How to choose a tactical shirt?

Combat shirts are an essential part of the military uniform. Versatile, durable in construction, and well suited for combat, these shirts are unique for their rare combination of comfort and utility. Choosing the right one requires understanding why they are part of the army uniform, their general construction, and the long list of useful features they offer.

How to choose a tactical shirt?

Origin of tactical shirts

A combat shirt is essentially a hybrid of a t-shirt and a uniform jacket: the body of the shirt is made of soft, stretchy fabric, while the arms are made of strong, abrasion-resistant materials. The prototype US Army combat shirts first appeared in 2002. They went through several years of testing and modification before being used in combat for the first time in 2007.

Due to their lightness, breathability and moisture wicking properties, combat shirts are ideal for hot environments. The increased use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) against the US military has necessitated uniform garments that provide fire protection. Combat shirts made from flame retardant fabrics were the solution and as a result, combat shirts became part of the Army and Air Force OCP uniform. Along with their lightweight and flame resistant properties, combat shirts are also excellent for accommodating plate carriers and other types of body armor.

Tactical shirts in law enforcement

While combat shirts were originally designed for military personnel, they have been increasingly used in law enforcement operations over the years. In many cases, law enforcement officers and military personnel have similar tasks: dealing with potentially hostile adversaries, learning skills in weapons training, de-escalation techniques and protecting civilians, among others. Therefore, military clothing, footwear and equipment tend to spread in the field of law enforcement.

Law enforcement combat shirts are typically reserved for specialized agencies and units that utilize their rugged construction and combat characteristics. It is not uncommon for SWAT teams and ICE agents to wear combat shirts for their operations. There are even bright orange models for search and rescue teams who need tough clothing to adapt to the harsh environments they work in.

Design of tactical shirts

The unique and specific design of a combat shirt differs from other military garments in that the same material is not used for the entire garment. On the contrary, the torso and sleeves of a combat shirt are made from different fabrics to meet different needs.


The torso (or body) portion of a combat shirt is typically made from a blend of 40% cordura nylon and 60% cotton. This particular blend of fabrics guarantees the lightness, breathability and maneuverability of the shirt for soldiers operating in hot and humid climates. The torso fabric wicks moisture away from the body to keep the wearer comfortable and dry. This mix of fabrics is also ideal to accommodate the bulletproof vest of the soldier. Using more cotton than nylon ensures that the shirt will not melt if exposed to flames.


The sleeves of a combat shirt are typically made from a 50% nylon/50% cotton ripstop blend. This tough, abrasion-resistant material is similar to that found in standard military uniform coats. It provides extra extremity protection that bulletproof vests don’t cover, and many models are seamless for better mobility.

Characteristics of military shirts

Since combat shirts are designed for combat, they come with a number of versatile and combat-ready features. From storage to additional reinforcements, these features are added to give soldiers an edge when they need it most.

quarter zipper

Simple yet highly effective, the quarter-zip collar provides soldiers with extra ventilation when needed. When zipped up, it can protect from sun, wind, insects and a number of other inconveniences.

Mandarin collar

A staple of the US Army uniform, the mandarin collar is designed to close around the neck when zipped or buttoned. Like a quarter zipper, it is designed to eliminate minor obstacles when closed, providing another layer of protection for the wearer.

Pen pouches

You never know when you’ll need to take notes or write a report. Typically located on the sleeves of a combat shirt, pen pockets are specific slots for storing writing utensils. The location of the sleeve pockets makes pens and pencils easily accessible.

Shoulder pockets

Closed with a zipper or Velcro, the shoulder pockets provide much-needed storage space over the sleeves of a combat shirt. These pockets are perfect for carrying small essentials and making them easily accessible.

Reinforced elbows

The elbows of a shirt tend to wear out quickly. Combat shirts often have reinforced elbows that struggle with both normal wear and the rigors of combat.

Loop Velcro Drapes

A place to display your rank insignia or other identification is an essential part of the uniform. Like the traditional uniform jacket, combat shirts have space for this purpose. These Velcro fields are usually located on the shoulder of the shirt.

If your deployment takes you to a hot and humid climate, a regular uniform coat can be very uncomfortable. Combat shirts offer an effective solution thanks to their lightweight, breathable fabric and endless versatility. When you know what a combat shirt is, what materials it is made of and what its features are, it is much easier to choose the right one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *