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.
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.