Technical Apparel Revolution Part 3
Way back in 2007 we began a series of articles that were aimed at helping the consumer make educated choices when selecting apparel for use in sailing and other water related sports. A lot has changed since then both in the economy and in the fabric and garment industries. In 2007, China built goods ruled the market and while there were still innovations coming out in fabric performance, the Far East was quick to try and knock off these technologies. Many of the leading apparel brands took their business out of China and brought it back to North America and Central America to get faster turnaround time and protect the technological advances they were continuing to make.
Flash forward to 2009…The educated consumer looking for premium level performance from their technical apparel has learned a few things about some of the catch phrases being used to describe the various properties.
- Anti-Microbial: If you have owned a synthetic fiber (Man made) performance shirt that lacked a quality anti-microbial agent, you learned quickly how they become useless rags in a very short amount of time. When spending your hard earned money on performance apparel you should be looking for a “30 wash” anti microbial agent like Invason™ 110 or Microban™ Several of the price point wicking products on the market today list “Anti-microbial agent” but what they don’t tell you is that the agent they are using is good for “Up to six washes”. Six washes? I don’t care how cheap a shirt is, I want to wear it more than six times before its anti microbial capabilities literally go down the drain.
- Moisture Wicking: These days pretty much everything is “Moisture wicking”. I have even seen a tee shirt listed with “Moisture wicking” properties! Are they all the same though? The differences are somewhat complex but in short the answer is “No”, fabrics vary widely. There are vast differences in materials from a moisture wicking standpoint. There are wicking properties that are “applied” to the fabric after the looming process and then there are fabrics which are created from the start to be moisture wicking. The applied moisture wicking properties have limited life to their performance and like the cheap anti-microbial treatments should be avoided if you are looking to wear you garments more than ½ a season.
- UPF Protection: For outdoor use another critical rating is the UPF or sun protection efficiency of a garment. Fabrics are rated in UPF, lotions and applied solutions are rated in SPF. If the garment you are thinking about rates itself in “SPF”, put it back on the shelf, virtual or otherwise and continue looking for a UPF rated product. UPF 40 is pretty good, UPF 50+ is ideal and there are enough companies in the market today offering a wide range of comfortable fabrics rated the full UPF 50+ that you shouldn’t have to compromise. For areas that you do not cover up with apparel, be sure to apply an SPF 150 rated lotion that is rated for in the water use. Be extra careful applying this lotion around the eyes and corners of the mouth as several brands use alcohol as the bonding agent and a little bit of sweat can cause the lotion to enter the eyes or dry out the corners of your mouth.
- Raglan sleeves versus set in sleeves: I am not as young as I used to be and finding generously sized clothing has from time to time been challenging. A “set in” sleeve or “tee shirt” cut will give you a more generous amount of material around your mid section typically. On the other hand a “raglan” sleeve will provide a more athletic cut in the shoulder but not necessarily a “compression” fit.
Note on the description or hang tag whether or not the garment is listed as “loose” or “compression” fit. Next a list of materials will also give you an idea for whether or not the shirt will have memory and maintain its shape when damp or wet. 100% nylon materials will give you a much drier “feel” than polyesters and nylon is far more durable than polyester and lacks that “itchy’ feeling some shirts develop in an athletic environment over a short period of time.
- Nylon or Polyester blended with Elastane will give the material better memory when the garment is challenged to stretch due to activity or fit. One of the more popular branded Elastane products is “Lycra™”. Rash guards are a good example of a polyester or nylon Elastane blended shirt and is likely to be a compression fit product.
And now for something completely different…
Arid Core Technology™ Fabrics
Just about everyone is familiar with Goretex™ and other breathable fabrics in jacket or heavy jacket weight material. While keeping heavy precipitation out it allows some sweat to migrate through its micro porous membranes and keeping you cooler and drier and drier than other non breathable material. But not everyone is aware that there are now tee shirt weight materials that perform the same function by repelling water from the outside yet remaining highly breathable and providing UPF 50+ sun protection.
Garment decoration options
Gone are the days when silk screening limited your ability to create team or corporate branded apparel. New direct to garment digital printing and dye sublimation has transformed the available options and costs to virtually limitless boundaries. Four color process images can be transferred onto garments at a relatively low cost creating amazing looking gear and images that straddle seams and tie the whole uniform together. Dye sublimation also has the advantage of literally dying the fabric and not coating it with a plastic screen ink. This allows high performance fabrics to perform as they were intended and not trap sweat in making the garment hot and sticky.
Polyester materials dye sublimate better than nylons and for dye sublimation to work at all a high percentage of the material in the garment must be a synthetic material. Only light color fabrics with work with dye sublimation and if you use a color other than white, there will be a color shift to reflect the color of the substrate (fabric) but the effects can be very cool looking! Sublimating over the color red will give you a photo negative effect for example.
More on those pesky Microbes…
What’s a Microbe? (Courtesy of Microban)
Microbes or microorganisms are living cells that are too small to be seen with the naked eye and must be viewed through a microscope. The naked eye is only able to detect the presence of microbes once they have multiplied to the hundreds of thousands. And under the right conditions, microbes can double in number every 15-20 minutes. Types of microorganisms include bacteria, algae and fungi or mold.
*Microban® anti microbial product protection is engineered to protect products from bacteria, mold and in some cases algae that can cause stains, odors and product deterioration. Microban protection is not designed to protect users from disease causing microorganisms.
Billions of years ago, bacteria were among the earliest forms of life on Earth. Today, bacteria are present in the soil, in the air, in water, on plants and even on animals and humans.
There’s no escaping the presence of bacteria and in fact, many of the bacteria we encounter are beneficial to the environment and even to the human body helping us to digest food for example. However, some bacteria can adversely affect the everyday products we use in our lives causing stains, odors and product deterioration.
Early fossil records suggest that fungi have been on Earth for over 550 million years. And some experts estimate that today over 1.5 million fungus species exist. Common fungi include mushrooms, puffballs, truffles, yeasts and most mildews. Fungi are commonly referred to as mold and begin life as microscopic airborne spores that germinate on contact with the surface of a nonliving organic matter where moisture is present. Mold is then able to penetrate the organic material, secreting enzymes and absorbing water and the digested sugars and starches from the nutrient source.
Mold spores are present everywhere in our indoor and outdoor environment and many of the products found in our homes provide rich nutrient sources. The best defense is prevention: control moisture in your home including high humidity levels and look for products that resist the growth of mold.
Simple, plantlike microorganisms, algae are often classified at the phylum level according to their color, i.e. green, red, golden-brown and brown. Algae vary in size from microscopic algae to the largest forms such as seaweeds. While they can vary in habitat, most algae are found in fresh water or seawater. Algae use the energy of sunlight through the process of photosynthesis to make their own food.
Algae produce more oxygen than all plants combined and play an invaluable role in our ecosystem. Humans have also found other uses for algae, as food for people and animals, as thickening agents in ice cream, in shampoos and even in some drugs. In some cases, they can however damage product surfaces for example your swimming pool filter, the hull of your boat, or the exterior of your home.
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