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Shirts That Don't Show Sweat

Sunday, September 18, 2011
A sweaty shirty can make you feel uncomfortable when working out or heading back home so I started looking for shirts that don't show sweat.

I remember the first time I tried to jog. It was horrible. My heart was racing and I was exhausted and I barely made it a block. Recently I have had much better results than that first attempt.

One day I was very impressed with my performance. I had jogged longer than I ever had before. It filled me with such great joy.

Walking home from my run led me through my town's crowded main strip. Past many businesses and restaurants with open air seating. Along the way I noticed a few people staring at me. Was my elation so obvious as to draw that attention? Not really. It was a very hot day and my jog had made me obviously sweaty.

I'm getting in better shape. In fact I think I might be in the best shape I've been in for many years but my phone's not ringing off the hook with requests to pose for the cover of Men's Health Magazine.
When I go running, I don't look like a runner. I wear a pair of shorts, sometimes cargo shorts if I'm trail running, and a cotton t-shirt. I don't look like someone who just went for a run. I look like someone who sweats profusely just from walking around in the heat of summer.

Now, worrying what other people think of me when I'm trying to get into better shape is a little counterproductive. Still, I'm very glad I took the time to investigate if there were any shirts that didn't make me look like a sweaty pig.

My search for exercise shirts led to the discovery of technical shirts that do a lot more than not show sweat. Specifically black technical shirts such as the Nike Black Legend Dri-Fit and Under Armour Tech T Tops shirts. (Also check out my Under Armour vs Nike Dri-Fit vs Hanes Cool Dri article for more information and a cheaper moisture wicking shirt option.)

In comparing Nike Dri-Fit vs Under Armour UA Tech Shirts, the material of the Nike shirts seems ever so slightly thicker and it has a looser cut. The other big difference is the Under Armour shirts have a Raglan sleeve construction. With a Raglan sleeve, the seam isn't on top of the shoulder, it's cut so that there is a seam in front and behind the shoulder which many runners find more comfortable.

Nike also has a Ragland sleeve in the Nike Miler Dri-FIT Running Shirt. It also features flat side seams which give the shirt a more fitted look. There is also some reflective material on the arms, back and front to increase night-time visibility when light strikes the shirt.

These aren't new, I just wasn't aware of them. The shirts are made of a moisture wicking fabric that draws sweat away from your skin to help keep you cool. 

During exercises where I sweat a lot I've noticed that I'm more comfortable. The sweat spreads throughout the shirt more evenly. At the end of a run, the shirt is completely wet all over instead of just having a few unattractive concentrations here and there.

The shirts also dry quicker. They aren't dry by the time I walk home, but they feel significantly lighter than a cotton shirt soaked in sweat. Because of that, and how the shirts breathe better and don't cling when wet.
Wet spot on heather Nike Dri-Fit Legend Shirt

What Shirt Colors Don't Show Sweat?

I purchased a few different Nike Dri-Fit and Under Armour HeatGear shirts in different colors. What I've noticed is that the black shirts look the same wet or dry. The light and dark grey shirts get darker when wet (as seen in photo), but during a long workout the moisture spreads and the entire shirt takes on a darker color. The white shirts don't show signs of wetness but they do get more translucent when wet.

Before purchasing these tech shirts, I tried wearing an undershirt or tank top but the extra bulk, weight and insulation was too uncomfortable in the 90+ degree heat and they didn't have a great effect on minimize the appearance of sweat.

These polyester tech shirts aren't like the older type synthetic shirts that were scratchy, shiny and made noise when you moved. They look and feel very much like cotton shirts. Though there are styles that are tight-fitting, such as the compression shirts, there are styles, such as the Nike Black Legend Dri Fit and Under Armour UA Tech T Tops, that are cut like regular shirts. I don't look like I'm going to be running a marathon or biking in the Tour de France.

I was so happy with these shirts that I also ordered a few pairs of ExOfficio Give-N-Go Boxers made of similar material. They've been very comfortable during workouts, hikes and runs. They've been very good at reducing chaffing between the legs when running or intense hikes.

Technical shirts need to be washed in cold water and line dried. They are easy to wash in a bathroom sink (just before jumping in the shower) with some Assos Active Wear Cleanser. From what I read, Woolite is not recommended. The Assos cleaner helps preserve the color and fabric which helps the shirts last longer. Rinsing out is easy and by the next morning, after a good squeeze and hanging out to dry (or in the shower) the shirts and boxers are dry.

Update: I started using ProWash for Dri-Fit type shirts. You can read more.

Though it was my vanity that led me to seek out these shirts, I wear them now because they feel more comfortable during exercise.

There are many more options available to help you keep comfortable working out in all types of weather. Use these links to view more Nike Dri-Fit and Under Armour clothing.

Wear A Compression Shirt as an Undershirt

If you're going to be sweating a lot and really want to look dry you can wear a moisture wicking compression shirt underneath. In this photo I'm wearing a Champion Double Dry® Short-Sleeve Compression T Shirt underneath a Nike Dri-Fit Legend T Shirt.

Without the compression shirt all that sweat would be wicked up by the outer shirt. Instead the outer shirt remained relatively dry except for the armpits and a little on the back of the shirt.

I like the Champion Double Dry because it's not as tight as some of the other compression shirts on the market but it's tight enough that it keeps you snug so if you're still a little chubbier than you want (like me) it gives you a slightly firmer appearance. I still get lazy over the winter so I'm not fit enough to look like one of the models they use to sell the shirts so I don't wear it on it's own except on the treadmill at home but with another shirt on top it works great. The Nike Legend shirts work a little better because they have slightly longer sleeves and a looser fit than the Under Amour shirts.

Both shirts are breathable and even with two shirts hiking and running on a very hot, sunny day for almost 2 hours I felt very cool.

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