By Jim Ray
What it is: RipTFusion, $58.00
What it claims to do: A T-shirt on steroids, RipTFusion claims to be a "body-sculpting undershirt designed to support your core, shave inches off your belly and enhance your posture."
Our experience: I'll admit that I'm not necessarily the person that RipTFusion had in mind when they designed the "have your six-pack and drink it, too" undergarment. I've always been fairly slim, I exercise (though inconsistently) and try to watch my diet. I do love to cook and eat, however, and regularly partake in the rich microbrews that the Pacific Northwest is known for — you could say these forces are constantly at odds. Just as, if not more, importantly, I'm vain enough to honestly consider buying a $60 T-shirt, on the off chance that it would give my average physique a leg up. That last quality is probably what lands me square in the RipTFusion demographic.
The first clue that you're in for something different is the instructions on the box. That would be the instructions for how to put on, and take off, a T-shirt. ("How to put shirt on: Pull on all the way to your underarm, then pull over your head.") Men have celebrated the T-shirt for generations, from the brilliance of Brando to the hipster uniforms of Threadless, and now we're being told that we've been doing it wrong? You almost have to admire the chutzpah.
And what of the shirt once it's on? The best description I could give is that it's what I imagine wearing a girdle must have felt like, only less so. Or, as my pal Briana, the one who first turned me on to RipTFusion, so brilliantly put it, "It's like Spanx for men who are trying to pretend they don't have body shame."
The shirt itself is made of two different materials that make up three different zones. The top and bottom are traditional cotton, while the middle core is an elastic, synthetic material that compresses your abdomen. It's this core component that's supposed to give you that physique you're willing to pay, if not necessarily work, for. As for the claim that it shaves inches off your belly, my autumnal paunch was still there when I stopped sucking in and finally exhaled.
I tested my RipTFusion in a variety of environments — at work, where I sit in front of a computer between going to meetings, at a wedding in Philadelphia in August (for that perfect combination of heat and humidity) and a night of eating and drinking around Seattle. The first and most obvious thing you notice is that this is the most form-fitting undershirt you've ever worn. Even well fitting T-shirts are going to hang loose, bunch up underneath a dress shirt, come untucked and need adjusting. Not so with the RipTFusion, it stays put once it's on.
However, that form-hugging fit means that you always notice that you're wearing it. I like my clothes to fit properly without constantly reminding me that they're there. The RipTFusion is more like John the Baptist's shirt of camel hair, prickling to remind you not to be penitent but to suck in, sit up straight and look good.
I don't know that it actually helped improve my posture or figure over the course of a day at work, but it was downright uncomfortable underneath a suit and the under the strain of East Coast humidity.
As for reactions from my friends and coworkers — the crowd was disappointingly silent. No one seemed to notice that my breathing was a bit more shallow or that I was cutting a slimmer figure. Until, that is, word about this very article got out around the office (newsrooms are allergic to secrets), at which point the response ranged from incredulity to jocular ribbing to constantly being asked whether I was wearing my "man Spanx." My advice, should you decide that RipTFusion is for you, is to guard that skeleton in your wardrobe with your life.
I also noticed that wearing the RipTFusion lead to some unexpected indigestion. I could have been imagining things, but every time I wore the shirt, I noticed some discomfort after I ate — not full-on heartburn, just a degree of irritation that I'm not accustomed to.
What the experts say: Given that RipTFusion is ultimately about looking good, I consulted an expert on that very matter: Adam Lisagor, one half of the excellent duo from Put This On, "a Web series about dressing like a grownup."
Lisagor said he's noticed the trend of middle-aged men embracing these combinations of traditional and active wear to help them slim down. He assumed, though, that the synthetic fabric was because it "breathes easy for fat guy pits" and was not necessarily functional.
"I think they're absolutely terrible," Lisagor told me. "Especially paired with jeans."
Bottom line: If you're the kind of guy who's willing to drop $60 on a T-shirt designed by one of P. Diddy's previous stylists, then you've probably wasted plenty more money in the pursuit of self-admiration. It won't transform you, Bruce Banner-style, into something you're not, but it might prompt you sit up straight a little more often. No word on whether the next version will also remind you to call your mother.