Ask Esquire: How Do I Hide My Pointy Nipples When Wearing A Shirt?

A rumination on the undershirt.
IMAGE Freepik

We love our jobs here at Esquire! Yesterday, we had to Google “nipple man shirts,” and oh boy, don't do it, and today we are forced to type “nipple” over and over again, and oh boy, “nipple, nipple, nipple...”

Hey, this is serious stuff. An important question has been floating around the Twitterverse recently: How do I hide my man nipples when wearing a linen shirt? 

First, let us say that we are not fond of linen shirts because they can be floppy, crinkly messes, but that's for another discussion. Now, we have to say that we are not fond of the undershirt, which, outside of filing down your nips to nibs, is the acceptable solution to your pencil eraser problem, but let's talk about it.

Ask Andy About Clothes, one of the leading forums on matters of style, has a very good thread, titled “I Can See Your Nipples,” that highlights how divisive the subject matter is—not nipples, but undershirts.

Obviously, we are on the side of no undershirts. Barring kids in school, do you know anyone under the age of dinosaur (no disrepect to dinos) who still wears undershirts today? The undershirt is a smock of punishment. It's an extra layer of heat, another thing to battle with in the morning, a piece of clothing that clings, bunches, and adds chunk. 

Why should you wear another piece of clothing when a single layer of fabric, care of a quality shirt that fits very well, gives you what you need, which are style, comfort, and protection?  

Why do men wear undershirts?

The weird men who love undershirts (and must possess puffy nipples!) give their two cents on why the undershirt makes sense.  

1| The undershirt masks the nipple fingers. 

2| The undershirt protects your beautiful shirts from wear-and-tear caused by bodily fluids like sweat and oils or anti-perspirants, which may lead to pit stains. 

3| The undershirt lets you wear your beautiful shirts more than once and, with less laundering, prolong their life.

4| The undershirt provides warmth on chilly days, which, related to our conundrum, is the very thing that produces the nipple guns.  

5| The undershirt offers comfort from fabrics like wool, which, sort of related to our conundrum, chafes the precious nipples.

6| The undershirt is a personal preference, dammit!  


Why don't men wear undershirts?

And to those wonky arguments, the undershirt naysayers have these to say:

On body temperature: If you're cold, wear something over (not under) the shirt like a bomber jacket, which you can easily remove when it gets too warm. If you're warm, well, why make yourself warmer? 

On clothes care: If you practice good grooming—bathe every day!—you won't have to worry about pit stains. Also, you wear shirts more than once?

On nipples: Ask Andy commenter Prisoner of Zendaline, referencing Miss Manners, puts it this way: “...there are things we agree not to see. I think that man-nipples are among those things.” If you're hot and bothered by a little nipple action, well then... 


What does God say about undershirts?

We are now so confused that it's making our nipples hurt! There is no other choice but turn to a higher style authority, the highest in fact, God.

This passage from the Ecclesiastes 3:1—which is mentioned in's ruminations on the matter—may be the solution: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” It is a most beautiful thought that we will now apply to chest eyes. 

Though we have reservations about it, if you are conscious about your body buttons rearing their juicy heads on your shirt, then it is the season of the undershirt. 

In other words, wear as you need. If it's too warm, don't. If it's too warm, but you need a layer to wick away moisture or absorb sweat, do. 

If wearing an undershirt is just something that you really like to do, put it on. Some men feel naked without one, some men like the look of an undershirt under a shirt, and some men, mostly older gents, are just set in their ways.

Now, if you don't like the feel, look, or idea of an undershirt, don't be afraid of your nipples. We promise we won't look. 


What are the best undershirts for men?

Undershirt connoisseurs suggest Zimmerli (available here at Van Laack), which is like the Rolls-Royce of underthings and are thus very, very expensive. There is also mention of Sunspel and Brooks Brothers and others swear by affordable options like Jockey, Hanes, and Uniqlo. 

IMAGE: Uniqlo

Whatever you choose, make sure it is a white crewneck T-shirt that fits very well. It's important to mind these details as they ensure that the undershirt, like your generous nipples, will blend seamlessly with your shirt.

White creates an even tone under most colors, a crewneck remains hidden (if you like unfastening the top buttons of your shirt, wear a V), and an excellent (snug enough) fit ensures the undershirt does not peek out, bunch up, or gets untucked. 

Having said that, there is debate on whether it is acceptable for the undershirt, the collar specifically, to show. Again, it boils down to preference. Some people like that strip of white peeking through the top of a shirt dress. Over here, we think it feels a little weird. If you do choose this route, make sure that that what will be visible is clean and crisp. No gross collars please.  

What is the most final solution?

If all else fails, there is nipple tape, a solution suggested by an Esquire team member, who is not a man.

I don't think we can go there, but if you are allergic to undershirts, love thin shirts, and have eraser nipples, this may be for you. Just don't get the flower-shaped ones. And let us know if it works.

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Clifford Olanday
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