Sleeveless mesh shirts have become a very popular piece of clothing for athletes in many sports. Many of the most popular apparel companies carry versions ranging from high-tech fabrics to simple cotton.
Sleeveless Form and Function
The first sleeveless athletic shirt was probably simply created by some overheated athlete ripping the sleeves off of his t-shirt. Now the style has become one of the staples of athletic fashion both for its usefulness and also for its appearance. A sleeveless shirt shows off the deltoid muscle as well as all of the biceps and triceps, and also leaves these muscles free to move unencumbered by fabric. The rotator cuff joint is given full range of motion in sleeveless shirts, and there is more direct airflow over the torso through the sleeve. At the same time the sweat that accumulates on the chest and back during exercise can be wicked away, keeping the athlete from getting either chilled or overheated.
The "mesh" fabric is actually more a reference to the way it is made rather than the materials themselves. Mesh is a loosely-woven fabric that looks more like netting upon close examination. The very small holes maintain the structural integrity of the fabric while allowing for better ventilation throughout the garment.
Bikes, Brawn, and Basketballs
It's hard to find a warm-weather sport that doesn't benefit from sleeveless mesh shirts. Triathletes are especially fond of the multiple advantages of lightweight and moisture wicking material. The Zoot Sports TRI-fit is a good example of the tight-fitting style that triathletes enjoy. This type of shirt is also useful for runners, and there are many positive customer reviews by happy customers. The TRIfit has an added feature of a front zipper for even more air flow when needed, and is made out of a spandex-blend fabric that stretches to fit any torso.
Bicyclists have found that a sleeveless mesh shirt is a useful base layer for their riding gear. The Craft Cool Mesh Shirt provides moisture wicking right next to the skin, but that's not all. On longer rides, the seams and zippers on bike jerseys can chafe and irritate, and the trademark "proCool" polyester gives just the right amount of protection without adding too much bulk or extra weight.
Nike also has a series of sleeveless shirts made out of a mesh they call "Dri-FIT" which is designed for basketball players. Called a "franchise" shirt, it has become more than just a functional garment. Wearing the Nike swoosh on the court has become a fashion statement, backed by star athletes such as Michael Jordan.
You can find similar shirts from other well-known brands like Adidas on resale sites such as Amazon.com or via clothing outlet sites. Smarter.com is also a site which searches the entire Internet for good deals on a wide variety of shirts.
Other Uses for Sleeveless Mesh Shirts
Baseball players also will often use a different style of sleeveless shirt. These are almost more like vests than shirts, usually with buttons all the way down the front of the shirt. These sometimes have two layers of material, an inner mesh for breathability and a solid cotton or polyester outer layer that can be embroidered or silk screened with the team logo.
One sport that does not approve of sleeveless mesh shirts is golf. Many courses specifically prohibit this kind of shirt for their players, preferring more sleeved professional golf shirts.
Active, not Casual Wear
Even when you're not playing sports, mesh shirts can be worn for any casually active environment such as the beach or a hike. Look in any gym and you'll see many men wearing this style on everything from free weights to treadmills. However, it's a good idea to keep them limited to those environments, and not think of them as a substitute for men's casual social attire. Some of the opinions on fashion blogs such as Helium.com would rather men didn't wear them at all. Like any fashion, though, you should make up your own mind, and let the mesh work for you if you want.