If you’re like me, you’re probably curious about the popularity of moisture wicking undershirts.
What are they? Why is there so much interest around them? Does wearing them really make a difference?
Also, are wicking undershirts worth buying?
Let’s talk about how moisture wicking technology works and how to choose a moisture wicking shirt that’s right for you.
Note: This article has been updated several times since its original posting date & republished to keep it current. Reading it will give you a great overview of what wicking undershirts/shirts are, what they may have to offer, and is a great starting point.
For other moisture wicking-related articles, visit this link here.
What Does Moisture Wicking Mean?
In simple terms, “moisture wicking” is the transference of moisture, versus the absorption of moisture.
Moisture Transference vs. Moisture Absorption
What’s the difference you ask?
To begin with, transference occurs when non-absorbent clothing (like polyester and other synthetic blends) moves moisture from the skin’s surface to the outer layer of the fabric where it has more surface area. This allows the moisture to dry faster than it would on standard fabrics like cotton.
Absorbent shirts, on the other hand, soak up moisture instead of transferring or repelling it away from your skin.
There are also shirts on the market that have moisture wicking characteristics or have been treated with synthetic substances (eg. Silnylon, Smartwool) to provide a similar effect.
Moisture transference shirts were developed primarily for high-performance activity sportswear and sporting goods. If you think about it, it 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?
I would definitely be willing to drop $40 to $200 for that type of high-performance gear if I were doing those kinds of activities.
If perspiration is one of your primary concerns, you may also benefit from cooling undershirts that are designed to regulate your body temperature.
For more on perspiration, check out my article on Sweat Management Solutions.
Should I Buy A Moisture Wicking Undershirt?
I started doing a little research to find out if I needed a moisture wicking shirt.
First, 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 manufacturer’s.
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. However, the bottom line for me is simple:
Do I notice and feel a difference when I wear moisture wicking undershirts?
Firstly, I am not here to question whether or not moisture wicking technology performs differently than standard fabrics, because it certainly does.
Also, I have personally tested some cooling shirts and moisture wicking shirts from Ribbed Tee, CoolClothingUSA, Vdri, and Campbellsville at the gym and have found some of them to keep me very comfortable and cool.
But, are they practical or even recommended to wear as undershirts?
Is It Practical To Wear A Moisture Wicking Undershirt?
For me, the short answer is yes. Although moisture wicking shirts are typically more expensive than regular undershirts, they can be worth the investment if you’ll benefit from them.
I like wearing undershirts that protect my outer clothing from armpit stains and sweat marks (like these ones from Thompson Tee). Undershirts also add a protective layer when I’m wearing less comfortable (aka, itchy or starchy) shirts.
There plenty of other practical reasons to wear a sweat wicking undershirt. You would benefit from an undershirt if:
- You sweat (especially if you sweat more than others and are affected by excessive sweating conditions like hyperhidrosis)
- You want to protect your outer layer (like a dress shirt) from sweat stains
- You want to regulate your body temperature better
- You work outdoors or in hot spaces without adequate temperature control
When you look at that list, you’ll see that there are some pretty good reasons to invest in some solid moisture wicking undershirts.
Here’s what you’ll need to know when you start shopping for a moisture wicking shirt.
My Top 3 Requirements For A Moisture Wicking Shirt
1. They Need To Fit Tight
I 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.
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.– Dave
A good undershirt should be snug or slim fitting so the fabric makes contact with your skin. So, Dave makes a good point here! This is the best way to guarantee that the moisture wicking features will work as advertised. And of course, a snug undershirt will look and feel best under your outer layers.
2. They’re More Effective If They’re Sweat Proof
Some moisture wicking shirts just don’t work that well. You might start to notice discoloration and odors transferring to your outer layer.
I recommend that you do your research to see how the moisture wicking shirt has been treated. Many are manufactured with sweat resistant chemicals that work great for a while but eventually wash out. If you’re fine with replacing your undershirts more frequently (or if sweat isn’t a big issue) these lower-end options can still work for you.
Some shirts are advertised as sweat proof, which is a big plus for those who sweat more than others. These sweat proof shirts have built-in protection that’s less prone to washing off in the laundry.
3. They Should Be Easy To Wash
Shirts with complicated care instructions can be annoying, so find something that you can toss in the wash with everything else.
If you plan on wearing moisture wicking undershirts regularly, you’ll get a lot more use and enjoyment out of your clothes when you pick ones that are wash-friendly.
Do I think these types of shirts help keep you drier than non moisture wicking shirts? In some situations, yes. Can I feel a difference when I’m wearing one? Also 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, then 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 sweat a bit more than most or have a job where you sweat a lot, and you want to feel a little drier, then sure, give them a try.
So, what do you think? Let me know your thoughts on moisture wicking undershirts below.
24 thoughts on “Moisture Wicking Undershirts: How to Choose Them”
you’re very welcome ciro (:
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.
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.
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!
i’d recommend taking a look at this article, and the articles reference in the article:
lots of good stuff there that may help you find an undershirt with a close fitting crew neck collar (high collar, tight collar).
good luck buddy (:
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?
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!
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!
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!
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 (:
It is silly that I can’t find a 4xl moisture wicking/dri fit t shirt anywhere. WTH? I am a lineman and need one for practice. Any help?
as a starting point, check out these product pages:
jiffyshirts.com or this alo product page on jiffyshirts.com
if you don’t find those moisture wicking t-shirts will work for you, i’d recommend search google for things like:
4xl polyester t-shirt
4xl nylon t-shirt
4xl dri fit t-shirt
4xl microfiber t-shirt
or even the above searches without the word t-shirt, since 4xl is pretty much a size primarily used for t-shirts
those yarns above are all synthetic, and as such are moisture wicking (moisture repelling). a search for moisture wicking undershirts or moisture wicking t-shirts probably won’t yield that many search results.
let me know if you wind up buying something from one of the above sites and keep me posted on what you think of it.
Not a guy, but trying to decide if I should continue to wear a cotton t shirt under my ballistic vest or invest in the wicking t shirts. The vest of course is fitted to my body contours and by the end of shift my t shirt and bra are soaked leaving my skin highly irritated. So, my question is, if the wicking t shirt is covered with a constricting vest will it help my skin recover or is it just another thing to “deal with”?
thanks for stopping by my site and posting your question about moisture wicking t-shirts / undershirts.
generally speaking and from all the feedback i’ve heard from police officers over the years, they prefer wicking undershirts over cotton undershirts. mostly because wicking undershirts generally dry faster than non-wicking undershirts.
the fastest drying undershirts i’ve personally experienced, are the ones that have a mesh or cellular style fabric construction similar to the undershirts made by tri-dri (tridri.net) or vdri (vdri.net). i have wicking tee from walmart that has a similar fabric blend, and it dries really fast.
i know that ex-officio has undershirts with similar cellular construction moisture wicking fabric as well.
my buddy ron over at coolcop has made a carbon-based seamless body conforming undershirt, designed specifically for police officers, so you may want to check that out as well.
if you’re not already doing this, i’d also recommend wearing a moisture wicking (synthetic: polyester, nylon, etc) sports bra in place of a typical bra if you can. if the irritation is from your bra, just changing to a moisture wicking undershirt wouldn’t be sufficient enough.
hope that information helps!
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 (:
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. C
ool 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.
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 wearing 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.
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?
I’ve tried a few of the moisture wicking undershirts you listed and would like to hare my opinions.
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.
The material was somewhat stiff and scratchy but softened noticeably 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.
thanks for the info kontai!
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.
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.