Can You Wear A Rash Guard As A Regular Shirt?

I've been wearing rash guards and wetsuits at the beach and surfing for years and my kids almost always wear a rash guard at the beach and at the pool.

Rash guards are great for water sports and can protect you from the sun's harmful UV rays, but can you wear a rash guard as a regular t-shirt or should you change out of your rash guard once you leave the beach or the pool?

Generally speaking you should NOT wear a rash guard as a regular t-shirt unless you're at the beach, around the pool or doing sports where you're likely to get wet. Rash guards look out of place in regular settings and shouldn't be paired with jeans, denim shorts or regular skirts.

Basically, you should wear a rash guard when you're doing water sports or likely to get wet, but when you return to normal settings you should change out of your rash guard and into a regular t-shirt.

I ended up using my tight, high-neck rash guard for surfing and skimboarding only, but picked up a couple surf tees for going on bushwalks where I would swim in the waterfall or for spending a day at the beach or pool with the kids. I couldn’t be happier with them. 

Below I’ll teach you the benefits of wearing a rash guard as a shirt, what settings are appropriate to do so, and what types of rash guards look best when worn as a shirt. 

Is It Okay To Wear A Rash Guard Instead Of A Regular Shirt?

It’s okay to wear a rash guard as a regular shirt in some settings. It'll cover you up appropriately like any other shirt would and even provide you with better UV protection and it'll be cooler (temperature-wise not fashion-wise) when compared to a regular t-shirt.

But exactly where you should or shouldn’t and whether or not it’s a good look is up to debate. 

Some Rash Guards Look Better As Shirts Than Others

VERY FEW rash guards look great when worn as a shirt with a pair of jeans or pants.

Tight-fitting rash guards, for example, may look a bit awkward out of their intended setting — especially on men.

High-neck rash guards, sleeveless rash guards, and full-body rash guards, for example, scream “I’m meant for the beach” and will look out of place in a shop.

The best are those that could easily be mistaken for casual athletic gear. But even still to wear these as a regular t-shirt you're likely going to want to be near the beach, pool or other areas with water sports.

The Setting Matters Big Time

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t wear a rash guard to a wedding. But even a sit-down restaurant is pushing it. 

Where you are in relation to the beach or the water matters A LOT when it comes to wearing a rash guard as a t-shirt.

For example, I live right near the beach and during summer wearing your rash guard through the shopping mall (which is just off the beach) feels totally normal and doesn't look weird. After all, a lot of people are walking through the mall in board shorts or bikinis.

However, the same mall in winter wearing a rash guard would look weird and you'd be expected to have changed into a regular t-shirt to go shopping.

Head a few suburbs back (a 5-10 minute drive from the beach) and a rash guard as a t-shirt is 100% out of place with the rare exception of an extremely hot day where everyone is heading to or coming home from the beach.

Rash Guards Make Great Shirts For Outdoor Activities

While a rash guard isn't usually ideal for wearing around town, they can be well suited for outdoor activities. 

Surfing, swimming, and skimboarding are obvious, but they also work great for things like hiking (where you might want to swim in the river), boating (even if you don't plan on swimming) and paddle boarding.

I started wearing a rash guard when I go bush walking and plan on swimming at the water/river, and it’s been a game changer.

They’re super lightweight and compress to almost nothing, can be washed and dried really quickly, protect me from the sun, and keep me cool and dry all day. Perfect. 

The Best Rash Guards To Wear As Shirts

For guys, the best types of rash guards to wear as shirts are loose and plain (save those gaudy patterns for the beach). You’ll sometimes see them called surf tees or swim tees, but they’re essentially just loose fitting rash guards. 

Something like Quiksilver’s Solid Streak Short Sleeve Rash Guard or Long Sleeve Rash Guard are perfect examples. Either could easily be mistaken for any other athletic tee.

Quiksilverv Short Sleeve Surf Shirt

Made from 100% spandex this loose fitting rash shirt dries quick and is chlorine resistant. Looks a lot like a regular t-shirt.

Buy Now at Amazon
03/06/2024 09:27 pm GMT

The ladies have a few additional options.

Surf tees and swim tees still work, but hooded rash guards and half or quarter-zip rash guards can look super cute with a pair of leggings as well (just don’t forget the sports bra underneath!). 

BALEAF Women's Long Sleeve Hooded Rash Guard
$31.99 $29.99

This 100% polyester hooded rash guard is UPF 50+ for ultimate sun protection. Quick dry and breathable it'll keep you cool and it's loose fitting and versatile for most occasions.

Buy Now at Amazon
03/06/2024 09:52 pm GMT

What Are The Benefits Of Wearing A Rash Guard As A Shirt?

A rash guard can work great in place of a t-shirt and in many ways works even better.

The biggest benefits are that rash guards are super comfy, provide excellent UV protection, and manage moisture better than most other shirts. Read more about the benefits of rash guards over t-shirts.

Rash Guards Are Super Comfortable 

Made of soft, stretchy fabrics like nylon and spandex, rash guards are really comfortable to wear — whether on the beach or anywhere else you decide to go. 

Standard cotton t-shirts will feel stiff and rough by comparison.

Provide Protection From The Sun’s UV Rays

Rash guards can also help protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays.

Ultraviolet Protection Factor, or UPF, measures how much UV radiation a fabric blocks. A UPF rating between 30 and 49 is considered ‘very good’ protection and anything over 50 is considered ‘excellent’.

To put it in perspective, a standard white t-shirt only provides a UPF of about 5 (according to the Skin Cancer Foundation).

Rash guards, on the other hand, are commonly found with UPFs of 50 or more — well into the ‘excellent’ protection range. 

UPF RatingType of GarmentUV Transmission
5Regular T-shirt (not rated for UV protection)20%
15Garments Rated ‘Minimal’ UV Protection6.67%
30Garments Rates ‘Good’ UV Protection3.33%
50Rash Guards (‘Excellent’ UV Protection)2%

Rash Guards Are Moisture-Wicking

If excessive sweating, chafing, and skin irritation are problems for you on long days out of the house, you may just be wearing the wrong type of shirt. 

Moisture-wicking is a fabric’s ability to move (or wick) moisture to the outer surface of the fabric and dry quickly. 

Cotton, the most common fabric, is also one of the absolute worst at controlling moisture and keeping you cool. 

Rash guards are made of materials like nylon, spandex, and polyester that are really efficient at wicking moisture — and can help keep you cool, comfortable, and dry all day long.

Final Thoughts

Wearing a rash guard instead of a regular shirt can be awesome BUT ONLY in the right setting. They’re moisture-wicking, provide UV protection, and are really comfortable.

Just keep in mind: 

  • Rash guards are only appropriate for casual settings close to the beach or water.
  • If you wouldn’t wear an athletic tee somewhere, you shouldn’t wear a rash guard either. 
  • Tight-fitting rash guards may look a bit awkward with a pair of jeans, especially on men. Loose rash guards look much better away from the beach.
  • Rash guards make a perfect shirt to wear for camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities where you expect to go swimming or get wet.