Let me first start this review by telling you that this shirt is my near perfect shirt. On paper it doesn’t seem to even come close to the performance of all the other shirts I own or wear. The price is, well, it’s not cheap. And yet, if I could only wear one shirt, this would be it.
I have two of them, they are amazing. They are also expensive.
Vollebak’s Equator Shirt is essential.
As I alluded to at the top, the material itself doesn’t seem extraordinary in any sense as it is: 72% cotton, 24% polyamide, 4% elastane. This doesn’t really tell the whole story, but first I will note that the mesh used is 75% polyester, 25% elastane (this is the armpit area mesh) and there are Corozo nut buttons which are sublime.
This shirt is cotton, but like no cotton I have ever felt before. Here’s what Vollebak says about the cotton they use:
One of the lightest, softest fabrics on the planet, Karnak Menoufi is a silk-like cotton that’s only found in the Nile Delta, and only grows in the years when the rain, soil and wind conditions are perfect.
The entire shirt weighs in at 200 grams. So when you talk about this being light and silk like — yeah that’s what they mean. The weave is incredible smooth and the shirt feels very soft. It feels impossibly thin, but not crinkly like Paper Cotton. This feels better than the best t-shirt, both to the touch and on your body.
The sum of this is a very soft, very thin, very fast drying material which still rates at UPF 50+. Pretty insane if you ask me.
Fit & Style
I don’t know what to make of the style on this shirt. Like all goods from Vollebak they are a mix of classic with an edge towards — I don’t know, being edgy? I can’t really say. The Equator Shirt at first glance can seem oddball, but reminiscent of classic designs. This is further helped by a very good cut, which runs trim, and looks great untucked, or tucked.
The fit for me is perfection. The style is tame enough that I never got a side eye, while not ever looking overly dressy, or underdressed. It’s an outdoors casual shirt, which can be tucked into your pants and made to look like some sort of stylish dress shirt where you are embarrassed to ask if that is the new trend or not. This is the best I can explain it.
This shirt has insanely good performance — it might be one the best performing shirts I have. And I know those who have been reading this site for a while might be in disbelief on this, believe me when I say that I keep expecting this shirt to not perform well and keep being wrong. This shirt performs better than most of my active wear performance t-shirts and certainly better than merino wool.
Let’s tackle the item most people assume is where this will fail: multiple wears and odor resistance. I get 2-3 wears out the shirts when I need it, with no smell at all. I’ve yet to have these shirts smell. I tested this by wearing them all day in the early summer heat of Disney World with a backpack on my back and the sun beating down. I soaked them thoroughly with sweat, hung them to dry, and smelled. Nothing. So I did it again, still nothing. I also don’t know how that is, but it is.
And, I suspect a part of this is how fast the shirts dry. Whether just out of the washer, after pouring rain, or letting sweat evaporate — these are my second fastest drying shirt. With the only one faster being a Western Rise shirt which is lighter than air here on a humid summer day in Houston.
But wait, there’s more. The shirt is really stretchy, so even though it has a nice tailored cut, it rarely restricts any arm motion. The UPF 50+ rating has to be real, I never burned through this shirt and I have worn it in a ton of situations where sunscreen was required on my face.
There are two things about this shirt which are even crazier than the rest: venting and the sleeves. First let’s talk about the venting on this shirt, because it’s hidden all over. Specifically there are 18 hidden vents. The armpits are mesh. The ‘seam’ across the top back of the shirt is a row of vents. Ditto the forward facing seam at the top of the shoulders. The chest pockets unzip to reveal laser cut holes which act as a chest vent. And none of these vents look odd, none get in the way, and they actually work. I opened the chest vents several times, only to close them when entering A/C areas. Stellar.
And then there’s the sleeve, Vollebak says it best:
If you’re moving hard and fast and want your sleeves to stay rolled, you’ll find a 20cm long reinforced strap on the inside of each sleeve that you can pull out, up and over the rolled sleeve and fasten to a small slip button on the outside of the upper arm. The fastening is secured on its own reinforced patch of military tape. And each 20cm fabric strap has two buttonhole settings so you can choose how high you want them. If you’re wearing the sleeves down, the cuffs fasten with two corozo buttons.
Yes, basically correct. This shirt looks and feels great sleeves up or down, and they stay put no matter which you choose. I love it, and this type of system doesn’t always work this well.
There’s but one single downside on the performance: wrinkles. Lots of wrinkles. This fabric comes out messy looking. It’s odd though, because if you are wearing it casually the wrinkles drop out enough that you don’t need to worry too much. A quick steam pass really releases them to where I like to wear it. But if you do press the shirt with an iron, it looks very sharp and passes in situations which trend a little less casual.
Man, what a shirt. I have the Sky Blue and the Temple of Doom Edition (this looks like a light-khaki, but to my eye it’s more mint-khaki) and I prefer the Sky Blue color slightly.
I don’t know if this shirt is worth $345. I got the first one as a gift from my wife, and I quickly bought the second one as a gift from me to me, because I liked it so much. I wish I could have this in a standard button down style for the office too, but as it is, I love this shirt. It’s worth it to me, but it is far from an easy price to swallow.
If you do make the purchase, you’ll have my favorite shirt as well.