Are White Tees or Black Tees Better in the Sun? Science Weighs In.

The answer is a bit more complicated than meets the eye

What's better in the sun? A white tee or black? (Getty)
Getty Images/iStockphoto

It’s common knowledge that white clothing reflects the sun while black absorbs it. Right?

Not exactly.

Sure, white really is reflective and shouldn’t technically get hot. But to write off all black clothes — which some might say are the best summer clothes — is extreme and perhaps uninformed, according to an investigation by Rhett Allain for Wired. To conduct its study, the magazine employed the help of an infrared camera to measure whether a black shirt got hotter than its white counterpart.

Everything, Wired explained, gives off light in the form of electromagnetic radiation. At their highest intensity, these wavelengths can be seen with the naked eye, but most of the time, you need the aforementioned camera to detect them. After a few minutes in the sun, the black tee registered at 131 degrees Fahrenheit, while the white shirt was a cooler 111.8.

But this is not the only indicator of which is better to wear on a hot sunny day; you also need to take thermal radiation into account, Allain explains. Meaning: just like white T-shirts reflect the sun, they can also reflect the heat your body generates … right back onto itself.

A second test was conducted to measure exactly that. Both a heated-up white shirt and a heated black shirt were viewed through the camera. The test determined that, surprisingly, they looked exactly the same, concluding that while a white shirt won’t heat up to as high a temperature as a black shirt, it also traps heat inside.

Now get out there and embrace your inner summer goth.

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