Fashion Meets Function - The Benefits of Functional Fabrics

Feb. 15, 2023

Sportswear and fitness apparel have been utilizing specialized and functional fabrics like Spandex and Nylon in order to keep up with the ever-evolving technology and demands of fitness and sporting activities. This is evident in almost all activewear, sports clothing, and gym wear, as opposed to the traditional use of cotton. It is important to understand why this change has occurred, and why fitness brands are making improvements and embracing these fabrics. In this article, we will explore the reasons why sports & fitness wear make use of specialized and functional fabrics.

1. Quick Dry

The ability of a fabric to wick moisture away from the body is essential for fitness clothing. During a sports activity, sweat should be able to move from the body to the outer surface of the material in order to dry quickly. This is why the construction of the fabric is important, as well as the use of special chemicals to facilitate the capillary movement of moisture. For example, during the Summer, airier fabrics will feel more comfortable. Cotton fabrics take a longer time to dry, so they are comfortable at the start of a workout, but as soon as you begin to sweat, the airflow of the fabric decreases. Polyester Quick Dry fabrics are ideal for Workout Clothing, as they have a low moisture regain value of 0.42%, allowing them to dry quickly.

2. Anti-Pilling

If you're a regular gym-goer, you know how irritating pilling on gym wear can be. Pilling is caused when fibers on the fabric's surface rise due to friction, creating scattered, unappealing balls. To combat this, sportswear manufacturers use fabrics made from high-quality materials that have improved strength and reduced susceptibility to breakage. Additionally, functional fabrics like Polyester and Nylon are Filament Yarns, giving them better pilling resistance. To further reduce pilling, enzymes and anti-pilling finish agents are used to treat these fabrics. This helps to make them more comfortable and prolong the shelf life of your favorite fitness wear.

3. Water Proof

Functional fabrics such as Polyester are ideal for sporting and workout sessions as they are densely woven from artificial materials and are waterproof. This quality helps to protect the wearer from rain, snow, and wind, and prevents the penetration and absorption of liquid water. Waterproof and Breathable Fabric allows water vapor to diffuse through them, while still preventing the penetration of liquid water. To achieve water repellency, chemical treatment is done to make sure the water floats off the surface of the fabric. To achieve waterproof ability, fitness wear manufacturers coat the inside and outside of the fabric with Polyurethane (PU) and TPU. This acts as a water-resistant layer on the fabric, providing varying degrees of waterproofing depending on the extremities of the weather conditions. Traditional fabrics such as cotton, on the other hand, easily get penetrated by water, making them heavy and uncomfortable when wet. This is why gym apparel should be made of functional fabrics to ensure maximum protection and comfort under all weather conditions.

4. High Elasticity

Fitness apparel such as Yoga and gym clothes must be elastic in order to allow for unhindered movement. It would be very uncomfortable to do Yoga or go to the gym if your clothes were too restrictive. Spandex is a common material used to achieve elasticity in fitness clothing. It can stretch up to 100 times its original size, making it the ideal choice for activities that require a lot of movement. Special mechanical stretch yarns can also be used to create elastic fabric. The degree of elasticity varies depending on the type of fitness activity. Those who engage in Gymnastics and Yoga, for example, should wear clothing made of stretchable fabrics in order to move freely and withstand the strain of their movements. Stretch fabrics have become popular among fitness clothing and sportswear brands since they offer a better fit and shape, as well as better comfort. Spandex has outstanding elasticity, which increases the pressure comfort of the clothing and allows for easy movement.

5. Anti-Shrinkage

It is made of a blend of Nylon, Polyester, and Spandex, which are all shrink-resistant and do not lose shape after a wash. When selecting activewear, comfort should always be a priority. Fabrics such as Nylon, Polyester, and Spandex are ideal for workout apparel as they are shrink-resistant and do not wrinkle or lose their shape and size when washed. Cotton, on the other hand, tends to shrink and become shapeless after a wash or after being drenched in sweat. To ensure your workout clothes do not shrink, look for a blend of Nylon, Polyester, and Spandex, such as this sports jumpsuit for Yoga, Gym, and running, which is designed to retain its shape and size after a wash.

6. Lighter Weight

When it comes to fitness wear, it should be soft to the touch and lightweight. The weight of the fabric is determined by the thickness of the threads, the density of the weave or knit, and its composition. Synthetic fibers such as Polyester and Nylon are much lighter compared to other fabrics, making them ideal for sportswear. For instance, a thicker polyester fabric is lighter than a heavyweight cotton fabric. Lightweight and fine yarns make the fabric construction lighter and more comfortable for the wearer. Every gram counts when it comes to working out or taking part in a fitness activity, as it can be the difference between first and second place. Lightweight workout apparel is gentle and light on the body, making it perfect for long hours of activity.

7. Compression

People who engage in sporting or fitness activities often wear compression clothing, not for fashion, but for enhanced performance. Research has revealed that these garments can boost blood flow and circulation due to their high Spandex content, which fits snugly to the body and offers support to the muscles while exercising. As a result, blood is able to travel faster back to the heart, reducing fatigue and allowing for superior performance. Usually, Polyester Spandex and Nylon Spandex blends are used, with 15-30% Spandex content, while Warp knit fabrics are preferred due to their tighter structure. As such, they are used to make gym wear, cricket innerwear, cycling wear, skating wear, yoga wear, and more.

8. Silver Coating

Functional fitness apparel coated with silver provides thermal insulation and protection from both hot and cold weather. An example of this fabric is Primaloft, a fine bonded Polyester that is lightweight, durable, and maintains its insulating properties even when wet. To further enhance insulation, thermal fitness clothing is made with waddings or fleece which trap air between the skin and the fabric and keep the heat from escaping. Depending on the season, the fabric is modified to suit the needs of the wearer. In the Summer, the fabric is kept light and loosely constructed to allow for better breathability. In the Winter, the fabric is brushed on the inside to create air pockets that keep the wearer warm. 

9.UPF 50+

Sun protection clothing is designed to provide extra protection against UV rays, with UPF (Ultraviolet Protective Factor) ratings ranging from 5 to 8 for regular fabrics, to 50+ for high-density fibers like Polyester and Spandex. UPF 50 rating allows only 2% of the UV rays to pass through. This means that wearing clothing with built-in sun protection, such as an outdoor athletic t-shirt with UPF 50+ protection, can significantly reduce your risk of getting skin cancer while enjoying outdoor fitness activities. This type of clothing also offers improved functionality and comfort, so you can stay safe and comfortable while participating in outdoor sports.

Gaining a comprehensive knowledge of the different types of functional fabrics available for fitness apparel can improve the performance of the wearer. Garment Brands and consumers must be aware of the fabrics' features and capabilities to make an informed decision when selecting the right fabric for their needs.