Tested: Can Sweat Undershirts Actually Make Commuting in the Heat Bearable?

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Commuting in historically high late summer heat is uncomfortable enough without the shame that comes with pit stains. Everybody sweats, but some fluids pool faster than others. A standard undershirt is better than rocking the Oxford dress shirt solo, but new technology can help. Sweat undershirts are designed specifically to absorb sweat and protect one’s composure — and ego — while wearing nice clothes in high temps.

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They have extra padding and material in the armpit that’s resistant to sweat so moisture stays at bay when one needs it the most. This extra construction raises the prices a bit, up from $3-$5 in a Target multi-pack to around $20-$30 a pop, but they’re well worth it to stay dry.

To back up our endorsement of the investment, SPY  tested three of the most popular sweat undershirts on the market — Thompson Tee, Social Citizen, and Sweat Shield — to determine if they actually work and which is the best. This is still a relatively new product category, so these three brands are the extent of the selection at the moment. New, pricey products like this often sound like they’re too good to be true and it’s especially frustrating if they don’t work as advertised, so we strolled through August heat in all three to see if they’re up to snuff.

The Testing Process

I wore each of the three shirts for about a brisk twenty-minute walk while on vacation in Los Angeles in mid-August. It was definitely hot, around 90 degrees each day, but I got sweaty for the sake of science. I went for a stroll around noon each day to ensure the temp was roughly the same and walked the same path to ensure consistency. Additionally, I really wanted to focus on how my armpits felt, So I layered each of the sweat undershirts under a long-sleeve shirt with the sleeves rolled up so I could see from the outside how effective they were at not just absorbing moisture, but preventing visual pit stains as well. Oh, and I switched from antiperspirant to deodorant to ensure I’d actually sweat.

man wearing white Social Citizen sweatproof undershirt

Social Citizen

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Price: $36.00

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Style: The Social Citizen Sweat Proof V-Neck looks just like a  standard tee. The big difference is in the pits, where there’s a hidden three-layer pad that’s absorbent, breathable, and waterproof to combat that dreaded sweat. The v-neck I tested was very soft, the material felt premium and the design is something I could easily work into my wardrobe.

Fit and Comfort: The Large fit my 6’6” frame perfectly; not too long or short and just the right amount of room throughout the body.  It wasn’t too baggy or too slim — a real Goldilocks situation. I wish this version of the v-neck had a slightly deeper v so that I could hide it under a dress shirt more easily, but that’s more of a minor annoyance than a deal breaker.

Comfort is where Social Citizen let me down. The three-layer pads do their job, but they’re stiff and itchy most of the time. I had to adjust the pads a few times before the shirt felt wearable each morning. Even then, I’d equate the feeling to taking a bunch of toilet paper and stuffing it into your armpits to stop sweating. Sure, it works, but it’s very distracting.

Results: Social Citizen’s Sweat Proof shirt absolutely works. After a long walk on a hot day — around 91 degrees — I felt pretty gross, but the tee had done its job. While sweat definitely pooled in other places, the three-layer pad absorbed all the sweat from my armpits and I had no pit stains on my long sleeve. If you can get past the feeling of maxipads having been tucked under your arms, the shirt isn’t a bad addition to a wardrobe.

man wearing white Sweatshield Undershirts

Sweatshield Sweat Proof Undershirt

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Price: $28.99

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Style: Made from 96% micro modal and 4% spandex, the Sweatshield Sweat Proof Undershirt feels and looks more like something you’d get from Under Armour than a drugstore. Not a drop of cotton to be found, this is a high-performance, heavy-hitter for those who really need something to help them combat sweat. The size large the brand sent for review was all black, but it comes in white as well, and in a v neck design that would make it easy to layer underneath an office shirt in place of a traditional undershirt.

Fit and Comfort: Sweatshield’s sweat undershirt is definitely on the slimmer side. Bolstered by the compression material, it does fit tight to your body and felt a bit like Spanx. he large I tested was too small for my larger frame, and an XL would’ve been a roomier fit that I prefer, but the large wicked sweat and performed as it should.

Results: The Sweatsheld sweat undershirt works like a charm to make your shirts stay sweat-free while feeling like a workout shirt. After a short sweaty walk outside, I didn’t feel gross or disheveled, and my long sleeve didn’t have embarrassing pit stains. It didn’t just prevent sweat stains in my armpits, but kept my entire torso and back free of visible moisture as well. In fact, the Sweatshield provides the most comprehensive sweat protection of any shirt I reviewed. That might be overkill, but it is helpful to know if you’re looking for total sweat protection.

I would consider buying your normal size and a size up to determine whether you prefer a tighter or looser fit. I know that’s slightly annoying, but better safe than sorry.

man wearing white Thomspon Tee

Thompson Tee Sweat Proof Undershirt

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Price: $32.99

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Style: The Sweat Proof Undershirt from Thompson Tee also doesn’t look like anything more than a sleek t-shirt. Its only tell is the reinforced stitching along the underside of the armpit area. Inside the underarm is where the Thompson Tee has placed its sweat pads, which have a lot of cushion.

Fit and Comfort: Much like the Social Citizen, the large wasn’t  too big or too small and offered the perfect length. It’s easy to tuck in or wear on its own, and it can easily fit under another shirt without adding too much bulk.

As for comfort, the padding was definitely present underneath the armpits, but it wasn’t nearly as annoying as with the Social Citizen tee. In fact, the longer I wore the tee, the less noticeable it became. Eventually, I got used to it and forgot it was there. This factor alone made the Thompson Tee far and away my favorite of the three to actually wear.

Results: Again, after testing on a walk in the brutal LA heat, the Thompson Tee was sweaty around the body, but the armpit of my dress shirt area stayed nice and dry. Other portions of my dress shirt saw sweat, but the padded area remained unbothered. I was impressed with the Thompson Tee in terms of its wearability and its functionality. While the shirt provided for testing was a crewneck, the brand does offer v-neck options if you want to hide the layer.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sweat Shirts

Can you get different colors and cuts?

Yup! Most of these brands offer different color options and differing styles—i.e., v-neck or crew neck. It’s really up to you what your needs are, but our recommendation would be a v-neck, since you can hide it under a dress shirt easier.

Do sweat undershirts work?

TL;DR: Yes. Longer answer: They’re made with extra padding, additional stitching, and may be uncomfortable depending on what you’re layering on top.

How comfortable are sweat undershirts?

This  boils down to individual preference, but we found two out of three  of the sweat undershirts we reviewed to be comfortable enough to wear daily for longer periods of time.

Are sweat undershirts affordable?

 Most of these shirts are roughly $20 – $30 each. That’s definitely more than a pack of Hanes at your local Target,but you’ll save your nice shirts from getting yellow pit stains on them.

Are sweat undershirts fashionable?

Not on their own, no. But, you could easily style one with a denim shirt on top or a dress shirt unbuttoned. They have neutral designs, so they won’t sabotage an outfit either.

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