Underscores: The Optimal Bare WordPress Theme

wordpress base theme

We’ve written in the past alerting those purchasing a WordPress site to avoid buying a site where a purchased theme is modified from its core code. Unless you have a huge budget and lots of time, purchased themes are great as long as all of your modifications are accomplished with a child theme. Unfortunately, there are a lot of agencies selling custom sites that have a lot of problems… so be on the lookout.

An exception was brought to my attention. The amazing folks at Automattic are always providing amazing solutions wherever there’s a gap – and this is no different. Automattic has an ongoing project called _s (Underscores) that’s a base theme loaded with features to help you launch your next custom theme.

I’m a starter theme called _s, or underscores, if you like. I’m a theme meant for hacking so don’t use me as a Parent Theme. Instead try turning me into the next, most awesome, WordPress theme out there. That’s what I’m here for

Features of the _s theme (listed from this article):

  • A just right amount of lean, well-commented, modern, HTML5 templates.
  • A helpful 404 template.
  • A sample custom header implementation in

    that can be activated by uncommenting one line in


    and adding the code snippet found in the comments of


    to your header.php template.

  • Custom template tags in

    that keep your templates clean and neat and prevent code duplication.

  • Some small tweaks in

    that can improve your theming experience. They can be activated by uncommenting one line in



  • Keyboard navigation for image attachment templates. The script can be found in

    and is enqueued from the image attachment template,



  • A script at

    that makes your menu a toggled dropdown for small screens (like your phone) ready for CSS artistry. It’s enqueued in



  • 5 sample CSS layouts in

    : Two sidebars on the left, two sidebars on the right, a sidebar on either side of your content, and two-column layouts with sidebars on either side.

  • Smartly organized starter CSS in

    that will help you to quickly get your design off the ground.

  • The GPL license in


The article boasts over 1,000 hours of development put into the github project, which has stayed updated and current over the last few years.

Have you built a site based on _s? Send us a link in the comments so readers can check i tout.

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