We’ve seen technology advancements in all areas of our lives — from changing the way that we do our banking to altering the way we get in touch with friends. And the world of sports is no different. One 2012 report by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers states that, “Technology is as much a part of an athlete’s armoury as nutrition, training and coaching”. In many ways, it’s transformed the sports industry. Although many of the advancements have been designed to improve the performance in a particular sport, is there any inspiration we can take from the innovations to help improve everyday wear?
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Speed and efficiency
In many sports, it’s the speed that counts. This is what performance is often measured on, and how individuals measure their progression and success.
In 2009, sportswear technology caused some controversy. The swimming regulatory body, Fina, banned a certain design of high-tech swimsuits after 94% of races at the 2008 Beijing Olympics were won by swimmers wearing the racer suit. So, what made it so effective? The suit was able compress a swimmer’s body into a streamlined tube, and it also trapped air which added buoyancy and reduced drag in the water. Studies found that the swimsuit cut an elite swimmer’s time by around 2% — it was deemed “technological doping” by some.
With a similar purpose to increase speed, British cyclists have undergone 3D scanning to ensure a perfect sportswear kit. This is designed to reduce drag when cycling and make the cyclist truly aerodynamic. Paired with the teardrop shaped helmet and other improvements, the kit of a cyclist is optimal for peak performance.
When it comes to footwear, Nike’s recent innovation has risen the question again as to whether some technology sportswear should be banned. Their Vaporfly Elite trainers have been found to improve running economy by an average of 4% because of their design which includes carbon-fibre plates in the soles.
What could everyday wear take from these innovations? When it comes to tailoring and fitted garments, 3D scanning could be the next big thing. This could be more accurate and less time-consuming than getting measured by a tailor — bringing a new meaning to fitted men’s shirts.
Speed enhancing materials could better inform our everyday wear too. Some people choose to run or cycle to work, and to shave a few seconds off their commute wouldn’t go amiss. Streamlined workwear and carbon-fibre plated trainers may make their way into our wardrobes sooner than we think.
Perspiration can be a problem for many. Whether it’s from the commute to the office, or due to working in a warm environment, no one wants to feel hot or sweaty all day. In sports, it’s important for athletes to keep cooler for longer and to ensure that heat or perspiration doesn’t affect their performance.
Many football shirts benefit from moisture wicking technology. These sorts of fabrics react in a special way to sweat — instead of absorbing the moisture, they move it away from the individuals body. Some forms of this technology begin with special cooling polymers that are in the material (often visible as small blue rings). When sweat or moisture comes into contact with these polymers, they expand which causes a cooling sensation. In other cases, the material is made up of two layers of yarn — here, the material is able to move the sweat from the yarn that’s in contact with the body to the top layer of material where it is then evaporated.
Temperature control technology also helps keep athletes at optimal temperatures during sports. There are socks available that are able to regulate temperature, increase blood flow and decrease injuries. These have extra benefits too — they can increase the blood flow of the wearer to supply more oxygen to the body which reduces muscle stress, cramps and can increase performance by 5%!
This sort of technology hasn’t been rolled out across everyday work wear yet, but it’s certainly something that’s sought after. From moisture wicking blouses, to temperature control suits, we’d all benefit from this type of innovation.
None of us want our clothes to become damaged, especially when we’ve spent a lot on them. Sports kit technology can help us with this.
One innovation looks at developing clothing without stitching. In many garments, stitching is the weakest part and researchers have looked at ways of reducing the reliance on stitching. Menswear company, DYNE worked with manufacturing company Bemis Associates Inc. to create a collection where fabrics were bonded together with glue rather than thread. They found that this range was stronger and more comfortable, with less friction and weight and a lower risk of elements filtering in.
Researchers at the University of Manchester worked on developing a footwear sole that was more durable than regular shoes. Graphene was mixed with rubber to create the sole that is 50% stronger and more durable than ordinary training shoes. They’re also able to achieve more stretch and are more resistant to wear.
Innovations like these can help combat the problem with fast fashion, extending the life span of our clothing and reducing our need to replace garments frequently.
Many sports people like to monitor their performance on the go to track their progress and spot areas for improvement. We’ve already seen this type of innovation make its way into our lives through wearable technology but it’s interesting to see how far this could go.
Some of the latest in biometric technology has made it possible to turn shirts, socks, and bras into wearable devices that can record our heart rate, fitness, muscle performance and calorie intake. One fashion brand has developed a smart polo shirt that can monitor respiration and stress levels too — could we see these popular around the world sometime soon?
We can take a range of inspiration from sports technology. From improving our fitting methods to reducing our perspiration levels during the day, a lot could change if we follow in the footsteps of sportswear innovation.