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Updated October 2021
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Buying guide for best men’s sun shirts

Spending time outdoors, enjoying nature, and soaking up the sun’s rays is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. Unfortunately, too much sun can do severe damage to the skin. Applying sunscreen is crucial but covering yourself from head to toe can be very time-consuming. With a men’s sun shirt, you’ll have adequate protection for your back, shoulders, chest, and stomach.

While all clothing blocks the sun’s rays to some extent, sun shirts are designed to maximize sun protection. They’re made with fabrics that reflect or absorb UV rays, so they don’t reach your skin. Sun shirts also fit in a way that increases their sun protection, and they come in colors that help deflect sunlight. They vary in how much coverage they provide, so you can choose an option that protects as much of your skin as you want.

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Fabric must have a UPF rating of 30 or more to qualify for a recommendation from the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Key considerations

UPF rating

An essential feature to consider in a sun shirt is its Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). A shirt’s UPF indicates the amount of UV radiation that can penetrate through the clothing. While SPF only measures how much a sunscreen can protect against UVB rays, UPF rates the protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

As with SPF, the higher the UPF rating, the more protection the sun shirt offers. Shirts rated less than UPF 15 aren’t considered UV protective. That’s why sun shirt UPF ratings typically range from UPF 15 to UPF 50+. Here are the most common UPF ratings and the protection they offer:

  • UPF 15 to 20 offers solid protection against the sun, with just 6.7% to 4.2% of UV rays passing through the shirt.
  • UPF 25 to 35 offers good protection against the sun, with only 4.1% to 2.6% of UV rays passing through the shirt.
  • UPF 40 to 50+ offers excellent protection against the sun, with less than 2.5% of UV rays passing through the shirt.


The fabric used for a men’s sun shirt also plays a role in how protective it is. Materials that have closely woven fibers provide more effective UV protection than those made from loosely woven fibers. Some fabrics like nylon, polyester, Lycra, denim, canvas, silk, and wool are naturally more effective at preventing UV rays from penetrating the material, but other fabrics are treated with chemicals to increase their UPF rating.

In general, synthetic fabrics offer the best protection. Lycra is typically the most protective, but nylon and polyester are also good. Not only does Lycra block more UV rays, but it’s also lightweight, making it ideal for wear in the summer sun and heat.


Size and fit

Getting the size right for any clothing is key if you want it to be comfortable, but it’s even more critical for a sun shirt. If the sun shirt is too tight, the fabric becomes stretched, pulling the fibers apart, letting more UV rays pass through, and reducing the amount of protection the shirt offers. Consult the size chart for any sun shirt you’re considering to make sure it won’t be too tight.

Pay special attention to how a shirt fits in the shoulders since that’s an area that receives the most direct sunlight and where the shirt is most likely to stretch. Some shirts even add a second layer of fabric at the shoulders to ensure adequate protection.


Men’s sun shirts are available in a few different styles suitable for different uses or occasions.

Sports sun shirts have a casual, athletic-wear-inspired look. They are usually comfortable enough to be worn for prolonged periods while you’re working out or playing sports.

Practical sun shirts may have collars and cuffs, but they don’t tend to be particularly stylish. These work well for hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities.

Fashion sun shirts are designed to not only offer protection but also allow you to look stylish at the same time. These work best if you need a protective shirt for a dressier occasion.


Most men’s sun shirts have long sleeves to cover as much of your skin as possible. Some even feature thumb loops so that they can extend down over the hand. Also, a long-sleeved men’s sun shirt made of a tightly woven material can get pretty hot. That’s why it helps to choose a style with vents that allow for airflow to keep you cool.

However, you can find some shirts with three-quarter or short sleeves. If you tend to get warm and don’t mind applying sunscreen to your arms, these can be a good option for warm weather.


The color you choose for your sun shirt also plays a role in how protective it is. Dark colors are a better option for sun protective clothing because they absorb UV radiation and prevent the rays from reaching your skin. Bright colors are another excellent option for absorbing UV radiation.


Sunscreen: Jack Black Oil-Free Sun Guard Broad Spectrum Sunscreen
Even if your sun shirt covers your arms, you’ll need good sunscreen to protect your face, ears, neck, and hands. We like this SPF 24 formula from Jack Black because it’s oil-free, water and sweat resistant, and doesn’t leave behind a greasy residue.

Sun hat: Outdoor Research Sombriolet Sun Hat
Pair your sun shirt with a wide-brimmed sun hat to shield your face and neck from the sun’s UV rays. This one from Outdoor Research is a favorite because of its breathable vents and quick-drying, water-resistant material.

Sport sunglasses: Oakley Men’s GasCan Sunglasses
You shouldn’t forget your eyes when it comes to sun protection. These sunglasses from Oakley offer complete UV protection and lenses with a glare-reducing coating.

Men’s sun shirt prices

Men’s sun shirts vary in price based on UPF rating, material, style, and other features. Most shirts cost between $9 and $95.

Inexpensive: The most affordable men’s sun shirts are short- or long-sleeve cotton or short-sleeve synthetic shirts. They have a sporty or practical style and aren’t available in many colors. You’ll typically pay between $9 and $19 for these shirts.

Mid-range: These men’s sun shirts are usually long-sleeve cotton shirts or synthetic shirts in different sleeve lengths. They have a sporty or practical look and are available in more than three colors. They usually have features like vents for better breathability, too. You’ll typically spend between $19 and $63 on these shirts.

Expensive: The most expensive men’s sun shirts are synthetic shirts with sleeves in a variety of lengths. In this price range, you can find some fashion shirts with a button-down collar that you can wear for events that require a more dressed-up look. These shirts are also available in a wide range of colors. You’ll typically pay between $63 and $95 for these shirts.


  • Wear sunscreen. Remember to apply sunscreen to the areas of your body that aren’t covered by your sun shirt. Apply it at least 15 minutes before you put on your shirt to ensure that it’s fully absorbed into the skin.
  • Take care of your sun shirt. Extend the life of your sun shirt by washing it in cold water, which is less likely to shrink it and reduce its UPF rating. If you machine wash it, use the delicate or gentle cycle to reduce the wear on your clothing. If you hand-wash your shirt, don’t air-dry it in direct sunlight. Never tumble dry, bleach, or iron a sun shirt. It can diminish its UPF rating.
  • Pre-treat any stains. If you get a stain on your sun shirt, pre-treat it as soon as you can. Even just rinsing it with plain water can help keep the stain from setting.
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In addition to shirts, you can find pants, shorts, swimsuits, and hoodies with UPF to protect you from the sun.


Q. How do I know if I need a sun shirt?
If you spend a significant amount of time outdoors, you’ll benefit from wearing a sun shirt. Men who have extremely sensitive or fair skin should definitely consider wearing a sun shirt, although you may also be more sensitive to the sun if you’re taking certain medications, including antibiotics, antihistamines, some anti-inflammatories, or acne treatments. You should also consider wearing a sun shirt if you live at a higher elevation, where you’re more vulnerable to the sun’s rays.

Q. Should I still apply sunscreen if I wear a sun shirt?
You’ll get the most effective protection if you pair your sun shirt with sunscreen. You should certainly apply sunscreen to any areas of the face and body that the shirt doesn’t cover, but you may also want to apply sunscreen to your torso and arms to offer even more protection beneath your shirt.

Q. How long does a sun shirt usually last?
It depends on the quality of the material, how well you take care of it, and how often you wear it. In most cases, a sun shirt provides significant protection for at least a few years. You’ll know it’s time for a new sun shirt if it starts to look worn, you can see through it when you hold it up to the light, or it shrinks and starts to feel too tight.

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