If you eat reasonably well, hit the weights regularly, and either 1) have the metabolism of a 27-year-old sex machine or 2) keep your physique nice and tight by forcing yourself to hop on the treadmill at the end of a lifting session, you’re entitled to show off your hard work by sporting muscle shirts. No homo.
First, what is a muscle shirt? Where I’m from—Bumbleville, central Iowa—the term refers to any sleeveless shirt, aka a tank top. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary adds in a “close-fitting” qualifier to a “usually sleeveless T-shirt.” For simplicity’s sake, let’s call any form-fitting tee or tank a muscle shirt.
Tank vs. Tee
Now the wearer must choose between the two styles, and the choice will likely dictated by the occasion. The tee is more versatile. If you’re not worried about giving off any overly vain vibes, a solid-colored, body-hugging muscle tee can be worn on a casual date or a night on the prowl with the boys. But they’re also suitable for the gym, especially if made from a blend of moisture-wicking and breathable materials (more on that below).
I’ll venture to say that tank-style muscle shirts are generally not suitable for anything other than working out or beating your wife (jokes!). That’s not to say that all tanks should be gym-exclusive attire, just the form-fitting ones. They’re by far the best way to
look like a douchebag flaunt pumped-up, pulsing guns. While they’re construction will have a huge impact on how much heat is retained, they’re generally cooler than tees or other shirts, as more skin is exposed.
How to Pick the Right Muscle Shirt Material
It’s important to note that the material from which a muscle shirt is made will have a drastic impact on function, feel and comfort. Instead of focusing on the look of a fit, some may be most interested in finding a material that’s best-suited to a particular activity. If this sounds like you, recreational outfitter REI CO-OP has three things to keep in mind when shopping for a muscle shirt:
- Fabric construction and weight: Tighter knits and heavier materials are less breathable, so look for open knits and thinner materials to maximize breathability.
- Moisture Management: Lighter and more breathable materials absorb less sweat, while moisture-wicking materaisl help accelerate the evaporation process.
- Fit: Leisurely activities call for a slightly looser fit, while rigorous activities call for tighter muscle shirts
Don’t Break the Bank on a Muscle Shirt
As with any garment, you can spend a boatload of cash on a muscle shirt. If you read Jacob Graye’s article on the Best Leather Messenger Bags for Men, you’ll know that I’m not interested in overspending on labels that are over-engineering simple items or up-charging because of some BS called “brand power”—I just want something that works. Therefore, every entry you see here is priced at under $25.
With that, we’ve rounded up six affordable muscle shirt tees and tanks for men that carry a 4.0-star or better rating on Amazon based on hundreds of customer reviews. Get after it!
Different Touch (Tank)
Featuring a 95-percent ribbed cotton and 5-percent spandex blend for added stretch, Different Touch’s “G-Unit” muscle shirt tank features tag-less labels, plus a double-stitched hem on the neck and around the shoulders for extra durability. It also boasts the greatest color variety of almost any muscle shirt sold on Amazon with a 4-star or higher rating. Since it’s mostly cotton, don’t expect much in the way of moisture-wicking.
Amazon reviewer PqP writes, “Luckily for me, I took care to first read the 1- and 2-Star reviews, where people report that these Asian size indicators are inappropriate for the Western consumer. I am 5’11” and 185 Lbs; I normally wear Medium shirts for a close but comfortable fit. Having read those warnings, I tentatively ordered one pair in Extra Large, with the intent to return it forthwith to Amazon in case it is a misfit. I lucked out. This XL top fit me the way I expected a regular Western M to fit. As an added bonus, the length is very generous, just as pictured; which I appreciate because I hate it when the too-short thing slips out of the pants. I then quickly ordered an additional pair. Experience has taught me that when I find a product I like, there’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to buy it again in a year or two.”
Available in Brown (pictured), Black, Black and White, Black with Black Trim, Black with Gray Trim, Black with White Trim, Black with Red Trim, Gray, Gray with Black Trim, Green, Navy Blue, Red, Turquoise, White, White with Blue Trim, White with White Trim, White with Gray Trim, and White with Black Trim. 4.5-star average based on 2,429 ratings
Most U.S. buyers will recognize the name Champion as an affordable alternative to other athleticwear brands like Nike or Reebok. This “Classic Jersey” tank’s makeup changes based on the chosen color—some are 100 percent cotton, while others are made from a cotton-polyester blend. All can be expected with a comfortable athletic fit with a narrow collar and a Champion “C” logo over the left pec.
“Amazing purchase. Fits comfortably and shows off arms (even my limited 2-month progress arms!),” writes Amazon purchaser Anthony Lee. “Not tight in the chest area, but not extra loose ether. It definitely will show chest gains, but remain comfortable to stretch and be active in. Looks amazing! I’ve received many compliments with it on. Going to buy a red one.”
Available in Black, Granite Heather, Navy, Oxford Gray, Scarlet, Surf the Web (Blue), and White. 4.5-star average based on 5,164 ratings
With 75 percent of over 10,000 buyers giving the Neleus Y-Back tanks a 5-star review, it’s not just exceptionally regraded among buyers, but a serious bargain at about $8 per shirt. They’re 100 percent polyester, making for a soft, breathable moisture-wicking design. If you’ve got great lat, trap, and rhomboid architecture, this is the tank to show it off.
“I’m 5’7 / 125lbs / 27inch waist. I got the XS size, writes reviewer Ivan Aragon. “The color shirts I got were Black, Dark Blue, White. I can understand why maybe other buyers didn’t like these shirts due to the material perhaps not being the best but listen these shirts are good! They get the job done, they look stylish! I guess my only wish was that these shirts were a little bit slimmer from the waist but hey maybe it’s probably me who needs to grow more lol anyways I would buy these again if I have to, I’ll wait until my 3 shirts ware out and most likely purchase them again & try different colors. I hope my review helps you.”
Available in Black (pictured), Gray, Navy Blue, Blue, Red, Yellow, and Olive Green. 4.6-star average based on 10,423 ratings
I’m perplexed by Coofandy calling this a “hipster” shirt, but the pleated raglan sleeves are stylish enough the eye to catch. A 95-percent polyester and 5-percent fabric blend promises to dissipate sweat, which, in combination with the fact that this is a tee, makes it one of the most versatile picks on this list.
“This is a great shirt if you want something with some edge. It is true to size, says buyer Brian Wheeland. “If you want it to show off biceps or pecs order one size down. I usually wear an xl and ordered this in an xl. It fits and is comfortable however it is loose on the bicep chest and abs. Most would say it fits just depends on the look you going for.”
Available in Black (pictured) , Blue, Brown, Dark Green, Gray, Khaki, Light Gray, Navy Blue, Tie Dye, White, Neon Green, Ponceau, Wine Red, and Yellow. 4.3-star average based on 2,120 ratings
I’m not gonna make some lame Superman pun, but if you’re gonna buy the InLeaderStyle muscle tee, you’d better have the steely hulking bod to back it up (whoops, pun not avoided). Perhaps because of the cotton and elastic combo, this is the cheapest option in my muscle shirt roundup.
“Fourth one I’ve bought. Super comfortable and form fitting,” writes an anonymous Amazon customer. “I’ve seen other comments stating that the symbol doesn’t stay on but I haven’t had that issue. The one my girlfriend stole from me apparently did shrink a little in the wash so keep that in mind when washing & drying. Other than one having a hole in the stitching down the side. These are great!”
Available in Black, Blue, Gray, Navy Blue, Orange (pictured), Red, White, and Yellow. 4.3-star average based on 517 ratings.
Another great gym-or-date shirt, Athlemon’s crewneck tee has a reflective quality thanks to the implementation of cotton in a mostly cotton blend. It’s also cut longer than standard tees for—dare we say—dressier occasions that call for a tuck. Even when tumble dried on low, the manufacturer promises that the shirt will not shrink.
“I would say whatever size you normally are order one size up because these will fit a little tight if you order your normal true to size because they’re made with spandex,” write one anonymous verified purchaser. “I ordered a small one time and it fit a little too snug and there was no room to breathe so I ordered a size up which is medium and it fits perfect the length is perfect and it hugs my biceps and the material is great.”
Available in Black (pictured), Gray, Light Blue, Navy Blue, White, Gray, Khaki, Blue, Black, Turquoise, White, and Camo. 4.2-star average based on 918 ratings.