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What Does "Moisture-Wicking" Mean in Clothing?

Short Story: A lot of apparel companies in the workwear and outdoor spaces have been pushing for newer technical fabrics that are supposed to help keep you dry. And so the term “moisture-wicking fabric” has been thrown into various categories from several of our vendors. In short, any product that says it is moisture-wicking basically means that the fabric is non-absorbent, that sweat (or moisture) will move to the outer layer of the fabric, and that the fabric itself will dry quickly. Moisture-wicking does not necessarily mean it will help you sweat less, it means that when you do sweat, the moisture will move through the material to the surface, and it will dissipate faster than a “normal” fabric. For a long time this was mostly found in athletic gear, but we have seen more and more products in the workwear space feature moisture-wicking materials like the Dickies Temp-iQ tees or the Carhartt Force tees.

Whether it is for work or for fun, wearing the right shirt that is made of moisture-wicking material comes in handy on those hot and sweaty days.Moisture-wicking workwear t-shirts and shorts at Dave's New York

Long Story: Over the course of the last decade, we have seen tons of advancements in manufacturing, materials, and fabrics, and a big term that gets thrown around a lot is moisture-wicking. And there may be some misconceptions about what that means, so we will try to clear it all up for you with the three most common terms you hear about a product:

  1. When a garment says moisture-wicking that means that the material is not going to absorb or hold onto moisture. Generally that means the material is synthetic like nylon or polyester. There are some natural fibers that are moisture-wicking (like merino wool and bamboo), but we are not going to focus on those right now. 
  2. When a garment says quick-drying it means that the moisture will move to the surface of the material, and when exposed to air, that the material will dry faster than standard fabrics like cotton.
  3. When a garment says breathable it means that it allows air to pass through to prevent the air closest to your body from being trapped, getting too hot, and causing more sweat.

Any garment that does not absorb moisture can be considered moisture-wicking, so you have to be careful that the product is also breathable. And just because a fabric is breathable, does not mean that it is quick-drying, so you have to find a garment that is made from a good quality fiber that feels light to the touch, soft on the body, and combines the right amount of moisture management to be effective and comfortable.

Moisture-wicking materials in Carhartt and Dickies workwear t-shirts at Dave's New York

The products that we feel do a great job of this are the ones that blend cotton and moisture wicking polyesters (like the Carhartt Force tees and the Dickies Temp-iQ tees). The cotton component really makes these shirts feel softer and breathe better. Combined with the polyester fibers, these shirts will also wick moisture away and help dry faster than a classic tee when you are sweating.

Dickies Temp-IQ T-shirts moisture-wicking workwear at Dave's New York

If you find yourself outside in the warmer temps this summer (for work or for fun) and you need a go-to shirt to keep you comfortable, then you should seriously consider the fabric and qualities of the tee that you are wearing.

Shop our Moisture-Wicking Workwear collection

Adam, Dave’s New York

PS: Thanks for reading. We will continue to work to give you information that can help you choose the best product for you, so check back for more reviews of brands and products!

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