Our general understanding of dressing for the summer sun is that the least amount of clothing we have covering us, the better equipped we feel to deal with the high temperatures. It feels silly to even state the obvious.
But for those who consider themselves to be outdoorsy types – we’re talking the adventurous kind, like trail runners and hikers, kayakers, mountain climbers, and so on – wearing less clothing when you’re spending a significant amount of time in the sun can actually do more harm than good.
Sure, there’s sunscreen, and we’re in no way suggesting you should stop applying tons of it. But that’s also where another problem arises: In order to actually protect your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, sunscreen needs to be slathered on regularly. And, if you’re spending more time outside than you are indoors, that gets expensive, too.
So, just cover yourself more during the peak hours of sunlight, right? That should do the trick? Well, it’s not quite that simple. While some additional shielding from the sun’s damaging rays is better than none, not all clothing provides equal buffering. And that’s where sun-protective clothing comes in.
According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, the Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) is a measurement that indicates how much ultraviolet radiation can penetrate a fabric to reach your skin. This is a different metric from the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of sunscreens, which measures the time it takes for the sun’s ultraviolet radiation to redden exposed skin. It’s also worth mentioning that UPF gauges both UVA and UVB rays, whereas SPF only takes into consideration the latter.
To put this into perspective, your average white tee has a UPF of around 7, and that drops to 3 when it’s wet. A long-sleeved denim shirt in a dark color has a much higher UPF of about 1,700, which The Skin Cancer Foundation rates as providing complete sun protection.
But since wearing something like the above-mentioned denim shirt while out and about on an adventure is certainly far from pleasant, the makers of sun protective clothing have found a solution: They’ve developed high-tech gear using the most advanced materials and constructions to ensure you’re safely covered while at the same time kept as cool as possible.
So, for the style-conscious swashbuckler who’d like to stay ultra-safe under the sun, we bring you 8 of the best sun protection shirts (all of them with a UPF of 50 or 50+) that can take you from bushwhacking in the morning and back to the bar in time for evening drinks.
These days, the American outdoor apparel brand can be seen on nature-lovers as often as it can on trendy city slickers. This hiking shirt, with a classic button-down collar, includes all the bells and whistles, like patch chest pockets with button-and-loop flap closures, as well as mid-back vertical vents for extra aeration. It’s also fair trade certified, so you’re helping the planet, too.
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You’d have to do a double take to realize that this shirt is built for the outdoors. On top of featuring Columbia’s Omni-Shade UPF 50 sun protection, it also incorporates the company’s Omni-Wick technology – a system that keeps moisture away from the body so that sweat can evaporate faster. Throw in some ventilation vents and this number makes for the ideal odor-obliterating piece that saves face as you head to post-wilderness drinks.
Okay, so maybe you wouldn’t pick a crisp white top for a dusty hike, but if you’re a businessman on the run (both literally and figuratively), you never know where you might end up. Plus, you can’t go wrong with a classic office shirt that requires no ironing. If that doesn’t convince you, take solace in the knowledge that a UPF of 50+ guarantees you won’t get pierced by the sun, even if you’re only heading out to grab your next coffee.
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If fishing is your choice of extracurricular fun, Eddie Bauer’s offering packs a hefty punch of features, including its FreeShade UPF 50+ sun protection and its AirSpace technology that keeps fabric away from your skin to speed up cooling. Then there is the added benefit of its good looks. Expect a seamless transition to your next social event from the minute you step off the boat.
L. L. Bean’s No Fly Zone shirt has a UPF of 50+ and is treated with a synthetic insect repellent to beat the bugs on your outdoor excursions. Its MCS Adaptive technology controls moisture, while its Bioguard protection prevents any odors caused by bacterial growth from following you to your next engagement.
As lightweight as it is slick-looking, this piece by The North Face is where performance meets one of the most hyped about streetwear labels. The stretch-woven fabric makes for an easy-moving and fashion-forward fit, while the UPF 50+ sun protection and water-repellent finish add all the utilitarian elements you need to the design.
The Astroman shirt is solid in its specs and therefore rightfully named after the great rock climb in Yosemite National Park. Made of a lightweight and flexible – yet exceptionally sturdy – fabric, it also boasts UPF 50 sun protection and quick-drying technology, ensuring you safely reach all sorts of new heights.
Not all outdoor pursuits require the same quantity of gadgetry. If you still count yourself as a fan of open-air activities, consider a sun shirt that’s more in line with your personal style. Baleaf’s take offers the highest sun protection, moisture-wicking tech, plus vented sides for sun and sweat relief, but its overall look is more country club than canoeing.
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