Moisture Wicking Undershirts – How to Choose Them

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.

Diagram explaining Moisture Wicking Diagram explaining Moisture Wicking. Image credit: aqtocycling.com

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.

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.

– Dave

Companies That Sell Moisture Wicking Undershirts:

Uniqlo AIRism

Polyester Undershirt, super lightweight, and pretty incredible.

More info: AIRism Undershirt Review

CoolKeep

Polyester / Spandex blend tee/undershirt. Same company that owns the 32° (Degrees) Cool Brand available at Costco.

More Info: kohls.com

CoolClothingUSA

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

BulletProofMe

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

Vdri

The v-neck, sweat wicking undershirt for men. See my review here

More Info: vdri.net

Execwear

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


Discontinued Products

Items Below are from my original list but are no longer viable/available products

TRIDRI

100% Polyester Mesh. Lightweight micro polyester. (added 4/5/13)

More Info: tridri.net

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.

Original link: holofiber.com

Duluth Trading Company

New 4.5 oz. 64% cotton/36% CoolMax polyester knit crewneck undershirt.

Original link: duluthtrading.com

Work-Dry T-shirts

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

Wickers

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

Final Thoughts

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!

24 thoughts on “Moisture Wicking Undershirts – How to Choose Them”

  1. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  2. 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!

    Reply
  3. 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?

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
      • 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 (:

  4. 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?

    Reply
    • hey jessie,

      as a starting point, check out these product pages:
      kingsizedirect.com
      jiffyshirts.com or this alo product page on jiffyshirts.com
      mygildan.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.

      ok?

      Reply
  5. 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”?

    Reply
    • hey elizabeth!

      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!

      Reply
  6. 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.

    Reply
    • 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 (:

      Reply
  7. 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.

    Reply
  8. 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.

    Good luck!!

    Reply
    • 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?

      Reply
  9. I’ve tried a few of the moisture wicking undershirts you listed and would like to hare my opinions.

    CoolClothingUSA:
    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.

    Wickers:
    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.

    Reply
  10. 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.

    Reply
  11. 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.

    Reply

Leave a Comment


Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.