The moment I switched back to primarily cotton button down shirts, I needed to sort out a way to try and get more than a single wear from each shirt — mostly for my sanity of easy laundering. The best path for this: undershirts.
I also live, and walk, in Houston — which is far from a ‘cool’ climate. So finding a good undershirt was paramount — I’ve been down this road before, but was surprised to see how poor the offerings still are in general.
What to Look For
Perhaps it’s best to start with what I was looking for with my undershirt:
- A deep enough v-neck, such that it cannot be seen on my neckline when I am wearing my button down over the shirt.
- A long enough torso that the shirt stays tucked in.
- Moisture wicking, dries fast.
- Doesn’t feel like it’s a layer which adds warmth.
- Machine wash and dry.
- Doesn’t start to stink by the end of the day.
Any shirt that hits those criteria, is something I can use day to day.
What I Tried & Tested
It was surprisingly hard to find something that seemed to match the above criteria, as most ‘good’ undershirts seem to be fully cotton or modal — both of which I know won’t hit the benchmarks I am looking for. I ended up trying five options:
- Wool&Prince 100% Merino Undershirt, $78: I found the neck to be very deep and the color to be great to hide for my complexion. However, the shirt adds warmth when worn, and generally looks and feels a bit sloppy under a shirt. While the material is soft, the fit and shape retention isn’t there. After only a half dozen wash/dry cycles, the neck and sleeves were slightly misshapen. I’ve heard from others they had similar issues, and for a $78 shirt, that’s not good.
- Bluffworks Threshold V-Neck, $52: I am a big fan of the Threshold crew neck, so I went for the v-neck. The v-neck isn’t quite deep enough to always be hidden under my shirts, and thus needs to be properly placed. I found the body a touch short as well, which means you need to take more time keeping it tucked in. However, the wash/dry is quick and easy, it holds it’s shape as well. It doesn’t add warmth, and doesn’t build odor in just 12hrs of wear. Overall, aside from the neck, this is a pretty nice undershirt for what I am trying to do. You can also hand wash these and have them hang dry overnight — a big plus for travel.
- Uniqlo AIRism Anti Odor Mesh V Neck, $15: I also wanted to see if I could find something good, which is much more affordable. This AIRism is a completely different fabric and is seamless as well. It’s wild feeling and looks completely silly to wear. But it wash/dries well, hides completely under a shirt, stays tucked in, and doesn’t add any warmth. However, it builds odor ridiculously fast, often within 8hrs of wear, and seems to transfer some of that to your shirt you are trying to protect, mostly defeating the purpose of the undershirt.
- Uniqlo AIRism V-Neck Short-Sleeve, $15: The more classic offering isn’t much better. It does look slightly less ridiculous without a shirt over it, but only slightly. It feels more substantial, but adds no warmth. It does a slightly better job wicking moisture, and a much worse job managing odor — though this shirt doesn’t seem to transfer odor on to the shirt you wear over it, which is nice. All in all, it’s likely not worth wearing if this were your only option.
- Mack Weldon AIRKNITx V-Neck Undershirt, $38: I was very skeptical of this shirt, so I wasn’t sure what to make of it. But it performs well: drying from sweat quickly, not building odors, not transferring odors, and wearing about as cool as you would without the undershirt on at all. The v is rather deep, keeping the shirt hidden and it stays tucked well. After many wash cycles, it has yet to look worse for wear. While it protects the shirt from odor, it does transfer moisture out to the shirt when your armpits are sweating a lot — this makes sense, but some people are looking for a barrier, and this is not that. Oh, and it doesn’t look that great when wearing without a shirt fully covering it — if that’s a concern for you.
After testing those, I couldn’t find anything else I felt was worth testing, write in if there’s something I missed.
I really wanted the Bluffworks Threshold V-Necks to work out for me, as they work well as a general t-shirt too, thus offering some potential wardrobe consolidation. But they are only above average. My favorite is the Mack Weldon AIRKNITx line, it’s very comfortable to wear and offers a clear benefit with low-downside when wearing under my work shirts.
They aren’t inexpensive, nor are they space saving when you pack. But they do allow me to get 3-4 wears out of all my cotton button down shirts, which was my primary goal. They are comfortable, even when walking in humid 90°F weather, and dry very quickly. I’ve laundered them with reckless abandon, and have had no issues.
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