A brilliant question from a newer reader wondering about the difference between Absorbing undershirts and Wicking undershirts.
His question probably came as a result of him signing up for my email list and downloading the Undershirt Resource Workbook/Spreadsheet I’ve created that has information and measurements of nearly 160 undershirts. In the “Performance Type” column (col. “H”), I show a few different vales to describe the fabric performance type, two of which are Absorbing and Wicking.
Here’s his question:
I need help with the following:
I’m brand new to your site and grateful that I have found you (through Antonio Centeno’s eBook). I am in the process of upgrading my wardrobe as I get ready to begin my first business/ business casual job (I have previously worked with students). I sweat a lot and have struggled with dressing nice because of that fact.
Like I said I am a beginner, so I have a basic question: what is the difference between wicking and absorbing in undershirt performance?
Thank you. Matt
My Response – Absorbing Vs. Wicking
good question buddy.
what they are: undershirts designed with synthetic fibers (polyester, nylon, etc.) or treated with a solution that results in the fabric becoming less absorbent.
meaning, wicking undershirts/t-shirts will absorb less moisture, thus they will feel lighter and dry faster in heavy sweating conditions.
my philosophy is that wicking undershirts are not good for guys who sweat a lot because, by design, the undershirt will not absorb the sweat, it will travel from the inner to the outer side of the undershirt and come into contact with your outer shirts quicker. I believe that if you’re a heavy sweater, you are trying to prevent sweat from reaching and showing on your outer shirt, so you don’t want a product that makes that situation worse.
that said, if you don’t have a heavy sweating situation, then wicking undershirts are probably just as good to wear as non-wicking. but if you don’t need a wicking undershirt for any particular reason, why buy one, especially if it’s more expensive? granted, you might find a wicking undershirt that you like better than a non-wicking/absorbent one, and in that case, you should go ahead and buy the wicking undershirt.
what they are: undershirts made from fabric that have fibers designed to capture/absorb sweat.
the most common absorbent fiber known is cotton, but there are others now that are more absorbent like modal/micromodal, tencel, and other viscose-based fibers.
while undershirts made with absorbent fibers are pretty universal in their application, these types of undershirts are especially beneficial for those people who sweat more, since absorbing fabrics will minimize sweat-through (the problem heavy sweaters are trying to solve for). there are a number of undershirts specially designed for heavier sweaters, and most of these are designed with absorbing fibers.
so simply put, my opinion is:
1. absorbing undershirts are pretty much the defacto choice in undershirt selection
2. stay away from moisture wicking undershirts if you sweat a lot
3. feel free to buy wicking undershirts if you don’t sweat too much and if you find them more comfortable than absorbing undershirts
one last thought:
i have heard from a very select few that when they wear certain wicking undershirts, they wear cooler than many absorbing undershirts, and as a result, they sweat less. so their argument is that wicking undershirts are better to wear in a sweating situation than absorbing undershirts.
while i do not doubt that they have personally experienced that, i think this is more of an exception than the rule. this is why i always say that in heavy sweating situations you shouldn’t wear wicking undershirts. if you’re a light sweater, than it’s possible you might feel more comfortable in certain wicking undershirts.
that said, there’s a huge number of very light weight absorbing undershirts available nowadays to choose from and I feel the selection of these types of undershirts is vastly greater than equivalent wicking undershirts.
hope the above information answers your question!
Keep in mind the information I provided Matt is in direct context to his particular question about what kind of undershirt would be good for his daily wear needs and considering he sweats a lot. I love wicking shirts/undershirts and wear them a whole bunch – but for the most part, I primarily wear them to the gym or similar athletic activities.
Do You Have Any Additional Thoughts to Share on this Topic?
Do you think my advice to Matt make sense, or do you think I’m way off?? Like I always say, this is my opinion only, so if you’ve got something to share, please post your thoughts in my comments section below.
Category: Ask Tug