Whether you are looking for a street-style hoodie or a technical running top, there is a huge variety of casual and sports-specific tops to choose from. Read on in this best tops buying guide to find out more about the different types available and which one might be right for you.
Which top is right for me?
Well, what do you want to do in it? The main consideration when buying a top or hoodie is whether it is purely for casual wear, or if you want to use it ffor running or riding. In the case of the former, it’s completely down to you, your style and your favoured brands. However if you are buying a top for running or training you will need to move beyond cotton and consider technical fabrics with the ability to draw moisture away from your skin (wicking) and for winter tops, trap a warm air of layer next to your skin (thermal insulation).
• Materials: Most casual tops and hoodies are made from 100% cotton, which is soft and comfortable close to the skin and doesn’t require much in the way of specialized care. Technical tops, on the other hand, may be made from synthetic materials such as polyester which have much better wicking properties than cotton so moisture can evaporate, or from microfibre fleece for insulation and warmth in cold conditions. Some garments may be made from a blend of both for a balance between comfort and technical performance.
• Fit: Casual tops, hoodies and crews may be loose-fit for comfort and style, but technical tops should fit closely in order to effectively wick moisture from the skin and to avoid excess fabric flapping and/or chafing during exertion.
• Casual or sports?: As above, cotton is not generally the best choice if you want to play sports in your top. It absorbs moisture rather than allowing it to evaporate, meaning cotton tees that get soaked (from rain or sweat) stay soaked, and quickly get cold, heavy and clammy. Also – sweaty cotton stinks. A lot. If you’re going to work up a sweat in your tee, get a technical fabric.
• Hoods and sleeves: Long sleeves, short sleeves or none at all? To hoodie or not to hoodie? It’s up to you (and the weather).
• Graphics: Want to make a statement with your top or hoodie, or just advertise your favourite brands? Quality screen-printed graphics will make sure your message is heard loud and clear.
• Additional features: On casual hoodies and tops look for neat additional features like headphone ports and special pockets for your smartphone or other digital media device.
A casual classic for off-bike wear. Cotton hoodies are garments for all seasons but winter-specific hoodies with microfiber fleece material or lining will offer a greater degree of insulation in cold weather.
Another casual wear option, the round-neck crew top typically has long sleeves and 100% cotton. Look for good-quality cotton with a high GSM (grams per square metre) for extra warmth and durability.
Tops for training and running will be made of synthetic fabrics such as polyester to offer a high degree of moisture management and ‘wicking’ properties – drawing moisture away from your skin to the surface of the fabric where it can evaporate, keeping you dry and comfortable. Long-sleeve tops with additional thermal properties are ideal for winter and cooler-weather training as part of a layered clothing system, while lighter short-sleeve tops will aid in summer heat management and provide protection from the sun’s UV rays. Look for a close fit and stretchy fabrics that adapt to the contours of your body, and flatlock seams to prevent chafing. Meanwhile features such as rear pockets are handy to store essentials such as keys or personal electronic devices. Some tops may also use zips and mesh panels on the back or underarms to boost air circulation and ventilation, while yet more will feature a microbial treatment on the fabric to prevent buildup of bacteria and odour.
Compression tops are designed to fit closely to the body (‘form-fitting’) and exert a level of compression on the muscles, with a range of benefits, encouraging increased blood flow to and from the muscles as well as increased lymphatic flow. This means more oxygen to working muscles, which boosts the work they can do, and increased circulation also helps prevent fatigue and aid recovery. Many compression wear garments will also have features such as UV protection and microbial treatment, making them a popular choice for athletes training in all weathers.
Singlets and tank tops
These are lightweight, sleeveless options for warm summer conditions, with high wicking properties to aid moisture management.
Women’s specific tops
These are specially cut to fit the female form in order to follow the body’s contours for optimum wicking, aerodynamics and overall comfort.
A range of casual and technical tops and hoodies, in sizes to suit children and youths.