Shirt Storm: Mens Thermal Shirts

Shirts, sweaters, and coats — oh, my! This is where getting ready to head out for work in the cold gets complicated. So many layers! Where to start? For the purposes of continuing to construct our Winter Armor here at Tuff Duds, we will now focus on the bottom layer: Mens thermal Shirts.

The Naked Truth


Let’s begin by talking about something very near and dear to all of us:


When choosing our base layer from the wide variety of mens thermal shirts out there, we first need to consider what feels best.

Some of us like the cooling softness of cotton.

Others prefer to have their torsos and arms snugged against something with a tighter yet stretchier fit.

office thermostats mens thermal shirts tuff duds

No! Get away from that! Bad boss!

There’s also the requirements of the job and the situations we might run into that are worth our consideration beforehand:

Do we anticipate sweating a lot during the work day?

Will we be running in and out — from freezing temps to furnace blasts of heat back in the office? (Because Dennis is boss, and refuses to wear a sweater, so the thermostat is always set to 80 freakin’ degrees!!! Oh, sorry… reliving a moment there…)

Did we forget our deodorant in our mad dash to perk some coffee, warm up the car, and salt the steps in the morning (after taking a flop on the way to the car, then having to dig around in the snow with bare hands to look for the keys you just dropped, all while still dressed in your jammies! Oh, sorry… recalling lots of good times here) and now we’re worried about dropping a few co-workers every time we reach for something? (I’m looking at YOU, Dennis!)

Is it a real cold one today? Or merely just a chilly one?

Yep — lots of factors to think about.

That’s why we need to understand what OUR SKIN prefers first and what it can handle.

Some folks — like myself — have allergies to synthetics.

Cotton is our only option.

Then there’s what covers our arms: Long-sleeves or short?

mens thermal shirts tuff duds

Then there’s this other kind of “sleeve”… Might look cool, but it’s gonna get COLD. Cover up, dudes, and show it off inside!

Despite all the manscaping going on these days, a lot of dudes still retain stretches of follicular forests on their forearms.

Hate the static cling? The Chafing at the wrists?

Better stick with the shorties then when deciding on sleeve length.

But if you can’t shake the chill on your arms with the outer layers alone, and your elbows are starting to smart like a rough tennis match, then you should definitely keep those guns well-holstered, regardless of any minor discomfort.

Besides, you can always roll those sleeves up when inside.

Makes you look pretty BA.

Like Stallone in Cobra.

 stallone as cobra mens thermal shirts tuff duds

Yeah… Can you tell yet I’m a product of the Eighties? Better than the Seventies, I suppose.



So — bottom BOTTOM line: Listen to your skin first.

It’ll make a point of letting you know what it does or doesn’t like.

Now let’s find something to put on!


Going Organic


thermal henley mens thermal shirts tuff duds long sleeve tee shirt mens thermal shirts tuff duds

We’ll run the cotton story first.

When most of us think mens thermal shirts, we think of the classic “Long Johns” that are white with a waffle-knit weave and come in either crew necks or henleys with a button placket at the neck.

I used to love the latter as a kid because I was into Westerns in a big way. These shirts made me feel like I was out on the Open Range.

They kinda still do!

I also remember when these shirts only came with matching bottoms and in a single fat package.

I liked the shirts (for reasons I just mentioned, not always due to anything practical) but I couldn’t stand the leggings:

Being a tall drink of water (my head just clears the six-foot-three mark), the ankle cuffs were always halfway up my calves.

That meant longer socks. And long socks growing up in the seventies and eighties…

 striped tube socks mens thermal shirts tuff duds

A sure way to get picked-on a few short decades ago. Now? Not so much.

If caught, that was a recipe for getting mocked by half the school (especially if the socks had stripes!).

Nowadays, you can buy the thermal items as separates, and in a lot more color choices and sizes.

That’s good news for even those of us that never heard of bullying without the word ‘cyber’ before it.

Lots of choices means better styles and fits.

Unfortunately, that also means more time staring at mens underwear in the store aisles or on the computer screen.

I don’t care who or what you are — that ain’t ZACKLY a fun pastime.

So that’s where ‘listening to your skin’ helps, cutting the time significantly on the decision-making process.

Another “organic” option:

The ol’ reliable tee shirt.

Same choices as above, only in a lighter weave — usually jersey or just a plain knit.

Long sleeves or short, it’s up to you.

Just tuck and move on to the next layer (we’ll do that next time around).

Let’s move on to our second choice for what to put next to our epidermis determinus:


Polyester Playground


Here’s yet another thing that has changed so much from since I was tyke trying to survive and grow up in the “hangover to the sixties:”

They do so much with the fabric of polyester these days — making clothes that don’t wrinkle, jackets that look like they’re leather, super-lightweight, windproof outerwear, and breathable, wicking under layers.

 leisure suit mens thermal shirts tuff duds

Even this is better than what I used to wear!

Gone are the scratchy days of the powder-blue leisure suit with the giant, flared collars, lapels, and bell-bottoms I was forced to wear to church as a kid.

Polyester also used to make me feel like I was wrapped in plastic, suffocating where I stood or sat.

Not as bad as suffocating while standing next to stinky ol’ Dennis, but still not a lot of fun.

I never would have dreamed that the stuff of childhood clothing nightmares would now be one of the best choices out there for staying cool, dry, and even warm — all while still in the same dang shirt!

Quite a few selections in this category are made from nylon, a far more advanced material than ordinary polyester.

Now you really can cast your fishing line and wear it too!

Not that many fishermen were clamoring for such a thing. Just sayin’.

Again — like with the cotton wearables — you can get what you need or want from synthetic fabrics in pretty much any color, style, or size.

All we need to do now is find our favorite new fashion-below-our-fashion friends.

Time to go shopping!


Best Places to Buy Mens Thermal Shirts


  1. The Local Store

If it’s your thing to go taking a drive and walking down aisles past people who haven’t learned how to walk yet — let alone push a shopping cart that comes complete with a wailing brat — just so you can paw through pouches of clothing that are either over-stuffed into the racks or are the leftovers that aren’t already ripped open and covered in floor dust, then be my guest:
 shopping cart mens thermal shirts tuff duds

Go shopping at your nearest clothing store or ‘Big Box’ marketplace.

The rest of you can join me on the com-pooter.

2. Online Clothier Web Sites

Here’s where the action really is these days.

There are so many better chances of locating just what you’re looking for on the Internets than taking your chances with whatever came from Inspector # 12 or those buffoons from the Loom (Look them up — unless you are sporting more gray in your beard than any other hair color, like me; chances are, you already know which commercials I’m talking about).

Plus, buying from reputable suppliers on line greatly increases your chances of purchasing a quality product that won’t shrink or fade.

And most of these cool dudes have money-back guarantees or free return polices, so you can’t get a safer bet than that.

Try returning undershirts at your local Wally-world: If they actually DO take them back, you’ll still have to endure all the judgmental sneers and tongue-clicking that goes on at the return counter. Good luck with that!

Might as well share my top choices for the ‘grounding’ garment of our workday wardrobe:

  • Duluth Trading Company

Once again, they make it as numero uno for quality, functionality, and choices of style, sizing, and color.
From cotton to nylon to shirts that have these tiny (read: microscopic) pieces of green rocks (known to some as JADE) that are supposed to wick and fight stink at the same time (Buy this, Dennis!!), DTC has invested more time and research into what they call the “Duluth Trading Center For Underwear Advancement” than any other company I know.

In short: These dudes take their skivvies seriously!

Which also means some of the hands-down best thermal shirts you can buy.

Lots of the waffle-knit stuff, too. Tradesman fit, trim fit… you’re bound to find the right size and feel, whether going thermal or just tee.

  • Crazy Shirts
 hawaiian tee shirt mens thermal shirts tuff duds

This one’s dyed in Blue Curacao liqueur!

These fellas are out of Hawaii! They specialize in a lot of print shirts and swim/board sport gear, but they have some of the finest cotton tees money can buy.
I’m one of those guys that could never stand the tight cuffs of “Long John” tops (not as annoying as the bottoms, but still enough to create a twister’s ‘damage path’ through my ‘forearm forest’). The loose-fitting sleeves on the shirts from these guys fit the bill for me as an under layer.

They’re a decent length as well, and really resist shrinking.

Plus, a lot of the dyes that they use come from REAL stuff — like real peppers, real pineapples, even beer, wine, money, and volcanic ash!

How cool is that?

  • Sportsman’s Guide

Always a great go-to for a decent variety from a bunch of discounted name brands. Their multi-pack tee shirt deals are some of the best on the market. A lot of military issue goods, too.
It should be noted that selection in this category of clothing can be limited at certain times of the year — like right after a major holiday. Therefore, I suggest that when visiting here, you shop early, and shop often for the best range of choices and prices.

  • KingSize

Got heft or height to your hulk? Both?

Then try out these guys.

They feature a lot from the Liberty Blues and Boulder Creek brands, but also working man well-knowns like Dickies.

Under layers and mens thermal shirts galore. Almost anything else you might need also, above and below.

And as you’ve probably guessed from their name, sizing is never an issue for us bigger dudes.


Talk Shirty To Me


Near where I live, someone opened up a tee shirt printing shop.

That’s it’s actual name right up there.

For realzies.

I’ve had a couple of small businesses in the past, so I know that there is a process to register your enterprise’s name.

That had to cause a few eye rolls down at the state office!

Anyhoo, I’ve included here because that’s what I’d like from you hardy folks:

A little feedback about what you’ve just read concerning shirts!

Need some more pointers? Got some ideas or stories of your own regarding this topic?

Then drop some brain bombs down in the comments section.

I’d love to hear from ya!

Until next time, keep your friends close and your thermals even closer.

As for you, Dennis: Take a bath! And for Pete’s sake, turn down that thermostat!!!

 stinky coworker mens thermal shirts tuff duds






5 thoughts on “Shirt Storm: Mens Thermal Shirts

  • Jace,

    I just read your entire article. Why? Because I like your writing style and the captions that accompany the images. I’m guessing you’re about my age.

    Anyway, I’ve always hated long sleeve shirts – too “picky” on my arms. But now we have long sleeve thermal type shirts, so I wear one of those (32 Degrees is the brand I like best) and the long sleeve dress shirts and work shirts don’t bother me. What does bother me is the tag some nitwit decided to sew on the inside near the bottom. It picks. I’ve cut all my tags off but I can’t get it all out of the stitching, so I wear a cotton t-shirt under it. The few times it gets really cold here in Texas the extra layers keep me warm (along with a winter hat to cover my bald spot and a neck gaiter/neck warmer). And where I work the heat isn’t on, so if it’s cold outside it’s cold inside.

    So many factors to consider. And here in the south it can be 28 degrees at 7:00 a.m. and 56 degrees by 2:00 p.m. Or it can be in the 30s and be sunny and “warm”, and the next day in the 40s but the wind chill makes it feel colder than the day before when it was in the 30s. Where you’re from it’s probably just plain cold all winter long, all day long.

    Keep on writing!

  • i am a coton long sleeve guy prefer to keep the forest under roof my self great article and very comical approach to the thermal shirt business.

  • Jace,

    Cotton is good but I like bamboo better. When I first heard about bamboo bed sheets and then shirts some years back, I could only imagine it would have felt like wearing sackcloth as they did in Bible times. When my wife and I did Crossfit for a while I bought a t-shirt from our gym (or whatever it’s called in Crossfit) and it was very soft and comfortable. To my surprise, it was bamboo. Recently when we were in Cozumel I made the mistake of buying only one bamboo shirt. Had I bargained better I might would have ended up with two or three, maybe four.

    All that to say, give me bamboo t-shirts (better yet collared Polo shirts if there is such a thing) and I’ll be a happy middle-aged man (59 is middle-aged, isn’t it?).

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