It’s as if my entire torso has gone on vacation without me. I don’t know how else to describe the feeling of wearing Numi undershirts—a sweat-wicking, scent-swallowing basic. Imagine period underwear, but for your upper body. Imagine putting half of your body on ice and going off to do other tasks. For those of us who go through the day highly aware of our own sweat, this could change things.
Why do men so often wear undershirts, and women so rarely? Show me a man with a closet full of pristine white Oxfords, and I will show you his stash of Hanes. Women are sweaty too—something I have been telling people, defensively, my whole life. But we’re less likely to wear undershirts, maybe because our clothing is often made of thinner material, or because expectations on women’s bodies hold that we should look as smooth and bulk-free as dolphin.
For some reason, everyday clothes don’t get the same thoughtful design as, say, a pair of high-performance leggings. “It’s crazy when you think about the technology what we demand from our workout clothes,” says Michelle Shemilt, the creator of Numi. “You wouldn’t buy anything for a workout if it didn’t have a technical component or wicking or whatnot, and you wear it how much? The clothes we wear all day—we really need those to work for us, too.”
Shemilt was working in finance when she realized her cute office wardrobe was going to waste. She avoided her delicate silks and knits, fearing a single wear would result in high dry-cleaning bills and potentially ruinous sweat stains. Even those of us who do not trust ourselves to own tops that cost more than $40 are familiar with the pain of taking off a sweater after one wear and knowing that you won’t see it again for an entire laundry cycle. As a result, “I decided to develop a woman’s undershirt that you could really comfortably and practically fit into and wear under women’s clothes, which tend to need a certain design to make it truly invisible,” Shemilt says.
Numi launched in 2014 using the direct-to-consumer model. I’d seen it dozens of times advertised on Instagram, and felt the draw of the seamless, expensive-looking Tencel fabric, the reinforced cotton underarms, and the models, flipping their hair and laughing at the memory of ever having been sweaty. On top of that, the shirts are made with sustainably minded practices in Canada.
Shemilt sent me two of the Signature Numi undershirts—one in almond, one in pink. Both are cute enough to wear as regular tops, tucked into jeans; they’re reversible, so you can wear them with any neckline. If you’re like me and prefer high-waisted jeans that essentially hit one inch below your bra, you could opt for the cropped version.
Whatever activity I did while wearing the Numi—running for the bus, running errands in too many layers, fast-walking while drinking a latte—I didn’t feel that horrible damp warmth that is so often the sad price of life in the human form.
Numi also recently launched a second radical take on another basic with a stain-repellant, sweat-repellant, machine-washable silk line. “We dove a little deeper and asked, ‘Okay what are other pain points that women have in their wardrobe?’” Shemilt says. “And what kept coming back is that women love wearing silk because you feel nice, you feel elevated—but it is such a finicky fabric that you put it on and you haven’t done anything and all of a sudden there’s a stain out of nowhere. If you have kids, forget about it,” she laughs. (Kelly Ripa’s a fan—she wears the Numi silk button down regularly on her show.)
And when we say stain-repellant, we mean it: Just watch the mesmerizing TikTok of Shemilt pouring coffee and red wine on the crisp silk Numi blouse. With any other silk, seeing it would surely make me sweat…if I wasn’t already wearing the Numi undershirt.
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.