Note: This article has been updated several times since it’s original posting date to keep it reasonably current.
Reading it will give you a great overview of what wicking undershirts/shirts are, what they may have to offer, and is great starting point.
However, over the years I have written many other articles about “wicking” (non-absorbing) undershirts and/or performance shirts.
So, if you don’t find your answer within this article, be sure to search my site or drop me a line with additional questions.
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.
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
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:
- Vdri. The v-neck, sweat wicking undershirt for men. See my review here
- 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
- Campbellsville Apparel. 100% moisture wicking polyester t-shirt. I wrote up a review on this product back in early June
- BulletProofMe. Moisture wicking undershirts (sleeveless and sleeved)
- Duluth Trading Company. Buck Naked Undershirt. 93% Nylon / 7% Spandex.
- 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”
- Wickers underwear for anywear. V-Neck moisture wicking t-shirts (added 9/20/08). 100% moisture wicking polyester undershirts (crewneck, v-neck, tank top)
- TravelSmith Under and Sleepwear. These folks offer a few different moisture wicking undershirts including: Men’s ExOfficio® Short-Sleeve Quick-Dry T-Shirt
- TRIDRI. 100% Polyester Mesh. Lightweight micro polyester. (added 4/5/13)
- Execwear. A a moisture wicking men’s undershirt that resists underarm staining and odors. Made out of a soft nylon/spandex blend. (re-added 6/25/14)
- Uniqlo Airism. Polyester Undershirt, super lightweight, and pretty incredible. (added 5/2015)
- CoolKeep. Polyester / Spandex blend tee/undershirt, available at KOHLS. Same company that owns the 32° (Degrees) Cool Brand available at Costco.
Other Moisture Wicking Undershirt options
Added 4/15/13 – Check out this article about Quick Dry Undershirts
Items Below are from my original list but are no longer viable/available products
- 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. (They’re back, see above)
- 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
- DISCONTINUED. Duluth Trading Company. New 4.5 oz. 64% cotton/36% CoolMax polyester knit crewneck undershirt
- DISCONTINUED. Work-Dry T-shirts (workwear1.com no longer active) 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) with all the details and I’ll add them here!
Category: Sweat Management