VOL. 1 CH. 11

Essential Three:
The Tank, the Tee, the Dress Shirt

The Tank, the Tee, the Dress Shirt

The word “essential” has come to be synonymous with necessary, but the term also describes something in its purest form. A combination of these qualities makes the tank, the tee, and the dress shirt an essential trio. Grounded in historical silhouettes and functional requirements, these three staples have evolved into the most versatile pieces in a contemporary wardrobe.

A century has elapsed since the birth of the t-shirt—as a short-sleeved, white cotton crewneck undergarment issued by the United States Navy. Having evolved from military underwear and athletic apparel to personal billboard and modern wardrobe staple, the tee is still going strong 100 years later. Reimagined in pure silk, the tee elevates even the most casual look with ease, and works just as well layered as it does on its own.

Born from the once-scandalous sleeveless “tank” bathing suit, this arm-baring style has made its way from the beach to black-tie affairs. Even the most minimal refinements of the original silhouette can create strikingly modern results. Protagonist designer Kate Wendelborn refined the basic tank with an intentional cut. Her polished version puts the focus on a curved seam that rises just under the bustline to create lift in front and then dips gently as it moves to the back, echoing the bottom hem.

Another all-season staple, the dress shirt, dates back to an early 19th century American innovation that introduced detachable collars. The appeal of crisp white shirts, once primarily associated with men in the banking profession, soon expanded, and today’s button-up fits into a variety of personal uniforms. A signature Protagonist touch comes in extended cuffs. Designed to brush the knuckle for an elongated look, they can also be folded at the wrist for a more relaxed look.