Could the clothes we wear be enhanced by innovations from sportswear?

Could the clothes we wear be enhanced by innovations from […]

Could the clothes we wear be enhanced by innovations from sportswear?

One way sport evolves is by innovation, this is the input of science and  research. By identifying opportunities very often in discussion with the athletes scientists and innovators and entrepreneurs or anyone can propose a possible way to improve sport! The Institute of Mechanical Engineers have written (in 2012) that “Technology is as much a part of an athlete’s armoury as nutrition, training and coaching.” Many improvements in sports have radically impacted sport. It is also more and more common to see Sports technology then migrating into every day life. Even into the clothes we wear daily!

Velocity and Efficiency

Success in sport is very often a result of increases in how fast we perform during competition. Ping Pong ball, obviously running, even soccer, rugby, formula 1, to name but a few all benefit from increases in the speed with which tasks are performed. For many velocity of processing is actually the ultimate way to win and compete well. However, laws so to speak govern just when this innovation and technology crosses the line into being an unfair competitive advantage or even altering the goals of the sport! Fine, made a swimsuit unwearable in competition because only 5% of swimmers at the Beijing Olympics did not wear it at the 2008 event! within 1 year it had been banned. The suit lowered drag, it retained air inside with made the athletes swim better and more streamlined!

Cycling has also innovated in relatively similar ways! Cyclists benefit from being more streamlined or reducing friction from their contact with air particles. This understanding has led to innovations which seek to aid the cyclist, so helmets and clothing. some including the Great Britain team have been scanned three dimensionally to then make more streamlined clothing!

Runners have been drawn to the same types of innovation. the Vaporfly elite trainers by Nike contain a development that people have said should be made unwearable in competition. Nike put carbon-fibre plates in those runners soles and it improved efficiency by 4%!

Companies who make clothing for us to wear during the day have spotted these developments in sport and have successfully migrated the ideas across into general retail! Getting scanned three dimensionally could accelerate the tailoring process and could all be handled electronically from your hand held devices on the move or at work… this makes for a new way of thinking about fitted suits.

Take the daily commute to work. what if the velocity enhancing ideas discussed above wear available to us everyday? So our working garments are more aerodynamic whilst on commute and at work! this could also apply to the Nike carbon-fibre plates in the soles of trainers. Why not apply that to work shoes?


Increased activity causes sweating, for some its a problem. Its a problem that sport has innovated for because perspiration has performance implications. Its not the hygiene and smell of sweat for athletes so much as the role it plays in heating up and cooling down. So you can see how this same process is at play whilst we are working or on commute.

Take rugby as an example. So many variables affect sweating. Velocity, ambient temperature, rate of performance, the occasion, blood flow to name a few. It is no surprise that manufacturers of rugby jerseys are sowing into the kit fibres that mop up or soak up sweat, this can be achieved so far in two ways. One as rings or beads of fabric who soak up on contact with liquid and sweat. And secondly a design is in use which makes jerseys with double layers, with one layer sending the sweat to an outside secondary layer where it is kept or evaporated away from the skin. This is the mechanism by which body temperature can be affected by clothing.

Athletes feet have long been focused on for innovation. did you know however that socks are available which boast at least 4 performance enhancing qualities! the socks use material that effects athletes temperature, blood circulation, and injury rate. In so doing this, the socks also have an impact on the athletes body by reducing muscle fatigue, increasing blood circulation and hence oxygen availability to organs, and also decreasing stress on the muscles. this all results in up to five percentage points of better functioning!

Whilst not currently in use for our daily clothing the potential benefits to us all are clear to see!

More Durable

The economics of sport often centre around the clothing itself. Athletes are performing at high stress levels, that stress transfers onto the clothes and footwear amongst other things. Footwear, clothes, gloves and more get worn out or broken. Replacements represent a cost. the bottom line is affected from a business point of view. Much has been done to reduce the frequency of clothes and shoes wearing out for athletes. Immediately one can see that this would have impact in daily life. At work, the gym, commuting to work, all the time actually. 

So there are two areas here mainly which are clothes and footwear. Focusing on clothes for a moment, a company has experimented with clothing to make it more durable, more long lasting. A for retail collection has been made by DYNE working with Bemis Associates Inc which used no traditional stitching with fibre but used glue. The clothing was more durable and felt better to wear as well as causing less friction resistance and the glue stitches created a more sealed garment.

Also, graphene has been added to rubber for footwear soles that demonstrated a 50% increase in durability compared to normal footwear. the footwear was also stretchier and these benefits made them last longer. This sole was made by scientists at Manchester university.

Lowering the rate the fashion wears out would lower the rate at which we need to buy new clothes or footwear which would be a financial saving for us all.

Wearable Tech.

Getting actionable measurements of how we are performing at sports or any kind of training is a really useful way to identify improvements over time. Technology is worn by people like a wrist watch which does attain that information. Things like the number of steps walked each day, or strides whilst running. Even is our sleep broken and disturbed, or measurements of our heart beating. Its fascinating and has numerous health applications outside of fitness and sport too.

This can also be applied to sports kit. One such innovation resulted in a Polo top that recorded breathing rate and stress! People have suggested having this type of data harvesting happening inside underwear or jerseys and footwear. Again this could be applied to every day clothing!

There is no doubt that innovation in sport can be applied to work or leisure activities like running. The benefit is not always the same such as the three dimensional scanning which actually could end up evolving the tailoring process but many positives could be achieved by applying sports innovations to everyday life!