The best workout shirts for men should be masters of multi-tasking (just as versatile as your fitness routine), combining sturdy and breathable fabrics that can clear the wringer of sweat, movement, and spin cycles in the wash without emerging significantly worse for wear or perpetually odorous. They should look sharper than a Jersey Shore Muscle tee, but not like a billboard—unless you’re going for a high-vis look for safety’s sake. And they should fit, but have some movement and stretch to them, so they don’t restrict blood flow to the extremities or cling to your sweaty body while you’re exercising in public. For those in search of the perfect workout shirt, we’ve got you covered with some of the best options (in tee, tank, and long-sleeve form) for every type of guy.
We’ve put them through their paces by running, lifting, training, and sweating abundantly in them—even liking some of them so much that they’ve ranked among our favorite fitness pieces of all time in our annual Fitness Awards. Some are extra-ventilated with mesh panels, others offer UPF50 sun protection, while still others are so fly that they provide extra motivation for getting out there to run laps in the dead of winter. Above all, they’re a perfect medium of comfort, breathability, and design to help you work out in style. Here, some of the best workout shirts for men that deserve a spot in your fitness rotation.
To see more of the best workout clothes and gear hand-picked by GQ editors, check out the GQ Fitness Awards.
The Best All-Around Workout Shirt
The Goldilocks of workout shirts, this four-way stretch tee clings in all the right places (around the biceps, for example, so that the sleeves don’t ride up and down) and none of the wrong ones (the shoulders, the armpits , and—[shudder]—the gut) thanks to raglan sleeves and a slightly looser fit. It’s breathable enough to prevent soak-throughs, but not so thin that that a brisk day will highlight your nipples to everyone on the track. The v-neck styling is a subtle way of differentiating itself from the crew-neck competition. The best part, though, is that the fabric is infused with little bits of gold for anti-odor protection, which the company says delays the onset of that dreaded perpetual funk that most other workout shirts succumb to eventually. It sounds dumb, but for us, contemporaneously-acquired shirts from other brands have already acquired a certain musk that this one, mercifully, has not.
The Best Cost-Effective Workout Shirt
Every brand now makes their own version of sweat-wicking fabric, but after almost three decades on the market, Nike’s Dri-Fit is still a more-than-capable challenger to some of the more expensive counterparts. High armholes and a slim body make the Miler comfortable enough for runs and fitted enough for weightlifting, and the striped pattern politely signals to others that your outside-the-gym outfits, too, are a bit more refined. At half the cost of our other top picks—plus, Nike products frequently go on sale at retailers—this is the most cost-effective solution to the reprehensible cut-off tee collection that you’re still clinging to.
The Best Breezy Running Shirt
Rhone and Nike workout tees are plenty breathable for most runners, but once you start to creep past that 10K distance, you might notice they start to cling. This is where District Vision’s shirt really shines. The cult New York running label’s featherlight shirt is constructed with a proprietary hidden mesh that only reveals itself when stretched. As you run the shirt literally lets in air. This tech works so well that we’d consider using it even if the shirt’s fit were slightly off, but the DV Air-wear is perfect in that department as well. Thanks to laser-cut construction, these tees are neat and tidy around the edges and sit perfectly on any frame, whether you’re in the middle of a run or “recovering” on the couch.
The Best Workout Tank
In the swampiest of conditions, even the most breathable sleeves can feel like a burden. Enter the performance tank top, or, in the parlance of England’s Iffley Road: the performance vest. It’s made from a layer of breathable tech-infused piqué fabric, mostly polyester. It’s on the extremely thin side, which means it doesn’t leave much to the imagination, but isn’t that what you’re working out for?
The Best Everyday Workout Shirt
Ten Thousand’s “durable” shirt is the one you reach for when you’re expecting to do some damage at the gym with an intense workout of high-impact reps, without needing to replace it after a couple heavy cycles. It’s why we consider it the best every day workout shirt in our 2021 Fitness Awards. The flatlock, anti-chafe seams give it a flattering tapered fit that doesn’t hang like a sack on your body but also doesn’t cling or rub. Plus, it’s treated with odor-fighting silver ions to keep you from stinking up your laundry hamper. Its heavy-duty poly-cotton threads are in for the long haul, and at $34 a pop, buying and replacing isn’t a travesty either.
The Best Breezy Workout Shirt
A shade looser than the Rhone, this updated version of one of our favorite Lululemon workout tops deserves its spot in these hallowed rankings because it lets in a whole lot of air. That’s thanks in large part to a series of visible, larger-than-usual holes that somehow don’t show any skin. Also, the heathered colorways and contrast-stitched seams provide a nice reprieve from the bright solid colors available at your local sporting goods store. For those of you who aren’t inclined to shill for an athletic apparel giant without an endorsement deal in place, the logo—already small and unobtrusive—is tucked away on the back, just below the neck.
The Best Long-Sleeve Workout Shirt
Our review of this looker from Tracksmith (the brand that makes retro, Ivy League-style running gear) in last year’s Fitness Awards sums up the versatility of this long-sleeve beaut: “It’s soft and breathable and anti-microbial, but the striking color combination alone—that cool, deep green with a blaze of burnt orange across the chest—will be enough to get you primed and energized for a crisp morning of pounding the pavement.”