Not as simple as it looks

It's taken years, but finally Annalisa Barbieri has found the perfect T - again

The T-shirt is a curious wardrobe fellow. It is nearly always referred to as simple, and it may look simple, but the pursuit of the perfect T-shirt is elaborate, and exhaustive. You can throw money at it, and this works quite well for a lot of fashion (unless you throw it at labels like Ronit Zilkha - one of Cherie Blair's favourites; need I say more?). But with T-shirts, even that doesn't guarantee perfection. This is a shame because, done well, the T-shirt can be a wondrous and easy summer companion. Done badly, as it invariably is, it's as morale-boosting as having your partner constantly whispering in your ear that you look rubbish.

We're not comfortable in our relationship with the T-shirt, either. This is because, until 50 years ago, it was still regarded as what it is - a piece of underwear, a vest. It had no place in polite society, unless you were obviously working outdoors. Subliminally, to certain people, wearing one still feels like going out in just your pants. It is also collarless, which immediately renders it too casual to be worn for anything on-duty. Politicians never wear T-shirts unless they are trying to appear jocular, and they always look incongruous in them.

Women's struggle with the T-shirt is all to do with size: they tend to wear them either too big, so they look like blobs on matchstick legs, or too small, in an attempt to be cute, and end up looking like a stuffed icing bag that's just burst. Men's struggle is acknowledging that the T-shirt is now a garment in its own right: they try to get away with wearing them un-ironed (which they would never do with a shirt), don't really seem to care about size, and forget that T-shirts, like fine wool sweaters, cling to man-boobs as possessively as Posh does to Becks. This is a struggle unique to heterosexual men; homosexual men talk T-shirt fluently, and if they do have man-boobs, they corset them gently with a T-shirt that contains at least 5 per cent Lycra.

I found the perfect T-shirt ten years ago. It landed on my desk labelled "Petit Bateau, size 16 years". I almost instantly gave it away (I had a double D bosom that surely wouldn't correspond to any French 16-year-old's). I can't even remember exactly what it looked like, save for it being black and short-sleeved, but it behaved beautifully - on the body, in the wash. I loved it so much that eventually it sheered into cobwebs. I was upset enough to write to Petit Bateau in France; never had I chased a garment so, and I made quite the fool of myself. Where could more be found? Nowhere.

They had been a press gift, a one-off; the only T-shirts the company now did were in children's sizes. I tried for years to find a replacement, trying to tell myself that £5 substitutes from H&M were adequate. They weren't.

This year, however, Petit Bateau has finally (I would say stubbornly) seen sense and my T-shirts are back, several styles, all perfect, £15. Rather gloriously, the men's version has just been launched in Paris (a male friend who has tried them almost cries at how good they are). There is talk of them coming here. If we are keen, and worthy enough.

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