I Tried It: FairWear’s Wicking Dress Shirt for Bike Commuters

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The FairWear Girard SSBB (left) being worn by someone much cooler than the author (right).

If you’re a bike commuter, you know that your biggest headache isn’t the proliferation of hard-to-see potholes, the treachery of dew-slicked trolley tracks, nor even the cavalcade of a-hole drivers who treat bike lanes like their own personal turbo zones. No, the hands-down worst part of bike commuting is showing up for your morning meeting on a hot day with the sweat stripe from your over-shoulder bag emblazoned like a moist sash of shame across the front of your all-cotton button-up.

So it was with a mix of intrigue and skepticism that I tried out a shirt from local outfit FairWear’s performance fabrics collection. The thought of a dress shirt with Cool Max wicking technology was — like the company’s motto of “No Perspiration Without Representation” — both peculiar and galvanizing.

When my Girard SSBD (short sleeve button down) arrived — and, yes, almost all of FairWear’s clothes are named for streets or areas of Philly — I was a little wary. The 60% – 40% cotton-poly fabric feels thicker to the touch than a cotton shirt. But thicker did not translate to heavier. The first day I rode in my FairWear, I arrived to work feeling cool and — refreshingly — unburdened by my own perspiration. But did it pass the sweat stripe test? Not quite, as one co-worker pointed out, but the wicking fabric made quick work of it.

Honestly, I felt cool and dry all day. On a recent fall-like morning, the wicking made me feel almost chilly. My only regret as a product tester is that, given Philly’s gloriously mild summer, I did not get to pit my shirt against one of this town’s notorious late-summer steam-bath heat waves.

The large size fit a bit snug in the chest — which is an issue I have with other non-fitted dress shirts — and given its long cut, I’d be wary of going up a size. It’s just something that the short, barrel-chested types of the world have to consider.

With a tagless label, tapered fit, locker loop and three-button collar (one in the back!) it’s pretty stylish — or so women I know have told me. The poly blend seems wrinkle-resistant. And the left chest pocket is extra handy for cyclists who occasionally need to stuff a phone in there quickly (for, y’know, when you’ve taken an Instagram or a call while riding and need to jam on the brakes in a jiffy).

Here’s a bonus (and something I hope my co-workers don’t read): Given all that quick-wicking action (depending on just how much of a sweaty mess you are, your results may vary), you can actually get a few wears out of this number before you have to launder it — provided you’re a civilized human being and wear a t-shirt underneath, of course. I wore mine for the third time yesterday and it smells pretty good still.

Just don’t try this with an all-cotton shirt. Seriously. Don’t.

Brian Howard is Philadelphia magazine’s news editor. Follow him on Twitter at @brianghoward.

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