Athletic apparel is big business, with many brands touting a host of advanced garment technology. Functional fitness fashion is great, but the humble T-shirt and tank top should not be forgotten. These items are versatile, comfortable and have evolved over the years, with fun prints and graphics that can turn your workout wardrobe up a notch.
This should be easy: throw on a tee and go! Not so fast. A 2011 article on Oprah.com from then-online health editor Corrie Pikul advises against wearing 100 percent cotton tees to work out, since they tend to hold onto sweat. A Washington Post article from 2010 explains how this works: “When you sweat, cotton fibers will absorb the fluid, ‘wicking’ the droplets away from your body. But because cotton fibers love liquid so much, they don't give it up very easily. The cotton fabric will hold onto the water, absorbing moisture into its fibers, resisting evaporation.” This excess moisture, according to Pikul, can result in chills and chafing. However, according to New York Magazine, a 2014 study conducted by researchers at Belgium’s Ghent University found that polyester, a synthetic fabric, harbors more odor-causing bacteria, called micrococci, than natural cotton, making synthetics much more stinky a day after a workout. The Washington Post recommends that consumers read the labels before purchasing a T-shirt to ensure it meets their needs. The publication also says that those who need a breathable garment that will keep them drier than 100 percent cotton can go with polyester engineered specifically for athletic performance, such as Coolmax, which Pikul also recommends, “[o]r find a fabric with a blend of natural and synthetic fibers.” Blends include cotton/polyester and tri-blend, which combines cotton, polyester and rayon for extra breathability and a flattering fit.
A little bit of motivation can go a long way, especially when you throw in a pinch of fun. No one plays cheerleader quite like Blogilates creator Cassey Ho. Take Ho’s tough-but-cheerful attitude with you on your next run with her latest roster of Blogilates Designs workout tanks that employ adorable graphics and cheeky wordplay, such as the “That Sweat Life” Racerback Tank in a bright watermelon hue. Foodies, caffeine freaks and lovers of all things cute will flip for the “Pilates or Pie & Lattes?” Racerback Tank. The shop offers both tops in sizes ranging from small to 2XL, and both are made from tri-blend textiles.
Book nerds can proudly show off their love for their favorite novels thanks to Out of Print Clothing’s selection of T-shirts for men and women. They feature iconic cover art from classic titles, and many genres are represented. Unleash your inner wild thing with the Where the Wild Things Are T-shirt, or celebrate Neil Gaiman’s contemporary classic novel American Gods with its namesake tee, both of which are a cotton/poly blend. Each tee description on the site lets you know whether the item is 100 percent cotton or a blend, so you can choose accordingly. The brand also offers a limited selection of women’s cotton/poly blend T-shirts up to size 4x. Here’s the best part: Out of Print has partnered with Books for Africa, and for each shirt sold, a community in need receives a book. Look good, feel good, do good. Can’t beat that!
Threadless is the source for a constantly updated roster of clever, artsy graphic T-shirts. Artists and consumers are all a part of the design process, whether they are submitting art or rating designs to decide which shirts will be made available for purchase. In addition to the 100 percent cotton option, they have an entire category of tri-blend tops for men and women. There, you will find an excellent selection of designs, including Peanuts characters, Pacman, My Neighbor Totoro,steampunk graphics and visual puns galore. They also offer sublimated V-neck T-shirts—that is, shirts completely immersed in an allover print—such as this gorgeous Deer Prudence winter design, in a special polyester, which the company describes as “advanced poly-performance fibers for ultimate wickability and top-notch coolness,” that is supposed to emulate organic cotton. I’ve yet to try this particular garment, and I’m interested to see how it would fare during a workout.
Have some fun with your T-shirt collection, and get fit in comfort and style!