This photo shows the KÜHL RYZER sweater on a white background.
The KÜHL RYZER sweater is aimed at active, outdoor-focused men.


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The KÜHL RYZER sweater is one of my all-time favorite shirts. It is a quarter-zip pullover that fits well and exudes an active, outdoors style that makes the wearer seem casual yet competent at the same time. I struggle to explain how great this simple pullover sweater really is, so let’s try it again: The KÜHL RYZER has the power to make a man seem more manly — and competent — than he really is. That’s high praise for any shirt, and I never thought I’d be saying it.

I am, you should know, a big fan of KÜHL already, which started when I stumbled onto KÜHL pants. If you want the whole story, read KÜHL Review: ‘Once You Go KÜHL, You Never Go Back’.

Meanwhile, to get us a closer look at this shirt, KÜHL sent us a review unit. This is what we’ve learned.

KÜHL RYZER Review: Looks Great On

Over the course of several months, I’ve been wearing the KÜHL RYZER and generally abusing it. I throw it in the washer with little regard for cycles, then toss it in the dryer on whatever heat the dryer setting is on. After months, it’s starting to pill up a bit, but it just doesn’t really seem to matter much — it still looks great on. I’ve gotten more inquires from guys and simple complements about this shirt than any other in the last couple of years. That might say something about my daily shirt choices — or it says something about the RYZER. Maybe both.

In any event, the RYZER is basically just a synthetic poly/spandex blend. KÜHL says it has great breathability and wicking properties, but I rarely wear it as a base layer on its own because I’m not a fan of synthetic base layers — I always wear it with a lightweight t-shirt underneath, like I would with most any other sweater or typical pullover shirt. It’s slightly stretchy, but it’s cut to fit a guy’s arms and shoulders. If you’re in decent shape, the KÜHL RYZER will make you look as if you’re in better shape than you really are. So far, I’ve seen two other guys wearing it out and about, and they both looked good. What if you’ve got a bit more around the stomach than you want to carry? One of the guys I saw wearing it was about 30 pounds overweight and I have to say, it looked good on him, too.

Of course, with the overweight guy, the torso was a tighter around his waist than typical barrel-shaped pullovers, but there is something special about the cut and fabric of this shirt that just gets the job done.

This photo shows a close up of the KÜHL RYZER shirt.
The signature KÜHL contrast stitching gives the RYZER great looks while the strategic panel placement amps up the fit.

Part of it is the signature KÜHL articulated panel stitching. The strategically placed panels on the arms, for example, ensure that the shirt hugs your arms in ways that match your biology. A standard sleeve is going to pull against your skin as you move your arms . . . and it will usually have gaps with excess fabric or tent-pole spots for your elbows. In a regular shirt when you move your arm, you can usually feel your arm moving inside the sleeve. It’s subtle, and most of us totally ignore it. When I wear the KÜHL RYZER, the sleeves feel like part of my arms. If I stretch my arm out, the sleeve goes with my arm. The result is that the RYZER just feels like a shirt that’s ready to go and do anything you want.

On the outside, the contrast stitching between the panels offers subtle detail without drawing too much attention to itself. More to the point, I think that when people who aren’t wearing the shirt look at someone who is wearing the shirt, subtle clues like the stitching actually work to give the impression that the shirt fits well (which it does). And then those lines also accentuate your muscle structure. Of course, the bit of spandex woven in helps, too, but there’s more going on with the RYZER than a bit of stretchy material and trimmer-than-average fit.

KÜHL RYZER Review: Best Usage

The KÜHL RYZER looks just as good in a bar as it does in a ski lodge. I’ll wear it as a layer underneath a down jacket — or simply wear it on its own for those casual social occasions where you don’t want to dress up or dress down. The KÜHL RYZER is a powerful tool that way.

This photo shows the thumbholes on the KÜHL RYZER shirt.
Thumbhole sleeves here, along with the pilling that has resulted after months of abuse. (Still looks great on, though.)

While I have worn it as a layer while skiing — it has handy thumb loops in the sleeves — it’s not a go-to layer for my coldest or most active outdoor sports. While you can use it as a layer for warmth or on its own for durability in the outdoors, it’s only OK for this purpose and it could be beaten by a warmer and anti-microbial merino layer — or even by a synthetic shirt that’s created with a softer or tighter weave. If you want a high-performance wicking or insulating layer, other shirts could easily feel better against your bare skin and could likely function better, too.

All that said, you don’t choose the KÜHL RYZER for its average performance, you choose the KÜHL RYZER for its fantastic fit and striking good looks.

The Black/Koal color offers the best color contrasts and the Pirate Blue comes in second. I have a buddy who has a Sandstone version, and it looks pretty good — but not as good as the versions that have shoulder/front torso color contrasts. Fit is slightly trim, so stick with your usual size to get the most out of this shirt. Highly recommended.

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In addition to Man Makes Fire buying gear for reviews and guides, gear manufacturers occasionally ship review units to Man Makes Fire. If we like it, we spend some quality time with the gear and review it, noting if it was provided to Man Makes Fire. After the review, we return it, give it away, or work on longer-term review follow-ups when applicable to reader interest.

We do not accept any gear in exchange for coverage. If we do not truly appreciate the gear, we don't write about it at all -- bad gear will fade into obscurity on its own if everyone ignores it. In addition, we focus on gear from reputable companies, reputable brands, and reputable retailers that we trust.

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