Reader Says Sunspel Cellular Cotton Undershirts Are Cool

As summer approached, I spent a lot of time focusing on undershirts designed to keep you cooler such as the Fros-T, Jockey Stay Cool, Uniqlo “Cool”, and the Famously Fit Cooling T-shirt.

Well just the other day I ran across a review of the Sunspel Cellular Cotton undershirts offered as a close-out item by online retailer Sierra Trading Post and thought it’d make for a good article here.

Sunspel Cellular Cotton Undershirt Review

Here’s an excerpt from the review:

In my quest to find a great undershirt for summer, I picked up two of these Sunspel cellular cotton V-necks from Sierra Trading Post for just over $11 a piece.

While steeper than my usual staple—the $20 six-pack of Hanes V-necks—I figure $11 isn’t too bad if it means more comfort when temperatures approach the triple digits some time this summer.

And it sure beats the retail price of $40.

The product description isn’t kidding when it says “ultra-breathable”—the fabric is the sort of open mesh you’d expect to find on basketball jerseys.

This definitely can’t do double duty as a t-shirt, unless you’re into the whole “see-through” thing. I imagine the mesh should also mitigate one of cotton’s chief downsides: moisture retention.

The shirt itself is wonderfully soft and comfortable. I have about a 37” chest, and the 36 felt trim, but not overly tight.

After trying it on, I ended up bumming around the house in it (thankfully, I didn’t have to answer the door).

I’ll still have to wait for summer to finally show up before truly testing these in real heat.

May has been unseasonably cool here in NorCal.

The “cellular” construction of the long-staple cotton (i.e. Pima/Supima) Q14 undershirt is a unique fabric construction that Sunspel is known for.

The great thing about it, and their similar weaved fabrics, is that it makes the final product ultra breathable.

Of course the down side is that in an undershirt application, it’s probably too transparent to wear by itself.  

But hell, when it’s hot out, I’d take function over fashion any day.

I took a look at some of the reviews, and for the most part guys are providing positive feedback.

The common theme is how lightweight and breathable the undershirts are.

The main downside is that many report that the sleeves are too long.

Also, since all the Sunspel undershirts are close-out items on the site, the size selection is somewhat limited.

Sunspel Cellular Cotton Undershirt Review Follow-up

The review was written in early June, so I sent a quick note to the person who wrote the review to see if he had any updates for us and to ask if I could share his review here:

Hi Tug,

Haha, wow…I’m a fan.

Actually spent some time on your site trying to pick out what would work for me (undershirt for a bike commuter in 90+ degree temperatures), but couldn’t quite bring myself to shell out that much for an undershirt, so went off searching for something cheaper.

No additional thoughts–my first child came along shortly after that review was posted, so the crazy hectic schedule and an out-of-season cold spell had me driving to work more than riding.

And yes, absolutely, please do post it as a guest review.

Thanks so much for asking,

11 thoughts on “Reader Says Sunspel Cellular Cotton Undershirts Are Cool”

  1. Dear Tug,

    I wrote both the customer service of Smedley about the holes and the customer service of Sunspel about my intention to replace the Smedleys with either Sunspel T-shirt or Sunspel undershirt. That was shortly AFTER receiving a row of emails from Sunspel announcing their winter sale.

    I concede I wrote Smedley AFTER my exchange with the Sunspel spokeslady, who professed to know nothing to say about Smedley. When I asked her what she thought about the failure of the expert for flannel who responded to my inquiry about care of a cloth I bought for the first time to warn me perspiration damages, she never replied again.

    You may not have understood my response to your notice of the cost of Sunspel Sea Cotton, but I agree a just price is a fundamental question for anyone who thinks about what a truly human society means.

    I shall be delighted to share my experiences with you and readers, but please be patient because my modest budget forces me to wait for the next sale.

    Your loyal reader snd grateful consulter closer to fresh thsn salt waters

    Reply
  2. Dear Tug,

    It’s clear you cannot judge a T-shirt if you’ve never seen it.

    I’m sorry. but I don’t think quoting prices suffices as judgment. I suffered under a person whose philosophy (to abuse the word) was the cheaper, the better.

    And I completely sympathise with those on websites who think there are other criteria to consider when choosing clothes – if one wants to just consider this part of life. On at least one website about clothes there are threads full of posters who want to buy products made in America, for reasons of quality and society. And another website devoted to tailors is an outpost against the cheap and nasty.

    So if you just quote the price, nothing else really matters.

    Reminds me of school notes and test amounts. Thhen don’t be surprised if nobody thinks for himself anymore and you’re just a screw in the cosmic machine.

    Reply
    • heya peter,

      i think we may agree on this, but i definitely do not think price is a telling factor — at all.

      from my personal experiences with undershirts (as well as other clothing), i’ve owned many good-quality, long lasting items that were affordably priced. in the same regard, i’ve also owned many bad-quality, short-lasting items that were over-priced.

      in my own opinion, price is not a determining factor of whether or not a garment will be of high quality, long lasting or pleasing to wear. though it is my belief that the more i spend on an item, the more expectation i have to be well treated from a customer service standpoint, should something go wrong with a product. to this, i have also been surprised by poor customer service on items in which i spent a lot to acquire, and spectacular customer service on items which i have spent very little.

      i suppose i reference price in that regard only — and maybe that is good — or maybe not.

      while we may have gotten off on the wrong foot with regard to your question, should you acquire one or more of them, i would very much appreciate any updates you would be willing to share about your experiences with the colorful line-up of sunspel t-shirts (the 100% egyptian cotton, classic fit ones?)

      be well (:

      Reply
  3. Dear Tug,

    My cousins live in California, but I must admit I’ve only spent three days of my life on a visit there. My impression at that time was the inhabitants were very casual and relaxed. So it is perplexing to me how you misinterpret what I wrote to lack courtesy or that I don’t say what I really mean.

    I never asked you about a Sea Island T-shirt. I asked you about Sunspel T-shirts as undershirt.

    Regarding your request to inform you if I see the Sunspel cellular product, I’m quite surprised, because I thought I also clearly wrote this product does not interest me.

    I never wrote about a Smedley T-shirt, but I checked the receipt Smedley sent me last year, and in fact it refers to Braedon Mens T-Shirt. So you are quite right that what I have been using as undershirt, various models of v-neck shortsleeve collarless Sea Island cotton shirts made by Smedley are most like all called by this English manufacture , although the changing models through the seasons each has its name.

    I did not ask you for a comparison between Smedley and Sunspel, nor did I ever indicate interest in the Sunspel Sea Island model. You seem not to have understood I do not intend to replace the Smedleys which all got holes with new Smedleys.

    In fact, most of what you write has nothing whatsoever to do with what I asked you.

    My questions can be reformulated in this way:
    1. What’s your opinion of Sunspel T-shirt?
    2. What’s the difference between Sunspel T-shirt and Sunspel undershirt?

    I am not responsible for your omission that not you, but someone else called you the world’s best undershirt expert. Why do you not indicate that this is not your own assertion, but the judgment of another?

    I really feel odd to be accused by you of discourtesy and sarcasm. I think you might better read what I wrote you in a quiet moment.

    Thanks anyway.

    Reply
    • heya peter.

      so i re-read your original comment, and you’re right, you did not mention you had an interest in sunspel sea island t-shirts. i simply assumed that since you mentioned the sea island from smedley and i made the leap that you were considering the sea island tee from sunspel. that’s my bad.

      my confusion with regard to your references to sierra trading post were because i was not aware that sierra ever sold regular sunspel t-shirts, as my familiarity is only that they sold the sunspel cellular cotton undershirt.

      while i honestly mis-read and misunderstood your original question, my original response to you was very friendly and courteous. your response(s) to my response was/were not.

      this may simply be a difference in how you and i communicate, but i found elements of your responses slightly off-putting. you may have thought you were being humors in your wording, but when you say things like:

      “But WHY do you as undershirt expert rate Sunspel’s undershirt “nice? Instead of repeating the prices, could you tell me if they are justified by qualities of the undershirt?”

      ..whether you like it or not, that’s not thoughtfully worded in my own humble opinion. maybe that’s how you guys talk, but i personally didn’t find it thoughtful.

      that said, i would like to extend my apologies for mis-understanding your original question.

      as i mentioned originally, i have no familiarity with sunspel t-shirts, so i cannot comment on them. i can only comment on my experience with one particular sunspel undershirt, of which, you are not interested in.

      Reply
  4. PS: Your article was on another kind of Sunspel undershirt, a specialised cloth or fabric, offered by Sierra Trading Post in Wyoming at reduced price, whereas my inquiry here to you as self-declared “the world’s undershirt expert” concerns the English made Sunspel standard T-shirt and standard undershirt. (I’m waiting for the next Sunspel sale – Sierra Trading Post doesn’t offer any Sunspel now.) I believe the Sunspel T-shirt won’t get holes as all my Smedley’s did, and I think the T-shirt is more durable than the undershirt. I intend to wear the Sunspel T-shirt AS undershirt.

    Reply
    • heya peter,

      again, i appreciate your sarcasm here — and also, i’m not an idiot. i know you were talking about their t-shirts, and more specifically, you referred to a sea island cotton t-shirt. maybe i didn’t answer the way you wanted me to, but i know how to read.

      after trying nearly 200 different undershirts and writing about them for 6+ years, i feel justified in my position in the undershirt knowledge world. to provide some clarity, i did not come up with “the world’s undershirt expert”, someone else did. i just use it because it sounds reasonably fitting (:

      if you do find the cellular sunspel available for sale anywhere, please stop back by and let me know. i’d love to tell my readers about it. i just haven’t seen it available for at least a couple of years.

      as to the construction/durability of the sunspel t-shirt (that you’ll wear as an undershirt) compared to the lack of durability of the smedley t-shirt, i can’t comment based on personal experience. though, i can comment hypothetically.

      the only practical reason the sunspel t-shirt would be more durable than the smedley t-shirt is if the companies physically construct/sew the products differently. or differently said, does sunspel actually sew their t-shirts with more precision and more threads-per-inch, with better/stronger thread than smedley. one can’t make a generic statement that quality should be better, because that won’t be the case all the time. or maybe sunspel just has better qa, and can detect potentially defective t-shirts better than other companies.

      that said, considering their sea island cotton lines are hand sewn by one person (an expert), my suspicion is that it is going to be a well made, very durable product. but at the price point of $225, it better be.

      due to sunspel having a rather good brand reputation, i suspect they may offer very good customer service. should a defect arise in your sunspel sea island cotton t-shirt (thread coming unraveled), they may have a very generous exchange policy.

      Reply
  5. Dear Undershirtguy,

    Presumably you aren’t familiar with Sunspel made in England because you live far away in California next to another ocean. That you can’t advise me on Sunspel T-shirts won’t hurt your reputation as Undershirtguy, but as T-shirtguy. Sea Island by Smedley gets holes at joint seams, Sea Island by Sunspel is for my next incarnation as Mr. Onehundredthpercent’s granddaughter. I thought the Sunspel T-shirt is tougher, and I’m not colorblind, that’s why I consider it in round collar as lemon, pink or bright blue (v-collar is colorless) in preference to floppy form colorpoor undershirt. But WHY do you as undershirt expert rate Sunspel’s undershirt “nice? Instead of repeating the prices, could you tell me if they are justified by qualities of the undershirt?

    Reply
    • heya peter,

      so, since you asked (semi-unpolitely or sarcastically), let me be a bit more specific.

      i was referring to the $11-$20 sunspel cellular cotton undershirt sold by sierra trading post when i said it was a “nice” undershirt. i have tried this undershirt, and frankly, i wasn’t blown away with it. yes, the cellular construction of the light cotton breathes well and feels nice on the skin, but the fit of the undershirt lacks in some areas. for example, in my size medium, the chest fit a bit tight and felt slightly binding when i moved my arms forward and backward. it didn’t stretch very much, and i prefer undershirts that stretch with my movement. also, i didn’t find the length very adequate and i am personally not a huge fan of the v-neck design — it’s kinda like a hybrid of a v-neck undershirt and a scoop neck t-shirt. as far as construction, it’s made well — which i fully expect from sunspel, but so are tons of other undershirts.

      also, to be clear — this particular item is almost impossible to get because over the last couple of years, i have yet to find it available on sierra’s website. keep in mind, this article was written way back in 2011.

      my additional point was that, in my own personal opinion, it’s hard to justify paying $65 for long-staple cotton undershirt from any company, since that type of fabric is widely available in other, less expensive, well fitting and feeling undershirts.

      and for the $225 price — i suppose if you have unlimited wealth, that price wouldn’t seem to ridiculous.

      Reply
  6. My Smedley Sea Island cotton v-neck short sleeve collarless shirts which I used as undershirt all developed holes at the seam joint where sleeve nadir meets trunk. I consider Sunspel T-shirt as successor. The interesting colors are not available in v-neck. Sunspel makes T-shirts and undershirts, but I have the impression the T-shirt is more beautiful. What do you think?

    Reply
    • heya peter! tbh, i’m not too familiar with sunspel t-shirt products. i’ve only seen their undershirt, which is pretty nice.

      though, the retail price point of their egyptian long staple cotton undershirts is $65, and their boxer briefs are $48. so, it’s definitely not an inexpensive product.

      heck, the sea island cotton undershirt is $225! wow (:

      Reply

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