What makes the best Summer T-shirts? Part 2: Colours

SANVT Journal

In the second of a three-part series on what makes the best Summer Tees, SANVT delves into the colour of the Tee and the effect it has when worn in hot weather.

When weighing up the pros and cons of summer T-shirts, a popular issue on the table is the colour of the Tee. There are lots of opinions on this, some say lighter colours are better (because they absorb less heat) others say that’s an urban myth and the colour has no major effect. Others are confused and unsure, intrigued to know the real answer. And, even then, is that the only issue you should consider when selecting a T-shirt colour?

It’s not so simple but here’s our summary of the best colours for summer T-shirts and hot weather:

  • Heat: there is scientific evidence that darker colours absorb more heat, it´s no myth!
  • Shade: the closer a shade gets to black, then the more heat that’s absorbed
  • Controversy: however, there is some debate about how this absorption affects body heat
  • Fashion: summer trends do tend to favour brighter, sometimes pastel colours
  • Skin tone: darker skin types are ideal for lighter T-Shirt colours, and vice versa
  • Taste: all considered, you can’t and shouldn’t disregard your own taste!

The Perfect T-Shirt in Navy.

Do colours make a difference when it comes to heat?

Dark colours definitely do absorb more heat. This is scientific. While we won’t offer a detailed explanation here this basically happens because dark colours absorb more light energy and thus more heat. If you’d like to know more about how this happens, you can find more info here.

The closer you get to black the more heat absorbed and, in the reverse, the closer you get to white the less heat absorbed. In theory, lighter colours should therefore be cooler to wear.

However, there’s a bit of debate about this because some studies suggest that dark colours also draw heat away from the body better than lighter ones and are thus cooler to wear. This is why some groups of Bedouins have been observed to wear black robes in the desert, with a beneficial effect on body temperature.

It’s a little inconclusive then but the consensus would favour the old adage about lighter colours. And from our own experience we’d tend to agree!

Summer trends and fashion

Of course, you can’t purely base your decision when buying a Tee on the cold science of colour and heat absorption. It would be short-sighted to disregard fashion and trends.

So, what’s ‘in’ in summer? From a trend perspective, then, summer tends to be the time for brighter (perhaps even pastel) colours. A light pink or rusty orange is perfectly acceptable in the summertime – even for men. Mint colours can also work extremely well. This contrasts with winter, when it is more about earthy colours like burgundy.  A plain white T-shirt is also a classic (and potentially cooler) summer option that’s more timeless and less likely to go off-trend.

Lastly – individual skin types can be taken into account in summer. Pick something that balances your tone. If you have pale skin then a light mint colour should probably be avoided, as it is certainly more suitable for darker Mediterranean skin types. Darker summer T-Shirt tones are generally better for lighter skin types.

That’s the fashion view then but let’s face it: you’re wearing the tee; it should be something you like. And that’s the main thing.


Colour is an area that’s perhaps less important in summer than you’d think. However, there is a slight style and (we’d say) comfort advantage to a lighter Tee in the heat.

We recommend our Perfect T-Shirt as an option that is ideal for summer. And if you’re one of the non-believers and think dark’s being better in the heat then we also have a black version! Don’t forget to pick something you like, anyway. 

And if you’re looking for even more information on the best summer T-shirts, you can take a look at the previous articles in the series:

Photography by courtesy of Mads Keilberg