Moisture Wicking Undershirts – Which one to choose, and why.

June 13, 2008 | By | 21 Replies More

If you’re like me, you’re probably curious about the growing interest in moisture wicking apparel. What is it? Why is it getting so much interest? Does it really make a difference? Is it worth buying? And of course, should I buy a moisture wicking undershirt?

Quite frankly, I had the exact same questions, so I started doing a little research. Let me start off by saying that I look at this particular market segment from a consumer’s point of view (like you), not a manufacturers. So while companies like Under Armour, Coolmax, Holofiber, CoolNew, Nike Dri-FIT and many others are promoting technological breakthroughs in constructing fabrics that are supposed to make you cooler in hotter situations, the bottom line for me is simple: Do I notice and feel a difference when I wear it?

I am not here to question whether or not moisture wicking technology “performs” better than standard fabrics, as I suspect there’s plenty of studies that show that it does. I have also personally tested some moisture wicking products from CoolClothingUSA, Vdri, and Campbellsville at the gym and have found some of them to keep me very comfortable and cool.

Food for thought: While moisture-wicking clothing products are intended to keep you cooler by transferring moisture away from your body to the outer layer of the fabric, if you’re wearing an undershirt made out of that type of material, wouldn’t that lead you to believe that your outerwear would get wetter (especially in the underarm area) than if you were wearing an undershirt that absorbed moisture?

9/08/08 Update: I elaborated on this question in this post: Moisture Wicking undershirt vs. Cotton Undershirts – Food for thought

10/01/08 Update: Ask Tug: Does a moisture wicking undershirt make the situation of sweating through to an outer layer of fabric worse?

I think it will be helpful if we define what “moisture wicking” really is. In simple terms, it’s the transference of moisture, vs. the absorption of moisture. What’s the difference you ask? Transference occurs when non-absorbent clothing (like polyester, microfiber, nylon, and other synthetic blends) moves moisture from the skin’s surface to the outer layer of the fabric where it has more surface area and can typically dry faster than standard fabrics like cotton.

However, there are some cotton undershirts on the market that have “moisture wicking” characteristics or have been treated with synthetic substances (eg. Silnylon, Smartwool) that provide a similar effect.

If you dig through Wikipedia a bit, you’ll see that these types of technical fabrics were developed primarily for high-performance activity sport wear and sporting goods. And if you think about it, that makes perfect sense. If you’re on a 100 mile bike ride, playing basketball, base jumping, or participating in the Baja 1000, where you are absolutely, positively going to sweat profusely, why wouldn’t you want to stay drier? No question, you would want to. There is no doubt in my mind that I would go drop the $40-$200 for that type of high-performance gear if I were doing those kinds of activities.

The question is whether or not I would invest in undershirts that are made of moisture wicking material, considering they are typically more expensive than standard undershirts. If I were someone who sweat more than others or one who was affected by Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), I would surely consider trying out these types of undershirts to see if they helped. Additionally, If I worked outdoors in hotter situations and it was important for me to stay cool and dry, I’d give them a shot.

The fact is that I’m not and I don’t really sweat a lot when I’m wearing an undershirt doing my normal daily activities. I primarily wear undershirts to protect my outer clothing from armpit stains and sweat marks, or to add in a protective layer when I’m wearing less comfortable (aka, itchy or starchy) shirts.

So I wouldn’t classify myself as one who would actively seek out higher-priced undershirts that are labeled as “moisture wicking” because it’s not solving a problem I have. Mostly I look for undershirts that solve the fit, riding up, and bunching problems.

Nonetheless, I’m sure some of you visiting either do suffer from excess sweating or possibly work in a field where you sweat a lot during the day and you’re looking for some undershirts that may provide better moisture protection than your average everyday undershirt.

01/27/09 Update: Got an email from a reader who brought up an interesting point about moisture wicking undershirts. Although he refers to compression-type undershirts, it likely applies equally to any type of moisture wicking undershirt and is something you should keep in mind.

Tug, One important point I don’t see you mention is that the Under Armour or other brand compression type shirts only work at wicking away moisture from the skin if the shirt is the proper size, meaning the shirt has to be in contact with the skin. This means a skin tight fit. And while I understand that most guys are afraid of seeing themselves in anything tight fitting, that is how they are designed. Some guys wear the loose version over the compression version for that very reason. -D

Here are some companies that offer moisture wicking undershirts:

  1. Vdri. The v-neck, sweat wicking undershirt for men. See my review here
  2. CoolClothingUSA. I reviewed their compression shirts a few weeks back, but they offer a real undershirt made out of Coolmax
    Update 8/16/08: I got my hands on a v-neck Coolmax undershirt from the folks at CoolClothingUSA and wrote up a review on it
  3. Campbellsville Apparel. 100% moisture wicking polyester t-shirt. I wrote up a review on this product back in early June
  4. BulletProofMe. Moisture wicking undershirts (sleeveless and sleeved)
  5. Duluth Trading Company. Buck Naked Undershirt. 93% Nylon / 7% Spandex.
  6. Tilley Unisex Travel Undershirt (New Find! 9/14/08). Here’s how the folks at The Sock Company describe this moisture wicking undershirt. “Our fast-drying and sweat defying Tilley `Travel` Undershirt will neither chafe nor bind. The patented fabric wicks away perspiration better than cotton to keep you cooler and drier in the summer and warmer in the winter”
  7. Wickers underwear for anywear. V-Neck moisture wicking t-shirts (added 9/20/08). 100% moisture wicking polyester undershirts (crewneck, v-neck, tank top)
  8. TravelSmith Under and Sleepwear. These folks offer a few different moisture wicking undershirts including: Men’s ExOfficio® Short-Sleeve Quick-Dry T-Shirt
  9. TRIDRI. 100% Polyester Mesh. Lightweight micro polyester. (added 4/5/13)

Other Moisture Wicking Undershirt options

Quick Dry Undershirts (added 4/5/13)

Items Below are from my original list but are no longer viable/available products

  1. DISCONTINUED. Execwear. A a moisture wicking men’s undershirt that resists underarm staining and odors. Made out of a soft nylon/spandex blend. I just ordered a couple of these and will review them here shortly
  2. DISCONTINUED. Holofiber. They supposedly offer a short sleeve undershirt, but I can’t exactly locate where to buy one. I’d suggest calling them and asking
  3. DISCONTINUED. Duluth Trading Company. New 4.5 oz. 64% cotton/36% CoolMax polyester knit crewneck undershirt
  4. DISCONTINUED. Work-Dry T-shirts from The Carhatt Clothing line. New find and technically not an undershirt, but at a mere 6oz., this 60% cotton/40% polyester moisture wicking t-shirt might be able to double as an undershirt. Comes in heather gray and navy
  5. DISCONTINUED. Voler Short Sleeve Tech Undershirt. More like a compression shirt, but they do market it as an undershirt so I thought I’d include it
  6. DISCONTINUED. TravelSmith Under and Sleepwear. These folks offer a few different moisture wicking undershirts including: Men’s CoolMax® Crew Undershirt, and the Men’s CoolMax® V-Neck Undershirt.
  7. DISCONTINUED. SWEAT IT OUT cool performance wear from Lontex. Offers a Military CoolMax® Short Sleeve Loose Fitting T-Shirt as well as some compression performance tops. The Coolmax t-shirt comes in multiple colors including white, black and grey and may be able to be used as an undershirt. I do wish they provided more spec information about their shirts, though.

Do I think these types of shirts help keep you drier than non moisture wicking shirts and can I feel a difference when I’m wearing one? In some situations, yes.

Do I think it’s worth buying moisture wicking products? Absolutely, if you’re into an extreme sport or are in taxing climate conditions and keeping dry is a critical component to your performance and safety.

Do I think you should go out and buy moisture wicking undershirts? It really depends on what problem you’re trying to solve. If you suffer from excessive sweating or have a job where you require extra protection, then sure, give them a try.

Will I continue to go out and buy moisture wicking undershirts so I can review them here and tell you all about them. You can count on it! :)

If any of you have found other moisture wicking undershirts, shoot me an email (tug@undershirtguy.com) with all the details and I’ll add them here!

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Category: Sweat Management

About the Author ()

Tug is the world's undershirt expert. Looking for undershirt or men's shapewear information? You'll find it here on my site - guaranteed! You can also find me on

Comments (21)

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  1. Steven says:

    I agree that moisture-wicking undergarments can be a great benefit for high activity levels and high temperatures. However, I feel you miss a point for cooler temperatures as well. For me, I have a job that takes me in and out of cold temperatures. I’m bundled up to be outside for 20-30 minutes then spend about an hour indoors. Moisture wicking helps to remove any sweat away from the body allowing your insulating material to keep you warmer. Moisture on the body will evaporate in the cooler temperatures cooling your body along with it making you feel cooler. Moisture-wicking takes the sweat/moisture away from the body so when I step outside, my insulating layers can do their job.

    • heya steven, thanks for stopping by my site and posting your comments!

      this particular article was written back in june of 2008, and in the context of whether or not a moisture wicking undershirt was practical to wear in a typical daily-wear application. at the time, there was a ton of hype about moisture wicking in the daily-wear undershirt industry, and i was trying to provide some information and context for people curious about the subject-matter.

      since then, i’ve written lots of articles related to the topic of “wicking” as it applies in different situations and contexts. if you do a search for “wicking” on my site, you’ll find many articles that further expand on the topic.

      my point of view is this — if you are comfortable wearing a moisture wicking base layer, and it performs well for you in your situation, then by all means wear one. there is no doubt, that in some use-case situations, wearing a moisture wicking and faster drying undershirt would be more appropriate.

      that said, i can tell you from testing nearly 200 different undershirts, that in a standard daily-wear application, i don’t personally find any advantages or benefits in wearing them.

      in addition, the only time i have ever felt cooler wearing a moisture wicking undershirt is directly after i have come from working out at the gym (base layer covered in sweat) and it’s cool outside. in those cases, i would personally prefer to be warmer, not cooler.

      of course, to each his own (:

  2. Greg says:

    I recently received two CoolMax undershirts from Cool Clothing USA and am pretty disappointed. They don’t “feel” like tech material. They are 100% polyester but feel no softer than cotton. And unfortunately Cool Clothing USA subscribes to the school of though that all 2XL wearers are 7 feet tall. For me, XL undershirts are slightly too small and 2XL’s are slightly too big. So I go with 2XL. But generally they work for undershirts. Cool Clothing’s 2XL is WAY too long, which isn’t a problem because it’s always tucked in under a polo shirt. But the sleeves are too long. They come close to sticking out the sleeves of the polo shirt I am wearing over it. That’s not cool.

  3. Jimswife says:

    As the wife of a Cellular Tech here in Ga ( who is outside in 100+ degree weather at times for over 9 hs a day), I can tell you that I have searched high and low for the best “wicking” shirt. Many many brands later I have found the selection from Duluth Trading company has hit the mark. It was not uncommon for him to leave at 6 am, have to change into another set of clothes at lunch and than again when he got home for the day. Once he started weearing the shirts from Duluth he said it was rare for him to change at lunch. Not only was the underarm issue taken care of but that annoying constant dribble of sweat down his back stopped. He is in love with this brand. As a post above stated, seams were an issue with other brands, major shrinkage (and not just after one or two washings). Not only do folks have an issue with body sweat, but feet also. We are now onto testing socks and must say Duluth again is beating everyone. Size 15w stinky, nasty feet can be dangerous!! But so far the Duluth brands are doing just as good a job as their shirts. Yes, if you check them out and see the prices (really they are not that bad) you may say, let’s try something from Target, Walmart or Kmart…but honest…really…till you go buy and try a pack from this one and that one…you could have gotten 2 or 3 from Duluth. Good luck!!

    • hey jimswife! thanks for stopping by and sharing your duluth trading company wicking shirt experience with us.

      can you point me to the exact shirts / undershirts you purchased so we can make sure to point folks to the right items?

      was it the “buck naked” (93% nylon/7% spandex) undershirt?

  4. kontai says:

    I’ve tried a few of the moisture wicking undershirts you listed and would like to hare my opinions. CoolClothingUSA: Yuck. The material was thin and flimsy. The seams were “bulging,” scratchy and looks sloppily sewn together, quite a disappointment since it was made in the USA. I actually did not even bother trying it on before sending it back. Wickers: The material was somewhat stiff and scratchy but softened noticably after some wearing. The construction was excellent. However, I found the seams to be a little scratchy. The fit on me was a little loose despite being a trim fit. Duluth Trading Company: the material was very soft from the get go. I think this has to do with it being a cotton blend (60% cotton/40% polyester) rather than completely synthetic like the other two. The construction was excellent. Most importantly (to me), the seams were completely flat around the neck and shoulders, making it much more comfortable to wear than the other two shirts. The fit is also much slimmer than the other two brands of shirts I’ve tried. I normally wear an XS-sized undershirt, and the Duluth small-size fits about the same.
    Anyways, thanks for the effort in putting your webpage together. Otherwise, I never would have discovered the Duluth shirt.

  5. Hi Gary, Thanks for your comment. While you do make a good point that the post title implies the article will recommend a specific undershirt, I’m very sorry to hear that you feel the article was disappointing a complete waste of time.

    Like many other guys, I was reading all this hype about moisture wicking undershirts, but there was no good source to tell me what they were and what their benefits were. So, I decided to do some research and document what I found in hopes that the information would help guys better understand what a moisture wicking undershirt was all about. I think the article serves that purpose well.

    Of course, if you are someone who already knows what a moisture wicking undershirt is, then you’re right in saying the article doesn’t provide any additional information in which one to choose other than providing some information on companies who offer a moisture wicking undershirt.

    Nonetheless, thanks for stopping by the site. Hopefully, there will be other posts on the site you’ll find useful.

  6. Gary says:

    This post neither tells you which to buy nor why, which is the title of the article. Very disappointing and a magnificent waste of time and energy. Way too much detail about the mundane.

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