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

June 13, 2008 | By | 34 Replies More

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.

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)
  10. 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)
  11. Uniqlo Airism. Polyester Undershirt, super lightweight, and pretty incredible. (added 5/2015)
  12. 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

Discontinued Items

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. (They’re back, see above)
  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 (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
  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!

Tags: , , ,

Category: Sweat Management

About the Author ()

Tug is the world's undershirt expert. He is also one of the most knowledgeable individuals on sweat management solutions, men's shapewear, grooming, and new fabric technologies. Got a question? Visit Tug's contact page and hit him up.

Comments (34)

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  1. Vern

    says:

    I have purchased cheap, smooth feeling shirts which I mistook for moisture wicking. They would pull and run the material. What MW brand of t-shirt am I looking for where this won’t happen with reasonable care. Thank-you in advance for your trouble.

    • Tug says:

      heya vern, well there are thousands of different options when it comes to moisture wicking shirts.

      on the active-wear side, i’ve gotten some from target & walmart that have performed just fine for me, but if you want something of better quality, you may have to look at some larger brands like under armour.

      you can also probably look on amazon for these types of shirts, by searching for “polyester” or “wicking” or “nylon” shirts.

      if you want moisture wicking undershirts, you can simply search my site for “wicking” and you’ll find a lot of options.

  2. John

    says:

    I’m looking for an undershirt that hugs my neck; my current undershirts stretch around the neck and start falling to one side, looking sloppy. I’ve tried slim fit, but a medium size still has too much room in the neck, and a small size lacks length to tuck in (Calvin Klein). So maybe I’m looking for a different material or something sportier that hugs?

    Any advice appreciated!

  3. Greg

    says:

    I’m looking for moisture wicking undershirts in black and white, v-neck so I can wear it with a polo and have it not show. I can’t seem to find quite what I’m looking for. I found a few on your links page, but they all seem to be “slim fit” of which I am not. I wear an XL, but needs to be a regular fit. Any recommendations?

    • Tug says:

      heya greg, good to hear from you buddy and thanks for your question about moisture wicking undershirts!

      here’s a good reference article about quick drying undershirts, that covers a good number of moisture wicking undershirts.

      most of the brands offer a white undershirt option, and some of them offer black undershirt too. there will be some that only offer crew neck moisture wicking undershirts, but most should offer a v-neck wicking undershirts too.

      another few ideas:
      1. search my site for “polyester” or “nylon” or “bamboo” as those are moisture wicking fabrics
      2. check out wickers.com and ex-officio.com — they both offer synthetic (wicking) undershirt or lightweight t-shirt options
      3. consider looking for cotton/polyester blends, like with urban outfitters bdg v-neck undershirts, american apparel 50/50 t-shirts, or even ribbedtee retro fit deep v-neck undershirts. they all are made with fabric blends that are both absorbing and wicking. they feel natural, but perform better than all cotton undershirts
      4. you could sign-up for my email list, and in the email confirmation you’ll receive, there’s a link you can use to download my undershirt workbook and look in the fabric blend column. anything that is not cotton, is probably a form of wicking or synthetic fabric.
      5. keep your eye on getyourslixon.com — they’re coming out with a wicking undershirt. i’ve already tried it and it’s pretty nice.

      the above information should get you going. make sure you let me know what you decide to try out and what you think of it!

    • Tug says:

      hey greg, one other thing. slim fit only really means it’ll be a closer fitting undershirt than one that is full cut, and if you’re wearing it as an undershirt, you want it to be closer fitting.

      in all honesty, most of the undershirts nowadays are either fitted or slimmer cut for that very reason. undershirt companies have gotten wise to the fact that the box-cut undershirts of the past are no longer desirable by most men who now want their undershirts to be close fitting and less bulky.

      i would also recommend you look at something fitted, with stretch. these undershirts hug your body, but are still incredibly comfortable no matter what your size.

      as i mentioned to jessie, you might also want to take a look at cotton/polyester blend undershirt. they offer the comfort of cotton, with the wicking performance of polyester.

      here’s another article you can take a look at covering the topic of cool wicking undershirts.

      good luck buddy!

      • Greg

        says:

        I understand you might want an undershirt to fit closer, but ones that do are uncomfortable to me. I don’t like anything that is form fitting because I do have a bit of a gut. I prefer an undershirt that fits like a regular shirt, except with shorter sleeves so they don’t stick out from the sleeves of the over-shirt.

        I’ll keep an eye on Slix. I signed up for their email updates, hopefully I’ll hear when their undershirts come out.

        I am a big fan of Ex-Officio boxers, and just looked up undershirts on Amazon. Whew, though, a two pack is $65!

        • Tug says:

          heya greg, thanks for your additional thoughts!

          you know, from my personal experience, baggy, non-fitted undershirts are less comfortable than fitted ones with stretch. when an undershirt has stretch, either natural or with spandex, it does not feel constricting anywhere, ever — not even in the gut area. it stretches with you and conforms to your body, without ever feeling too tight.

          if you have a non-fitted undershirt, and it fits too loose, there’s usually too much bulk under your outside shirt. if it fits too tight in areas, you’ll notice that too.

          dunno if you’ve ever tried out a fitted undershirt with spandex or natural stretch, but it might be worth trying out.

          btw, the slix undershirt will be fitted, so if you’re really not interested in fitted undershirts, you won’t be interested in the slix moisture wicking undershirt.

          food for thought my friend (:

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