The Shirts of Summer

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There's just something so evergreen about the classic white cotton tee that may never be replaced -- maybe it's because so many people get some free tee shirt from a company or event and can't give it up. Nevertheless, sales of synthetic tees are gaining a modicum of momentum, at least in the outdoor and fitness markets where savvy customers understand and demand the comfort of man-made materials. So we decided to wear-test a few of these tees: Hot Chilly's MicroFiber One (men's and women's styles), Marmot's Power Dry Vapor Zip Front Zip, Hind's Hydrator Short Sleeve Crew (men's), ISIS Zen Top (women's), and Moving Comfort's BeeTee (women's).

All the tees have very different hands, which lend partly to a real -- or perceived --difference in performance and comfort. Of course, the preference for the different feel and drapes of the materials is also a very personal taste. All -- except the Moving Comfort shirt -- have exposed stitching and flat-locked seams. Exposed stitching may be a design element (as well as a way to curtail possible unraveling of synthetic fibers) but may not satisfy everyone's taste, although our testers found the look fine. Flat-locked seams can offer less chance of chafing, but may lend to extra bulk and chafing if in the wrong places, such as underarms, although none of these shirts gave testers any chafing.

>> Hot Chilly's Microfiber One, a 100-percent polyester micro-mesh fabric, has a slick almost silk-like feel to it. One tester felt that on a cool day, the shirt felt a bit clammy against the skin, while on a hot or muggy day, the fabric felt more refreshing and cool against the skin. Another tester, however, liked the silky and cool feel, and in fact found herself wearing it for everyday wear on warmer days, particularly because the cut was a flattering one with a hip-length crop rather than just a baggy boxy look. Yet another liked the softness and found it extremely comfortable all the time.

>> The Marmot Power Dry Vapor Zip Front top is more insulative -- warm on cool days and a bit more body-clinging on warm muggy days, the tester felt. The deep 11 _ -inch zipper also seemed to offer more ventilation versatility for a wider range of temperatures.

>> The Hind Hydrator Short-Sleeve Crew has a feel similar to the Marmot tee but is lighter weight so could be better on warmer days. However, the fabric seemed to pill more easily than the others.

>> The ISIS Zen Top (for women only) again caters to the woman looking for a more body-shaping and flattering look. It has short cap sleeves and a slightly dropped rear hem -- all nice touches for a woman. The material -- ISIS' trademarked Evaporator -- is 100-percent micro-denier polyester double knit, so although it hangs nicely and wicks well, it is thicker and somehow feels warmer than others.

SNEWS has learned since writing this review that ISIS had decided to lighten up the top's fabrication. For Spring '02, it will be a much lighter-weight waffle weave fabric, which is also more durable than the previous silkier fabric that sometimes catches and pulls.

>> Moving Comfort's BeeTee (for women only) uses 100-percent CoolMax Alta so it has the softiest, silkiest hand of them all, plus it's so lightweight and can stuff up into the smallest corner of a drawer or suitcase. Again, this company, which also caters to women, has done a cropped, more closely cut look that women will appreciate in what is actually a very basic crew tee. Our tester loved the light, cool feel for high-output activities.

SNEWS Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection.)

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