting to upgrade your wardrobe for the new season with lots of the latest mens fashion tops, here are some pointers to keep in mind before you buy:

T-shirts

  • If you’re looking to buy a new core collection of mens tops look for plain crew, V-necks and polo shirts in neutral shades: a black, grey, navy and white can work with the rest of the clothes in your closet and will be the basic for any ensemble. 
  • Introduce subtle colors or prints, such as a Breton stripe, to add interest without eliminating wearability. Stick to colors such as dark green, burgundy or purple for a classy vibe.
  • Overly graphic or gimmicky and branded tops for men should be resigned thrown out once you’ve graduated college – you’re after a discerning look, not a discheveled, just rolled out of bed look.
  • Details such as pockets and buttons on a Henley top can add a focus point to a casual outfit - just don’t go overboard.
  • Keep the fit of your tops slim. Baggy tops will do your look no justice. If you’re very slim or heavier-set you may reach for a bigger size as a force of habit. Don’t – it will not flatter your frame. 

Polo shirts

  • Remember that polo shirts can work well for both casual and formal wear – think of them as the middle ground between a tee and a shirt.
  • Stick to classic colors and cuts: black, white, blues, grey for a look that won’t date. 
  • A polo shirt can quickly and easily refine an outfit, taking it from casual to smarter in seconds. A polo shirt worn with jeans or chinos, a blazer and loafers is perfect for an evening out with your friends or at a restaurant. 
  • Layer a polo shirt under a sweater or knitwear for an easy style update. But don't layer with another polo, we all remember that fashion phase, let's not re-visit that one. 
  • Always tuck your polo shirt in – trust us on that one. 

Vests

  • If you’re looking to buy vests as an undershirt beneath other items of clothing then a white, crewneck is a good all-rounder.
  • Treat a vest as an item of  underwear and only wear once before washing (you do put your pants and socks in the wash after every wear, don’t you?)
  • Get the fit right. A vest should be roomy enough to allow you to breathe but tight enough to not leave bunches of fabric at the sleeves or when tucked in.
  • If your vest is going to be worn as a visible garment rather than under a shirt go for one that only reveals your arms. Tanks with thin straps can look feminine.
  • Both V-neck and crew neck vests are fine in this instance.

Dressing mens tops for your shape

Short Small patterns and a basic color palette will help elongate your frame while excessive colors and large, loud prints should be avoided.

Tall Avoid vertical stripes and monochrome and veer towards patterns and colors to break up your frame. Slim fitting tops for men will combat unnecessary bulk.

Slim Stick to slim fit tops with patterns, details and pleats to add volume to a slender physique. Chunky fabrics will also have the same effect.

Athletic If you have broad shoulders and slender hips you may find you get an annoying billowing of fabric around your middle. Avoid this by opting for tapered mens tops that are fitted at the waist.

Heavy-set Getting the fit right is so important if you’re a little on the larger side. Too big and you’ll look even bigger, too small and you risk unsightly bulges and bumps (consult our size guide for a helping hand). Avoid horizontal stripes and chunky fabrics because this will simply add pounds to your frame.

And, finally….

Mens tops always look better the newer and crisper they are. A stained off-white or saggy, shapeless, old tee won’t cut it. These days you don't need to take out a bank loan to get decent basics so don’t hesitate to throw out old tops and start over again occasionally.