Workout clothes: Balancing comfort, style and cost

We always look for the most breathable and most comfortable top when we exercise or play sports. But is paying that extra money for that ultra-thin, antimicrobial cooling top worth the money? Ben Ong, one of the founders from TRIO Design & Marketing or TRIO for short, a sports apparel brand, shares his expert advice with us.

Eeva Chiam and Ben Ong, two of the founders of TRIO, which manufactures a wide range of sports apparel and gear.

Cotton, polyester, dri-FIT, microfiber, spandex, and the list goes on. With so many different types of performance fabrics available on the market, is there really a difference? Ben Ong from TRIO helps us solve this mystery:

1. For our readers' sake, tell us a bit about TRIO.

TRIO was formed by a group of friends who didn’t really like what is available in the market at the moment. We wanted to make sports apparel with input from various athletes and gym-goers on what they like and what they didn’t like.

Many big sports brands also do not customize and support local teams or small businesses such as Benchmark Theory, and they often have to resort to local manufacturers who do not specialize in sports fabrics. Hence TRIO aims to fill that gap.

The apparel of BMT's staff has been sponsored by TRIO for two years and counting!

2. What is the best type of material for sports then?

We often hear the term dry fit or dri-FIT, initially used by a leading sportswear brand. But what it really is, it just a more breathable form of polyester, which is already commonly found in many of your daily clothing. This material is best for sports as it is lightweight and breathable, almost feeling like a second skin.

Polyester is also inexpensive, recyclable and more durable. When it comes to laundry, polyester also can retain its shape better compared to other fibers and this is good because most of the time, your clothing is pulled or stretched when you do sports.

The best type of performance fabric depends on what its usage is for. So various blends of fibers work well for different sports. But ultimately, polyester is your best bet.

3. But sometimes people like wearing cotton as it absorbs moisture...

A common misconception is that moisture-absorbing clothing such as cotton is better, but it is not as breathable and won't dry as fast, so the wearer will often feel more uncomfortable compared to polyester. Polyester has a lower moisture absorbency as it allows the moisture to wick away from the body as fast as possible, therefore the wearer will feel cooler and more comfortable.

If body odour is a concern, double -rinse your clothing before washing.

4. So, how do we know if it is good quality polyester? There are two simple ways to test the breath-ability of a fabric:

  • The obvious is to place your hand below the fabric and blow through it. If fabric is breathable, you’ll be able to feel it.

  • Another is to place a small amount of water onto the fabric. The faster the water disperses itself on the fabric, the more porous it is, hence better breath-ability.

5. Then can we make it extremely porous and thin? This requirement depends on the activity, as sometimes the fabric needs to be tougher. For example, during contact sports such as rugby, basketball or football, pulling and tugging during the game is common. This makes durability of the fabric a main concern. The thinner it is, the less durable the fabric gets.

If it is for non-contact sports such as marathon running or netball, then the material can be thinner and more breathable. It is all about finding the balance.

In contact sports where pulling and tugging is frequent, the performance fabric needs to be more durable and breathability is compromised.

6. What of antibacterial and UV protection? Is it important or just something good to have?

Now we are talking about more technical stuff. Would you be surprised if I told you, your normal clothes actually have a certain degree of UV protection already?

These properties are possible in fabrics due to the colour and weave of the fabric. Darker clothes absorb more UV rays and lighter clothes reflect them. When it comes to the weave, it varies depending on the material, for example, a cotton t-shirt has a UPF of about 5, which means only 1/5th or 20% of UV rays can penetrate your clothing and denim has a UPF of 1,700 (only 1/1,700 of UV rays can penetrate).

In my opinion, given the extra cost you pay for a higher UV protection in sports apparel, you might as well lather on some sunblock instead.

Now, antimicrobial fabrics are a little more of a tricky subject. Normal polyester fabric is blended with silver-coated yarns and these fabrics are gaining in popularity as they control body odour or stinky feet. They do work. But again, the price point is a little too steep for many people. Just double-rinse your clothing before washing and if you're concerned about using too much water, use that water to water your plants.

All-in-all, if you are willing to pay, opt for the antimicrobial fabric and lather on sunscreen. But I would just stick to the basics.

TRIO's affordable apparel feature bold and fun designs that are loved by many.

7. We can assume TRIO will be sticking to the basics then. Do you foresee any major changes in performance fabrics in the years to come? Perhaps even in TRIO?

I am a very simple man. I like my basics and will be sticking to them as we want to cater to a wider market. We want to make our apparel as wallet-friendly as possible.

For now, I don't see a major change that could revolutionize the sports industry. The lookout for better woven materials is definitely there, but perhaps the next step for all of us is to make the manufacturing process of our fabrics much more environmentally friendly as well.

Polyester is a recyclable fabric, so if we can find a way to make our manufacturing process much more sustainable (yet keep the costs down), I'm all up for that!

#benchmarktheory #nolimits #getfitright #TRIO #apparel #clothing

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