Trans and gender expansive folks will often engage in chest binding to better align with their chosen gender expression. Chest binders are a type of clothing that helps give the chest a flatter appearance.
But it's important to find a safe and comfortable binder for your body, professor, educator and social worker Kryss Shane, PhD, LMSW, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "Choosing [the right] binder is critical to protect one's skin while achieving the desired flattened results," she says.
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There are different options to choose from, depending on your unique needs and goals. "Seeking out trans-inclusive binding may feel right for some while a minimizing bra or tank may feel appropriate for others," Shane says. This is because some see binding as a part of a transition while others are not transitioning and simply shifting their physical appearance to align with their sense of self.
To help you sift through the choices, we've created the list of the best chest binders below. Most of these can be purchased online and ship in discreet packaging, so no matter your situation, you won't be outed without your consent.
How We Chose
No two chests are created the same — which means the binder that might work best for one person could cause problems for another.
We evaluated popular binder selections on the market and picked the top four that are most likely to meet most of the needs of as large a part of the transgender population as possible.
Our top picks are based on the following criteria:
- Sizing options
- Ability to blend in
- Safety to wear for long periods of time
1. TomboyX Compression Top
- Available in sizes 3XS to 6XL and 8 different colors
The TomboyX Compression Top is a half binder complete with front and back linings of TomboyX patented Power Mesh.
This half binder covers your entire chest but has a low enough neckline that you can wear it with several shirt styles. Made with polyamide nylone and elastane, you can count on this binder not to irritate or chafe your skin.
You can also put this binder in the washer on cold settings, but make sure you hang it up to dry instead of using the dryer.
Buy it: TomboyX.com; Price: $39
2. GC2B Half Tank
- Available in sizes XS to 5XL and 7 different colors
GC2B is one of the most widely used binder brands in the transgender world. Their binders are made using a double panel with a blend of nylon, spandex and cotton.
Some folks who are binding don't want to do anything to change the size or shape of their stomach. For those, the half tank is a great choice for a flatter chest.
Personally, as a transgender man with a larger chest, I found the half tank didn't flatten the bottom most inch or so of my chest. However, not everyone who has a large chest has these results. I haven't heard the same thing from trans folks with smaller chests — many of them have great results with the half tank binder.
Buy it: GC2B.com; Price: $35
3. GC2B Tank Binder
- Available in size XS to 5XL and 10 colors
Like the GC2B half tank above, this full tank binder is also constructed with a double panel out of a blend of nylon, spandex and cotton.
Before I had top surgery, the GC2B Tank Binder was my binder of choice for smoother results than I experienced with half tanks. I had one in white and one in nude. I found the overall fit of the full tank binder was snug without being too tight or digging into my skin.
One downside of the GC2B Tank Binder is I could feel the sweat pool up at the bottom on hotter days. However, I was willing to sacrifice breathability for a more even overall fit.
Buy it: GC2B.com; Price: $37
4. Underworks Extreme Compression Series
- Available in sizes: XS to 3XL and 3 colors
Underworks is another popular brand among folks looking for a flatter chest. The brand's Extreme Compression series has 15 different fits, including tanks like the Ultimate Chest Binder Compression Tank pictured above and T-shirts.
One feature this binder has that others don't is it's tight in the chest and more relaxed in the stomach. The relaxed stomach is great for those with tender tummies.
One downside of Underworks is they don't have as wide of a size selection as other brands. However, those who do fall within their size range speak highly of the breathability and comfort of these binders.
Buy it: Underworks.com; Price: from $22.99
What to Know Before You Buy a Binder
Before you click "add to cart" it's important to keep a few pro tips in mind.
Determine Your Binder Size
Depending on what type of binder you get, you might be an extra large for one design and a medium in another. Make sure you use the manufacturer's sizing chart for the specific binder you decide to get. Most of them should also tell you where on your body to measure.
Most companies that make chest binders will ask for your bust size, while some will also ask for the size of your underbust. The best way to get your measurements are to use a measuring tape on your bare chest and measure around the largest part.
Your binder should not make it difficult to breathe. If you experience excessive discomfort while wearing your binder, or if it digs into your skin, it is likely too small.
Prepare to Talk About Your Chest Binder
One risk of wearing a chest binder is the chance that your roommates or family might find out about it before you're ready to tell them. Think about what you'd say if someone in your life finds out about it. While you might take steps to reduce the risk of anyone finding out, there's always a chance that they'll learn about it.
For your own safety, be prepared to answer uncomfortable and probing questions about it. Being mindful of how other people might find out about it can help you prepare for difficult conversations.
"In addition to thinking about safety of fabric, size and duration of wear, safety also includes mindfulness of whether and when it is safe to wear when others may become aware," Shane says. "For example, some teens may need to choose a tank style to shape their body while not alerting their parent(s) to their identity if they would not be safe at home. Being mindful about how to answer questions or frame the decision can be an important safety step when choosing what type and when to wear binders."
Seek Out Financial Assistance
Not everyone can afford to buy their own chest binder. Teens, or others living with little financial means, may not have the ability to pay for the things they need in their transition.
There are several donation programs, including one run by binder company GC2B called 2b.care, that provide binders free of charge to those who need them. Most programs that provide free binders require you to go through an application process. Many of these programs also have more demand than they have the ability to meet.
You can also reach out to your local pride center or gender-affirming care centers to see what resources they have available for those who need a chest binder.
How to Care for Your Binder
Washing your binder(s) by hand is the best way to make a chest binder last as long as possible. If you wear your binder daily, you'll want to wash it by hand after you take it off and hang it to air dry overnight. Here's how, according to GC2B:
- Get your binder wet.
- Lather your binder with dish soap, hand soap or laundry detergent.
- Rinse all of the soap out of your binder.
- Squeeze each part of your binder to get some of the excess water out.
- Hang or lay flat to air dry.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.