2 Myths You Believe About Staying Cool that Don’t Work

April 27, 2016

There’s a lot of advice out there on how to keep cool during the hot and humid summer months in Southwest Florida. But some of those tips aren’t effective.

Here are 2 myths about staying cool you’ve heard and probably believe...

Myth: The less clothes you wear, the cooler you’ll be

The truth: For everyday wear, bearing your skin by wearing tank tops and shorts can actually make you warmer.


Because your skin is directly exposed to the sun’s radiation, which causes your skin to gain more heat than if it was covered.

(Note: When you’re exercising, less clothing is better. Your body needs to get rid of lots of heat quickly, and clothes tend to trap heat in.)

Covering your skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants helps by:

  • Shading your skin and blocking the sun’s radiation (just like how you feel cooler in the shade than in direct sunlight)
  • Wicking away sweat. Some fabrics help absorb sweat from your skin, which makes you feel cooler.

Of course, you can’t just wear any long-sleeved clothes. A thick, wool sweater will definitely make you feel too warm because it traps body heat.

What you should wear instead

Wear clothes that are:

  • Thin to let your body heat escape.
  • Light colored to reflect more of the sun’s radiation. Dark colors trap more heat and transfer it to your body.
  • Loose to give you an insulating layer of air between the clothing and your skin.
  • Moisture-wicking to aid in removing sweat from your skin. Cotton is great at this. Or you can purchase special moisture-wicking clothing.

Cultures have been using clothing like this to stay cooler for years.

For example, the barong from the Philippines is a long, thin, light-colored, cotton formal shirt. The light fabric shades the wearer’s skin without trapping body heat and lets cool breezes pass through it.

A modern example of a barong from barongsrus.com

Likewise, the guayabera from Mexico (which may have evolved from the barong) features light cotton material and vents in the side to aid in cooling.

Photo source: HistoryMiami

And, of course, there’s seersucker. Seersucker is a fabric that’s woven in such a way that some threads bunch together. This keeps the fabric from laying on your skin and allows for better air circulation and heat removal.

Many things are made from seersucker, including shorts, dresses and hats. But the staple is the seersucker suit, which was the suit of choice for Americans in the South before air conditioning.

An ad for a seersucker suit circa 1920 via artofmanliness.com