If you’re like me, you’re probably curious about the growing interest in moisture wicking undershirts.
What are they? Why are they getting so much interest? Does wearing them really make a difference?
Also, are wicking undershirts worth buying?
Note: This article has been updated several times since it’s original posting date 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.
However, over the years I have written many other articles about wicking (non-absorbing) undershirts and/or performance shirts. To quickly find other moisture wicking articles, you visit this link here.
If you’re looking for the best cooling undershirts, check out my Hi-Tech Cooling Undershirts as well as my Top 4 Cooling Apparel Categories articles. Also be sure to check out my Top 9 Sweat Management Solutions article.
Should I Buy A Moisture Wicking Undershirt?
Quite frankly, I had the exact same question, so I started doing a little research.
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 different than standard fabrics, because it certainly does.
Also, I have personally tested some moisture wicking shirts from 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?
Food for thought:
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 a moisture wicking undershirt, then wouldn’t your outer shirt get wetter (especially in the underarm area) than if you were wearing an undershirt that absorbed sweat?
I elaborated on this question in this post Moisture Wicking vs. Cotton Undershirts as well as in this article Do Moisture Wicking Undershirts Accelerate Sweat-Through.
What Does Moisture Wicking Mean?
I think it will be helpful if we first define the term “moisture wicking” (also reference Wikipedia). In simple terms, it’s the transference of moisture, vs. the absorption of moisture.
Transference vs. 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 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 source: Wikipedia) that provide a similar effect.
Moreover, 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.
Is Wearing Sweat Wicking Undershirts Practical?
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 sweats more than others or one who was affected by Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), then 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, then I’d certainly 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.
Primarily, I 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.
For those looking for sweat-proof undershirts and underwear, or other ways to manage sweat, check out my Sweat Management Solutions article.
They Need To Fit Tight
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
Companies That Sell Moisture Wicking Undershirts:
Polyester Undershirt, super lightweight, and pretty incredible.
More info: AIRism Undershirt Review
Polyester / Spandex blend tee/undershirt. Same company that owns the 32° (Degrees) Cool Brand available at Costco.
More Info: kohls.com
I reviewed their compression shirts a few weeks back, but they offer a real undershirt made out of Coolmax.
I got my hands on a v-neck Coolmax undershirt from the folks at CoolClothingUSA and wrote up a review on it.
More Info: coolclothingusa.com
Moisture wicking undershirts (sleeveless and sleeved).
More Info: bulletproofme.com
Duluth Trading Company
Buck Naked Undershirt. 93% Nylon / 7% Spandex.
More Info: duluthtrading.com
TravelSmith Under and Sleepwear
These folks offer a few different moisture wicking undershirts including Men’s ExOfficio® Short-Sleeve Quick-Dry T-Shirt.
More Info: travelsmith.com
The v-neck, sweat wicking undershirt for men. See my review here
More Info: vdri.net
A a moisture wicking men’s undershirt that resists underarm staining and odors. Made out of a soft nylon/spandex blend.
More Info: RibbedTee.com
Other Moisture Wicking Undershirt options
Check out this article about Quick Dry Undershirts
Items Below are from my original list but are no longer viable/available products
100% Polyester Mesh. Lightweight micro polyester. (added 4/5/13)
More Info: tridri.net
They supposedly offer a short sleeve undershirt, but I can’t exactly locate where to buy one. I’d suggest calling them and asking.
Original link: holofiber.com
Duluth Trading Company
New 4.5 oz. 64% cotton/36% CoolMax polyester knit crewneck undershirt.
Original link: duluthtrading.com
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
Original link: workwear1.com
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.
Original link: velowear.com
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.
Original link: sweatitout.com
Underwear for anywear.
V-Neck moisture wicking t-shirts. 100% moisture wicking polyester undershirts (crew neck, v-neck, tank top).
Original link: wickers.com
Tilley Unisex Travel Undershirt
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”
Original link: sockcompany.com
Do I think these types of shirts help keep you drier than non moisture wicking shirts? 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, 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.
If any of you have found other moisture wicking undershirts, shoot me an email with all the details and I’ll add them here!