Sun-Protective Clothing: The Wearable Tech That’s Been There All Along

UPF clothing lead image

Gaze-activated light-up dresses, tweeting frocks, body-shaping jeans…oh, and ultraviolet protective clothing.  Right, that last one, which we so often forget about, is the sleeper hit of wearable tech.  It’s been here all along, The New York Times reminds us today, even if the charm of its utility gets forgotten about in the face of the flashier (sometimes literally) services of other technologically-enhanced garb.

UPF clothes — garments are UPF, sunscreen is SPF — are designed to do exactly as it sounds: protect their wearers from ultraviolet rays.  A plain t-shirt has a protective factor of about 5; clothing made with a specific tight weave, primarily in synthetic fabric, or treated with certain chemicals or dyes, offers a much higher protective factor, usually between 20 and 100.

Brands devoted to sun protection that have launched within the past couple years include Mott 50, Parasol, and Cover (all pretty fashionable and consequently a little pricier than some of the UV protective sportswear already out there).  Mainstream companies who offer sun-damage-preventing garments within their general collections include J. Crew, Nike, and Patagonia (which sells UPF clothing in a range of protective factors, from 20 to 50).  Gap Inc.’s sports-leaning site, Athleta, has a multi-brand category devoted to sun protective clothing.  There’s even a literally-named site,, peddling a number of the more sports-leaning UPF clothing lines.

Since sun protective clothing is suddenly so stylish, we picked our favorite pool-side, UV-blocking looks:

Beachy South of France style meets UV protection. Parasol's striped shirt ($165) has a protective factor of 50+.

Solumbra's tunic ($90) has protective factor of 100, as does all of the company's men's, women's, and children's apparel.

REI's hoodie has a UPF of 50 and it wicks away moisture (marked down to $31). Right, because if you're in the sun, there's a good chance you're sweaty, too.

Like the hoodie before it, Athleta's running tunic ($59) has both UV protection and moisture wicking abilities. Also, we hate gym clothes, and so this item gets points for looking like a normal shirt.

This Mott 50 boatneck, UPF 50 dress ($118) is a something we'd wear with or without the anti-UV ray factor.

Keep in mind that sun protection is best begun during childhood. This girls' dress from Patagonia has a UPF of 50 (marked down to $31.50).

Don't get burned in the surf! J. Crew's rashguard, part of a collaboration with British print-happy brand Liberty, has a UPF of 50 and it's on sale for $95 (from $175).


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