For many people, it is shocking to see the price tag on sportswear. People start to question why it’s so expensive and if it’s even necessary to be priced this way. The truth is when it comes to sportswear you get what you pay for. And that usually means the pricier it is, the better for performance. For high tech sportswear, it is especially true. A lot of technology, science, and good quality material is put into creating certain sportswear.
That said, it can get pricey. If you still aren’t convinced, we’ll be explaining just what kind of technology and materials are put into sportswear. And why they’re especially important for athletes.
Polyester is one of the most used fabric materials next to cotton. It is light-weight, durable, self-insulating, and breathable. It also doesn’t absorb moisture, unlike cotton. Making it one of the perfect fabric materials to use for sportswear. Cotton absorbs a lot of moisture. Making it unsuitable for sportswear because it reduces insulation. Yet, cotton provides better odor management.
That is why there are products created with a polyester/cotton blend. They are often cheaper than 100% polyester products too. Yet, when compared with the polyester/cotton blend. Studies have shown that sportswear with 100% polyester results in better performance. Its non-absorption of moisture and self-insulating properties make it more comfortable for athletes to move.
3D technology is often used to help create the right product designs for athletes. Speedo, for example, used 3D scanning to uncover where swimmers had the most drag. They discovered that it was at the top of the body, the head. This gave them the idea of creating goggles and a head cap that reduced the drag swimmers had. 3D printing also allowed them to print prototypes of their new products. This was helpful because instead of waiting for a manufacturer to bring them a prototype in a month.
With 3D printing, they could test their prototype within hours. The results? The Fastskin-3. It reduced passive drag by 16.6% and active drag by 5.2%. Reduced drag means athletes can swim faster. 3D tech is not only used by Speedo, but many sportswear companies also use it too. Nike, Under Armour, New Balance, and Reebok also use 3D technology for their products.
Polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE is what makes sportswear waterproof. It is used a lot for mountain-wear such as men’s ski jackets, pants, and gloves. The PTFE acts as a membrane that can block water droplets from getting into your clothes. But the magic with PTFE is that it allows sweat and vapor from body-heat to be released at the same time. The reason is simple, water droplets are just too big. While sweat and vapor are tiny so they can escape from the membrane.
This makes your sportswear waterproof yet breathable. You might be thinking, “if it lets your sweat escape, doesn’t that mean it isn’t 100% waterproof?” The thing is there is no such thing as 100% waterproof clothing. If you were to go hike a mountain in a 100% waterproofed jacket, you’d end up sweating buckets inside your clothes. Making you wet underneath, which is the exact opposite of what you want.
So what makes PTFE waterproof? There are actually certain limits to waterproofing. Certain clothing can only withstand a certain amount of water. That’s why you’ll see some outerwear labeled with 5k, 10k, or 20k. If the outerwear has a tag of 20k that means it can withstand 20,000mm of water before it penetrates your clothing. The higher the number or rating, the better waterproofing it has. Breathability is also rated the same way.
Some clothing will be labeled as 20,000 / 15,000. That means its waterproof rating is at 20k, while its breathability is rated at 15k. These are both incredibly good ratings. A 5,000/5,000 rating on the other hand won’t keep you dry for long.
Sportswear isn’t just meant to be aesthetically pleasing. Sportswear is supposed to be comfortable. It should offer protection. And it should also be able to increase the athlete’s performance. That is why sportswear manufacturers have to choose the right material and create the right design. So that they can meet all three of these requirements. But sometimes the right material and design takes a lot of effort to create and uses technology.
That is why they can end up being so pricey. But the price is worth it if it means keeping you safe and allowing you to perform better. The tech and materials mentioned above are only a few examples. There is plenty of other science and technology that goes into creating sportswear.