Things to Consider When Buying Men's Workout T-Shirts

The t-shirt has proven to be a popular and versatile clothing item that has found its way into many people’s closets. Commonly associated with being comfortable, inexpensive, and easy to care for; it’s easy to see why so many men and women love this wardrobe staple. What is the story behind how the humble t-shirt became such a prevalent part of modern-day athleisure wear?

The history of the t-shirt

Like many things, the t-shirt did not start out as we know it today. Attributed to introduction by the British and U.S. navies, this apparel item is relatively new to society, coming about in the late 19th century. Initially, this product was worn underneath standard issue military uniforms and, for this reason, came to be known as an “undershirt”.

Undershirts were first made from wool with a square neck and then evolved to be constructed from knitted white cotton, featuring a crew neck and short sleeves, by the early 20th century. These design changes gave the garment a somewhat “T”-shaped outline, by which it would be referred to in years to come. The change from wool to cotton was made due to the fact that cotton dried faster than wool. This kept the soldiers more comfortable when they were fighting in cold, damp conditions.

Eventually, the undershirt transitioned from strictly military garb to civilian wear in the late 1930s and early 1940s when T. Sears, Roebuck, and Co. began selling white “Army Style T-shirts” in their catalogues and advertised that they could be worn appropriately as underwear or outerwear. However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that wearing a t-shirt as an outer garment became socially acceptable. It was at this time that male actors such as Marlon Brando and James Dean began appearing in movies that popularized the look. As a result, it became more common and even fashionable, for men to wear a tight t-shirt as an outer garment, tucked into a pair of jeans.

As the popularity of t-shirts began to take off, manufacturers and retailers began looking for ways to enhance the look of their products. This gave birth to new technologies, such as screen printing, which allowed them to print logos and other graphics onto the t-shirts to make them stand out and promote their brands. 

The latest step in the evolution of the t-shirt has been associated with activewear. Consumers have started putting an emphasis on purchasing clothing that not only looks great, but that also performs well and boosts the quality of their workouts and other daily activities. All of this has culminated into the many choices that have become available when selecting a modern t-shirt. But, how does an individual know which options to select?

Selecting the best men’s activewear t-shirt

Selecting the correct clothing and workout gear can mean the difference between an enjoyable, productive workout and 60 minutes of misery. With t-shirts being actively used as men’s workout clothes, the quality of their performance comes down to two primary factors; the fit and the fabric.  Here are some things to consider when buying men’s workout t-shirts:

The impact of proper t-shirt fitment

The best fitting workout t-shirts are designed to make you look good without drawing your attention away from what you are doing or making you feel uncomfortable. This can have both a mental and physical impact.

Clothing that fits well:

  • Positively impacts the physical appearance you are trying to achieve
  • Increases your enjoyment of the activities you participate in

On the other hand, uncomfortable or poorly fitting clothing can do the opposite:

  • Negatively affects the way you look and/or view yourself
  • Decreases the quality of your physical performance
  • Demotivates you and diminishes how you feel about the time spent exerting yourself

This can be true whether you are pumping iron at the gym, going for a jog, or even running errand.

How to find the correct fitment

The perfect-fitting t-shirt does not hang far enough away from the body to get caught on something or require regular adjustments. Conversely, it will not be so tight as to restrict comfortable body movements. For aesthetic reasons, a well-fitting t-shirt will also highlight the parts of your body that you’re most proud of, while avoiding drawing attention to other areas you don’t want to show off.

You will need to make an assessment of your body shape before you’ll be prepared to find a t-shirt that fits correctly. To do this, look at your upper-body in the mirror and consider which part(s) of your body you want to emphasize:

  • Pecs/Shoulders – Find a style that has enough room to glide across the chest and shoulders without stretching it out. To be comfortable, allow for some airflow while not leaving too much room so as to become baggy.
  • Arms – Men’s workout t-shirts should have sleeves that stop at or above the upper-half of the arm to accentuate the biceps and triceps.
  • Abs/Narrow Waist – Look for tapered cuts that are fitted in the chest and narrow toward the mid-section so as to avoid draping around the bottom of the t-shirt.

Fabric that performs

While the fitment of a t-shirt has an impact in keeping a person comfortable, when physical exertion is added to the mix, an equally important variable to take into consideration is the fabric. The market offers a variety of natural, semi-synthetic, and synthetic materials that can be blended or used individually. Here’s a list of commonly used fabrics along with some of their positive attributes that can be used to produce men’s workout t-shirts:

  • Nylon – Synthetic; soft; breathable; wicks moisture; dries quickly
  • Polyester – Synthetic; durable; wrinkle-resistant; breathable; wicks water, ultra-soft; UV-resistant
  • Polypropylene – Synthetic; dries very quickly; wicks moisture
  • Spandex – Synthetic; exhibits elastic properties; often blended with other materials to create body-hugging fabrics that allow for unrestricted movements; breathable; wicks moisture
  • Lyocell – Semi-synthetic; wicks moisture; soft; breathable
  • Bamboo – Natural; breathable; wicks moisture; UV-resistant
  • Cotton – Natural; extremely breathable

Each of these fabrics has its own pros and cons and varies in its ability to perform in various circumstances. This list is enough to get you started, but we recommend doing additional research if you are looking for something specific.

When making your selections, keep in mind the type of workouts you do and the strain you put on your body and your clothes. If you give consideration to the fit and the fabric, you’ll be sure to find a great workout t-shirt.