Health & Medical

2023 SELF Activewear Awards: The Best Sweatshirts and Layers

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There is nothing better than a great sweatshirt. Your closet isn’t complete without at least a few, each of which you might reach for in different circumstances. Personally, I’ve got my sleeping sweatshirt, my yoga sweatshirt, my warmest sweatshirt, and my even good-with-jeans sweatshirt—and I wouldn’t be surprised if you said the same. 

While the sweatshirt is very much a basic wardrobe item, small design details can go a long way in transforming it from a heap of material in the back of your closet to something that serves a very real purpose, particularly when it comes to how you like to stay active. (Or, alternatively, how you like to rest.)

As part of SELF’s 2023 Activewear Awards, we’ve selected the best new sweatshirts, layers, zip-ups, and hoodies to help you stay cozy all year long, no matter the weather—or how you like to move. Keep reading to see and shop them all. 

What to Look for When Shopping for Sweatshirts and Outer Layers 

As when shopping for all types of activewear, first consider your use case. Do you need a new sweatshirt to throw on for your walk to the gym? Are you looking for something more performance-centric for mild-weather runs? Or are you really hoping to score a does-it-all pick: one that’s just as comfy when you’re reading in bed as it is when you take the dog for a brisk morning walk? 

If you’re planning on doing any activity where you tend to sweat, get hot, or increase your heart rate, then technical, breathable fabrics—like nylon, polyester, or even bamboo—should be at the top of your list. If you think you’ll wear your sweatshirt for lower-intensity activities, something softer and thicker like cotton could be a fine option. 

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When shopping, pay attention to pockets, zippers, and any other added features that can help you stow loose items while you’re on the move. Remember to always try on your sweatshirt or top layer with something underneath it to make sure that, when worn together, both garments won’t restrict your movement or make you uncomfortable. And finally, make sure you’re okay to tote the sweatshirt in some other way should you want to take it off: Does it tie nicely around your hips? Can you sling it over your shoulders or stuff it into a backpack? No one likes the feeling of being stuck with deadweight when you’re on the go. (Even if that deadweight is very, very cozy.) 

How We Picked the Winners for our 2023 Activewear Awards

The tees, tanks, and shirts considered for the 2023 SELF Activewear Awards had to meet our submission guidelines, which you can read more about here. After brands submitted almost 500 items, a group of 45 testers (consisting of SELF staffers, fitness professionals, and exercise enthusiasts) got to work testing. Testers had two months to wear an item several times and in a number of ways, judging its performance against the standards set in SELF’s Activewear Buying Guide (a summary of which you can read above!). The tees, tanks, and shirts that came out on top are listed below. 

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