Is a Sun Shirt the Same as a Rash Guard?
by Nick Hammond on Oct 15, 2022
At first glance, sun shirts and rash guards may appear very similar. They are both shirts designed for athletic outdoor activities that provide protection from the elements. But when you look closely, there are some key differences between these two garments in terms of their fit, fabric, construction and intended use.
What is a Sun Shirt?
A sun shirt is a lightweight, breathable shirt primarily designed to provide protection from the sun's UV rays. Sun shirts are typically made of lightweight synthetic fabrics like polyester or nylon that have a tight weave or special UV protective coating to block ultraviolet radiation.
The fabric and construction of a sun shirt make it very breathable and cool to wear in the heat. The shirts are usually loose fitting and roomy to allow maximum air flow circulation. A sun shirt will have a collar and partial or long sleeves to protect the skin from the shoulders to the wrists. However, the fabric is lightweight and the cut is loose enough that the wearer stays cool and comfortable.
Some sun shirts have a more athletic fit like a t-shirt, while others are cut even baggier for maximum coverage and airflow. But the main purpose and design priority of a sun shirt is UV protection. The loose, lightweight fabric helps ventilate heat while the long sleeves, collar and special fabric provide protection from the sun's harmful rays.
What is a Rash Guard?
A rash guard is a shirt constructed of nylon and spandex to cling tightly to the wearer's body in order to prevent chafing and rashes. The stretchy, quick-drying fabric of a rash guard is designed to protect the skin from abrasion, irritation, and scratches during watersports like surfing, diving, paddling, and other athletic activities.
The snug fit of a rash guard is key to its functionality. The stretchy material clings close to the body to act as a second skin that prevents rubbing and irritation. Rash guards are typically short or long sleeved with crew neck or turtle neck collars for maximum coverage. The flatlock stitching on rash guards further reduces areas where chafing could occur.
In addition to the tight fit, rash guards are made of fabrics with a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating of 50+ to provide protection from the sun's UV radiation. But the main purpose and design of a rash guard is to prevent rashes, abrasions, and skin irritation during active watersports. The form-fitting second-skin construction is optimized for anti-chafing performance.
Similarities Between the Two Garments
While sun shirts and rash guards are designed for slightly different purposes, there are similarities between the two types of athletic shirts:
- They both provide protection from the sun's UV radiation. Rash guards use UPF 50+ fabric while sun shirts use tightly woven fabric and UV coatings.
- They are worn for similar outdoor activities like swimming, paddle boarding, boating, and beach sports where sun protection and abrasion resistance are helpful.
- The synthetic fabric blends commonly used in both garments (polyester, nylon, spandex) allow for quick drying and moisture wicking.
- Long sleeves, collars, and longer hemlines provide protection from sun exposure, wind chill, and abrasion during active watersports.
Key Differences Between Sun Shirts and Rash Guards
While they serve similar functions, some key differences between sun shirts and rash guards include:
- Fit: Rash guards cling tightly to the body using spandex while sun shirts have a loose, roomy fit to allow maximum airflow.
- Main purpose: Sun shirts prioritize UV protection and cooling while rash guards focus on preventing skin abrasion and irritation from rubbing.
- Fabric: Rash guards use more spandex for stretch and sun shirts use lightweight, breathable fabrics designed for cooling airflow.
- Coverage: Rash guards offer full sleeves and higher necklines while some sun shirts have open collars and half sleeves.
In summary, rash guards and sun shirts are not identical garments. Rash guards focus on anti-chafing with a second-skin fit. Sun shirts prioritize airflow and UV protection with a loose, lightweight construction. But both can be great choices for water sports and outdoor activities where sun and abrasion protection are helpful.
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