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Second Skin Shirts

It might look like just a T-shirt, but clothing made to serve as a base layer can protect you from heat, cold, odor, and muscle fatigue.

December 29, 2009  |  by Scott Smith - Also by this author

5.11 Tactical

For the last few years I have worn 5.11 Tactical's Loose Fit Crew. This all polyester shirt with antimicrobial properties fits well and washes well. I like the mesh in fabric for added air flow. The Loose Fit Crew works well as your base layer for duty, looks good worn alone, and makes a good PT shirt.

This year I also started wearing 5.11's Utili-T. It's a 100-percent cotton shirt with a long tail so it stays tucked. The Utili-T is smooth as silk because of how the material is finished. One thing I will caution you against is tossing the ACU tan shirt in with the whites; the bleach will turn the color to a funky beige. (Yes, I know from firsthand experience.)

I have worn these two shirts together in the winter. One gives you a moisture-wicking layer, the cotton absorbs the wicked moisture, and you get a dead air space in between to keep you warmer in the winter or chilly days. Worn in tandem or separately, 5.11's Loose Fit Crew and Utili-T will keep you comfortable on and off duty.

Visit 5.11 Tactical Online



BlackHawk Products Group has grown from simply providing some of the best tactical nylon gear to a one-stop shop for duty and tactical use. The company's Engineered Fit line of base layers brings this heritage to duty clothing. While created from manmade products, the clothing feels like soft combed cotton.

BlackHawk's Engineered Fit Shirt Short Sleeve Mock is one of the most advanced shirts I have seen. Side panels are made of polyester and Lycra, while the body of the shirt is nylon and Spandex. This blending of different materials allows the shirt to fit and conform to the body without binding; even if you wear it as a compression fit shirt (generally simply wear one size smaller). More importantly for many of us, while wearing this shirt as a base layer your duty shirt doesn't catch or stick to the fabric, meaning you will be more comfortable on a long shift.     

I am not a fan of snug fitting bottoms and since the Short Sleeve Mock was so comfy, I figured the Boxer Briefs might fit just as well. Like the Mock, the Boxers have dual panels and this truly did make a difference in how the Boxers fit. While snug, they do feel similar to traditional cotton boxers and are long enough to keep the thighs warm on cold fall days. If you prefer full-length bottoms for warmth, BlackHawk provides those, too.

Visit BlackHawk Online



The name Blauer has become synonymous with high-quality uniforms for police and other uniformed services. Blauer's Compression Shirt and Boxer Shorts with B.Dry are made from cotton and Lycra to ensure the pieces maintain their shape and comfortable fit.

What impressed me most about these two items was their extremely well finished and smooth stitched seams. They lay flat and are double stitched, so they will not fail when you are running, tussling, etc.

Both the Compression Shirt and Boxer Shorts feel like smooth silk, yet are tough cotton. This gives you a comfortable, breathable layer next to the skin. The weave of the material will not chafe or rub the end user. Using a mere 10 percent Lycra with 90 percent cotton, these pieces will also provide a degree of heat and flame protection.

Wearing the Blauer Compression Shirt and Boxer Brief combination kept my body warm on cold mornings. These items were as cozy outdoors as they were cool indoors.

Visit Blauer Online



I have been wearing Elbeco's Ufx Performance Shirts as my base layer for more than a year. These short-sleeve shirts have been worn in the winter here in southwest Pennsylvania and the heat of Little Rock's summer. In each situation, the shirt kept me appropriately cool or warm, depending on the climate.

This shirt looks like a standard navy blue T-shirt you would buy at your local big box discount store; but it is way more. Built with X-CEED technology, the material is moisture wicking, antimicrobial, offers you UV protection, and is fade resistant.

What I liked about the shirt is the fact it doesn't smell like death warmed over on a hot summer's day when you remove your body armor. These shirts have survived numerous washings and still look nearly new-but I'm careful to hang dry my T-shirts.

Visit Elbeco Online

CONTINUED: Second Skin Shirts «   Page 2 of 3   »

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