Sun Shirts: Brand Review

There are so many new options I thought it would be nice to have a 2021 sun shirt review. Below are my thoughts on the handful of brands I’ve tried. I’d love to hear about your experience as I know everyone has different perspectives and priorities with riding apparel.

Kastel - 9/10. I love the ultra light-weight fabric. The sleeves are nice and long. They wash well. In the hottest of hot weather they can feel a little clingy. -1 for price.

Dover Coolblast (solid) - 7/10. I find they run a touch slimmer than expected. Sleeves were on the verge of too short. The fabric is soft but not quite as silky as Kastel. Washes well.

Dover Stride - 7.5/10. Slightly longer sleeves and better cut than the coolblast.

Dover (Polkadot) - 6/10. The fabric is very different than the solid and almost feels cottony. Hotter than the two above.

Ariat - 8/10. Stiffer fabric. I love the cut through the shoulder - very flattering. Slightly boxier. Favorite option in high heat + humidity because it doesn’t cling. Can look a bit billowy tucked in.

Horze - 4/10. Feels cheap compared to the others. Heavier fabric. Does not breathe well. Prone to getting pulls. The zipper is low quality.

Brands I’d love to hear about: Noble Outfitter, Chestnut Bay, SanSoleil, Kerrits, Treadstep, LeMieux, Lettia, Tailored Sportsman, Noble Equestrian

Are there other options I’m missing?

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EIS (Equi In Style) - made in the USA!! Lovely, cool fabric, stylish, durable, comfortable, wash well. They’re about the same price point as the Tailored Sportsmans,

Also have the Dover Coolblasts. They’re okay, but not as nice as the EIS. I won’t buy any more especially since they’re now made in China.

The Kerrits IceFil are a gossamer fabric with ventilation holes. They do snag, but are the most comfortable on those hot, sticky days at the end of the summer.

I’ve seen the Kastel shirts - nice fabric, some cool patterns. But $$$ at that price point, they should be made somewhere that doesn’t use slave labor (they’re made in China).

My decision not to buy “Made in China” isn’t new - don’t like the way they do things/ treat people. I was so sad to see Kerrits outsourcing to China.

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I didn’t realize the EIS shirts were made in the USA. That is a bonus, for sure. They are my favorite sun shirts - comfortable and cool and not too clingy.

I love the Kerrits summer shirts in short sleeve but find the long sleeves too long. That is weird for me because I am tall and have long arms, so they must be really long.

Kastel shirts are beautiful but too clingy for me.

I don’t feel like the Ariat shirts are as cool as the others I own.

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Kerrits IceFil - Super lightweight, kind of billowy, not much structure. They are breathable and comfortable, but not as nice-looking. Kerrits stuff tends to be short in the arms and big around the middle for me.

San Soleil - I bought two of the Solcool shirts and one Soltekice shirt when Riding Warehouse was doing a great after Christmas sale. The Solcool shirts have mesh panels in the sleeves that help with breathability. They are kind of a light lycra material. Very nice looking. Pic below wearing one for my lesson yesterday. It was about 75 degrees and I was really comfortable. Downside to the mesh panels is I kept snagging my horse’s blingy browband on the mesh.

I’m going to wear the Soltekice shirt for my lesson today. It is made of a different material that seems more breathable, more softly stretchy, and the mesh is finer like a mosquito mesh type but stretchy.

I also bought two Kastel shirts, but they don’t have the mesh panels, so not something I would wear when it starts getting over 70. They are nice and fit well though.

I’m 5’9" with long arms and bigger shoulders and the San Soleil and Kastel shirts fit me perfectly in a large. Could maybe use 1/2" more length on the Kastel shirts, but that is a nitpick.

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Kerrits ice fill - best for hot days. Only beef is that the sleeves stretch over time, perhaps due to the mesh fabric.

Ariat - good for hot days. Hold shape better than Kerrits. Mesh part eventually degrades, but it takes quite some time.

Kastel - about like Ariat with respect to keeping you cool. Clingy, which is good or bad, depending on your preference. No patterns?

Royal Highness - new house brand by Riding Warehouse. I got this one; they also have another style. Fit between Kastel and Ariat. Mesh under arms and across back. Didn’t try on a very hot day, but I suspect they won’t be as cool as Kerrits; better with breeze. Good price point (~$40). Cute prints, though not as cute as in the child sizes.

I really really want ones that cover my neck, and I see most of these are zip necks. However, which has the loosest neck? Cannot abide a “turtle neck” feel on a hot day!

I guess the point is to cover your arms for sun protection.

I’m curious about these shirts, but not sure I need one. I live in a temperate climate. I have a big wardrobe of cotton knit polo shirts, with collars, and they button up to protect the throat and give excellent protection on the back of the neck. I am OK with my lower arms in the sun for 3 months of the year.

I find when the temperature goes much above 25 Celsius / (is that 75 F?) it’s too hot to ride in full sun because of the heat on my head/helmet. And the breeches don’t help. Would an IceFil shirt make a significant difference? If so I would get one.

I do have some random tech shirts from other sportswear companies and there’s a huge difference. Some are pointless for heat control , just polyester polo shirts while others do let a breeze through. It’s hard to tell in advance.

I am very fond of the Kerrits IceFil shirts, and as long as you stay moving they stay pretty cool in our humid summers. The principle of evaporative cooling applies; I have gotten chilled on an 80 degree, very windy day while wearing one of these shirts. They do stretch a bit and are not as “form fitting” as some other options. I would say they run slightly large (I use a M or L in these shirts, but L or XL Kerrits riding tights.)

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I have a bunch so adding my two cents:
Kastel: 8.5/10. Probably my favorite, but they get a point off for being so gd expensive and another 1/2 point off for being so weirdly long in the body? I have to tuck them in and pull them out a bit or else I get unsightly bunches under my waistband. I always pick them up used or last seasons colors for cheap-ish. They dry super quick and comfy in the humidity.

TS: 8/10. I have one and want another. They’re so soft and dry fast, but I wish mine was a larger size because it shows everything. It would be fantastic one size up. Did I mention SOFT!! Also pricey but not as much as the kastel and I think the colors are prettier.

Dover tank tops: 8/10. These are the sunshirts with the cut off sleeves. If no bugs, they’re my go to. Soft, no clinging, dry quick, and no pit stains because no pits! Though your arms might get sunburned I wore them so much last summer that my shoulders had burn lines from them— missed with the sunscreen.

Under armor: 7.5/10. This is a golf shirt we got embroidered through my riding club. The material is so thin and comfy without being soft. Definitely a favorite of mine but no stretch at all so buy bigger. I bought small thinking it would stretch and then broke my collarbone in it and getting it off was no fun at all!! But I refused to cut off my professional looking and comfy grey shirt— and it has my name on it!!

Bette and Court: 7/10. Soft on inside and a little heavy but dries really fast. Still comfy in the summer and bugs can’t bite through

Tredstep: 6.5/10. Super soft but not that light. If you buy bigger you can get some airflow, I have a xs and a medium and definitely prefer the medium. Some fun colors and fit nicely but a bit heavy. I don’t think they dry as fast either.

Ariat: 5/10. These have scratchy fabric and they’re heavy. The only reason I like these is that bugs can’t bite through them and I have a very very light blue one that looks really professional for summer clinics or under my coat at shows.

Annie’s: 5/10. I love the color and the design on the back but it’s a bit heavy. Definitely makes the rotations in my spring and fall wardrobe though. It’s also susceptible to static.

Honorable mention to my back on track crewneck which is not as hot as one would anticipate. For early morning rides in the indoor or breezy trail ride it’s great. It’s a favorite of mine all year round.

I’m a huge fan of the SanSoleil. I have four of them and love them. They have a couple of different cuts (close-fitting vs. a little boxier), the sleeves are nice and long, and they are cool to wear. They’re less clingy than the Kastel shirts. Good selection of printed fabrics that range from the sedate to the somewhat, shall we say, vivid. They’re pricey, but the website for the manufacturer often has good sales.

IBKUL: I have one of these. They are similar in terms of fit to the SanSoleil, but I find the sleeves to be a little on the short side (I do have long arms, so YMMV). Also a nice range of colors/prints.

I have one (older) Kerrits IceFil shirt which I find poorly cut (at least on me, it’s too big across the bust and too narrow in the shoulders), and heavy. I wouldn’t buy one again.
What I love about sun shirts generally is that they keep me cooler, and I don’t have to slather myself in sunblock.

Do sunshirts work better in humid or dry heat or with a breeze or fast movement? We have a nice moderate humidity, not deep South dripping sweat or desert hot air blast. Not much wind. I would say that my cotton knit polo shirts do not end the day feeling damp, except maybe where tucked into breeches.

They work primarily via evaporation, so they work better the less humid and more windy it is. On a hundred percent humidity no wind 95 degree F day they are pretty useless, but most days are not that bad even in hot southern climates. I can feel air moving through the fabric (especially the mesh) any time a breeze blows or I’m in motion. I too have gotten a bit chilled on a windy warm day due to the evap.

As mentioned above, I wear sunshirts as much for the skin coverage as for the cooling tech. I haven’t worn sunscreen to the barn on anything but my face in years. (I hate sunscreen almost as much as tanning.)

ETA that I also find most sunshirts to be very comfy active apparel. Lightweight, no bulk, most slightly stretchy, soft/smooth.

Tailored Sportsman is my absolute favorite. I’ve tried several brands, and none compare to TS. I’d give them a 9/10 only because they’re a little expensive and they run small.
I especially LOVE the sleeveless TS. I live in the south where it’s sticky humid hot with very little breeze. Any sleeves are just too farking hot in the dead of summer.

Ariat - best value IMO. Good colors most years and my favorite style with the tailoring and mesh insert shapes. I find them to be cooling - certainly not so different from the other brands that I’ve noticed. Note that after a long summer you’ll get slight tanning under the mesh inserts on the back of the shoulders. My main complaint is sleeve length (1”-2” shorter than some other brands and it’s noticeable). And the white color is totally see through.

Kastel - agree with all previous comments. High quality, too expensive to buy regularly, good long sleeve length, fabric is clingy but in the right size it looks and feels good, very cooling. I personally think most of their color combos are goofy which is another reason I don’t own many.

Horze- okay not great. Heavier fabric is not as cool, boxier cut is not as stylish. You get what you pay for.

These are brands I’ve tried on but didn’t keep -
Kerrits (in between sizes, boxier style)
TS (in between sizes, looked and felt a lot like Kastel though)
SmartPak (heavier fabric, boxier fit)
Noble Outfitters (between sizes)

Great thread - I’m going to try a few of the other brands mentioned here that I haven’t tried before. Could use a refresh on the collection!

My favorite right now is the IBKUL. I love the patterns and prints. I’m in the deep south with all the heat and humidity, and I can wear these on a regular basis without feeling like I’m too hot. I’m sure all the sun shirts would work better in low humidity. But both my barn owner and I are loving the IBKUL ones right now.

They definitely work better if it’s less humid or if there is a breeze so that evaporation is more effective. However, they are also more effective at wicking moisture away from your skin than cotton, so I think they are more comfortable than a cotton shirt even when it’s humid. They also tend to be lighter, so just don’t have that heavy feel of wet cotton on your skin. I shudder just thinking about riding in a cotton shirt in Maryland in the summer. It would definitely be damp (or soaking wet) at the end of a ride.

Along with my long-sleeved sun shirts that I wear if I’m going to be riding outside (or sitting outside jump judging all day), I have a set of short-sleeved collared “golf shirts” in a more technical fabric that I wear if I’m going to be riding in the indoor in the summer.

SanSoleil is my favorite, hands down. TS is a close runner-up, but the sleeves run short for me and I don’t even have super long arms.

I’m absolutely loving the TS sleeveless ones…they are so professional looking and so flattering, and so soft!!

While we are on this topic: what tights equivalent to Kerrits IceFil are out there, and how do you like them? I am specifically looking for tights with a pattern to match a sun shirt pattern. Kerrits used to do this but now they just have solid colored tights, the material isn’t as nice, and the pockets aren’t either.

I only have the Ariat Sunstopper and I adore the cut and it’s longevity.

Someone mentioned they fall apart after a while. Fun story, my Mom and I did a two week trip to africa and this was in my suitcase (it actually always is now for any trip). On our last day, waiting for our last flight, I asked her to cut a thread from the armpit - I lifted up my arm for her to cut it at the seam and she falls on the floor laughing. All the elastic where the vented part met the body had frayed and it looked like I had tufts of armpit hair sticking out through the shirt. Maybe we were punchy, but it was pretty funny.