11 Best Pieces of Cooling Clothing to Help You Beat the Heat
What should you wear when it's way too hot outside? Stay cool and comfortable on hot summer days with these expert-recommended cooling clothing, including hats, tank tops, socks, underwear, shirts, and more.
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How to stay cool outside in the summer
When temperatures climb, it’s tempting to remain indoors with the air conditioner on. But when you do inevitably need to venture out into the great outdoors, there are steps you can take to stay cool in the summer heat, especially when it comes to the clothes you wear. So, what type of fabric should you look for?
What to look for in cooling clothing
“The biggest factor to cooling off is to evaporate sweat from the surface of the skin,” explains Leann Poston, MD, a pediatrician in Dayton, Ohio. “Any fabrics that you wear that allow sweat to evaporate more easily will feel cooler. Overall, loose clothing that allows for airflow is the best.” These fabrics include things like cotton, linen, rayon, chambray, and bamboo, along with those that have been designed with moisture-wicking technology.
The second factor to consider in clothing is color. “Lighter colors are always best, especially white, as they help reflect the heat away from you,” says Nikola Djordjevic, MD, family physician and medical advisor at HealthCareers, a site that helps aspiring and current healthcare professionals find jobs in medicine.
Korsis Women’s Summer Casual T Shirt Dress
$21 to $26, depending on size
“Rayon is a complex fabric, blended from cotton, wood pulp, and other natural or synthetic fibers,” explains Dr. Djordjevic. “It has incredibly thin fibers that make rayon clothing very light.” The soft, lightweight feel of this dress is just one of the reasons it has racked up over 8,000 five-star reviews: Others include the 18 different patterns, the comfortable fit, and the pockets. “Rayon can shrink when washed frequently in hot water,” adds Dr. Djordjevic. “So always use cold water or dry clean.” (Find out if washing your clothes protects against coronavirus.)
Ralph Lauren Roll-Tab-Sleeve Linen Shirt
“Linen is a breathable fabric that is very light, loose, and flowy. It does a pretty good job of absorbing moisture and most importantly, dries quickly, keeping you cool and dry,” says Dr. Djordjevic. The classic look of this linen Ralph Lauren shirt is perfect for work or play, while the roll tab sleeves help maximize the cooling effect. “The main issue with linen is that it wrinkles easily, so you need to dry clean it,” notes Dr. Djordjevic. (Need a lightweight mask? Here are the best summer face masks.)
J. Crew Short Sleeve Chambray
“Denim is always a popular choice for all seasons, but chambray is even better,” says Dr. Djordjevic. “It’s basically a lighter version of denim with all the same cooling benefits. Overall, I would say chambray is a great choice if you want to stay fashionable and keep the ‘denim look’ during the summer without overheating.” The pick: This short sleeve chambray button down, perfect for an outdoor happy hour, date night, or backyard barbecue. (Here’s how to stay safe in a heat wave.)
Opna Women’s Short Sleeve Moisture-Wicking Athletic Shirt
$9 to $18, depending on size
“Choosing clothing that can move moisture away from your body as fast as possible is key,” says Dr. Poston. “A thin layer that wicks water can make you feel cooler, but moisture needs to evaporate from the surface of the clothing also.” This highly rated, moisture-wicking V-neck boasts both of these characteristics, plus availability in sizes X-small up to 4X-large and a slim yet breathable feminine silhouette. (Working out outdoors? These are the best warm weather leggings to wear.)
Tasc Performance Longline Tee
“Clothing made from bamboo is perfect for the summer months,” says Naveen Gupta, a lifestyle medicine expert and founder of The Lifestyle Cure. “The material does not stick to the skin, does not trap odors or smells, does not wrinkle, and has the ability for moisture to evaporate quickly. It will keep you cool, dry, and comfortable.” This top from tasc Performance, a bamboo clothing company, will do just that while offering a stylish, relaxed fit. (Stay cool while you exercise with this summer workout gear.)
Arctic Cool Men’s Crew Neck Instant Cooling Short Sleeve Workout Shirt
This athletic tee utilizes a technology called Hydrofreeze X, in which the fabric absorbs and releases moisture to keep you cool. “Good products to use are shirts and neck towels that are wet-activated,” agrees Dr. Poston. “As air moves past the wet shirt, it evaporates the water, taking heat with it.” With nearly 600 five-star reviews, this shirt also delivers UPF 50+ sun protection. (Learn more about sun protective clothing.)
Caramel Cantina 3-Pack Cotton Racerback Tank Top
$18 to $20, depending on size
“Personally, I think cotton is the best choice as it’s cheap, readily available, soft, lightweight, and most importantly: breathable,” says Dr. Djordjevic. “The only thing with white cotton clothes is that they can get soaked and feel “heavier” if you tend to sweat a lot. Worse, it can gather around your armpits and make a visible stain, especially with lighter colors. For this reason, I’d recommend light color cotton tank tops for avoiding this inconvenience.” One inexpensive option: This three-pack of racerback tanks, which come in fun, light colors like pink and orange. (Beware of the sneaky ways you can get sick during summer.)
Adidas Men’s Sport Performance ClimaCool Boxer Brief Underwear (2-Pack)
$20 to $28, depending on size
The micromesh fabric used in these briefs delivers maximum ventilation, while the moisture-wicking technology keeps you cool and dry and eliminates chafing. Nearly 1,500 five-star reviewers rave about the lightweight feel and comfort, especially while exercising or doing other outdoor sweaty activities.
Mission Cooling Bucket Hat
“I always recommend wearing a hat to keep the sun off your head and face,” says Dr. Poston. A bucket hat like this one (which also uses wet-activated cooling technology) can be especially effective for cooling since it shades the back of the neck as well. “As blood leaves the trunk of the body and goes to the arms, legs, and head, it carries heat from the organs in the chest and abdomen,” explains Dr. Poston. “Keeping these areas cool will cool the blood before it returns to the trunk, which can cool the body.”
Thirty48 Ultralight Athletic Running Socks for Men and Women
These pair of socks with meticulously placed seams, extra cushioning in the heel and toe, a mesh, moisture-wicking upper and a snug, stretchy fit keeps them in place is ideal cooling clothing. This pair of Thirty48 athletic socks can’t be beat for summer workouts and general wear. Reviewers also comment on their quality and comfort as compared to more expensive, sport-specific socks.
Under Armour Men’s Tech Graphic Shorts
“If you are looking for lightweight shorts, these are it. And definitely quality material,” says one reviewer, of these eye-catching Under Armour shorts. They feature UA Tech fabric, a polyester blend that is quick-drying, soft and perfect for summer workouts, walking the dog, or relaxing on the patio.