Money-wicking athletic wear

There’s a big US company that markets its athletic wear, at amazingly high prices, as being “heat wicking” or some such nonsense. The gist of their very effective marketing campaign, besides getting many professional sports teams to wear their gear, is that the moisture wicking nature of the completely synthetic materials is supposed to magically make you cooler when it’s hot and you’re sweating.

Well, um, no. Wicking doesn’t make you cool. It just makes you dry. If you don’t believe me, get all hot and sweaty, then dry your face. Does it feel cooler? I’m going to bet, no.

The best place for moisture-wicking material is places where moisture causes a problem, but provides little benefit. Diapers, for example. Or feet, for example. Wet feet rub excessively, the moisture softens the skin, soft skin rubbing makes blisters faster. So, moisture wicking socks = good thing. Hikers have known this for years. Wear soft cotton socks, get blisters. Wear polypro liners and wool socks. Walk all day without blisters.

But moisture wicking in your t-shirts and your shorts? Well, that’s not only not effective at cooling you, it’s counter-productive.

What cools you is the natural mechanism of perspiration > evaporation. The body produces perspiration as a method of cooling your surface temperature. Notice how you get flushed when you’re overheating? Your body opens the capillaries so that your blood collects at the surface; it makes you perspire so that the evaporating perspiration cools your blood which cools YOU. Boom. Now remove that perspiration, and your body is just as hot, but now dry … and needs to make more perspiration to cool you.

Look at the clothing worn by people who live in perpetually hot climates, such as the desert. The clothes tend to be natural, breathable fabrics cut to fit loosely. Not skin-tight and synthetic. The air flow achieved with loose fitting garments is going to increase evaporation, which increases cooling. These people have been living in, and successfully dealing with these hot climates for millennia. They’re not in it for a big house in Worthington Valley. They’re in it because it’s how they survive in a harsh climate.

So next time you are enticed by some “heat gear,” well, go ahead and buy it if you like. But realize you’re paying for marketing and hype.

Or, be smart … buy something loose and comfortable at 1/3 of the cost. Your body will appreciate it more.



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