Human T cell antigen receptors (TCRs) pair in millions of combinations to create complex and unique T cell repertoires for each person. Through the use of tetramers to analyze TCRs reactive to the antigen-presenting molecule CD1b, we detected T cells with highly stereotyped TCR α-chains present among genetically unrelated patients with tuberculosis. The germline-encoded, mycolyl lipid–reactive (GEM) TCRs had an α-chain bearing the variable (V) region TRAV1-2 rearranged to the joining (J) region TRAJ9 with few nontemplated (N)-region additions. Analysis of TCRs by high-throughput sequencing, binding and crystallography showed linkage of TCRα sequence motifs to high-affinity recognition of antigen. Thus, the CD1-reactive TCR repertoire is composed of at least two compartments: high-affinity GEM TCRs, and more-diverse TCRs with low affinity for CD1b-lipid complexes. We found high interdonor conservation of TCRs that probably resulted from selection by a nonpolymorphic antigen-presenting molecule and an immunodominant antigen.