Friday, August 13, 2010

No sweat. (Do we really need “smart clothing”?)

Well, yesterday it was fedoras, today it’s “fabrics that sense and respond to physical changes in the body.” (It was that or skinny jeans and jeggings for infants, and I really didn’t want to get into all that.)  Anyway, with two in a row, it must be Fashion Week at Pink Slip.  (Source of info: WSJ article.)

First up is workout tees that display a message as its wearer sweats.

Here’s before:

And after:


This would make more sense to me if it went from “I am” to “I am the narcissist,” but perhaps that message is implicit in a tee-shirt that broadcasts that its wearer is “the competition.” (Make that THE COMPETITION.)  Frankly, I don’t need a message to pop out in order to tell if I, or anyone else at the gym, is sweating.  I know because tee-shirts are drenched, hair is plastered wet-otter style to heads, and faces are plum-red.  Especially at a gym that is only quasi-air-conditioned. Folks at my gym go in for crummy old corporate and road race tee-shirts, so I’m about 100% sure I won’t be seeing one of these any time soon on any of my fellow sweat-hogs.

But this is just me and us.

Others, apparently, find the message shirts motivating – you just want that message to appear so that you have a signifier that you’re really busting.

Me? The drenched shirt, sweaty head, and red face are all the signifiers I need that I’m working hard.

The message shirts come from Viewsports, which boasts about its “sweat-activated technology.”

Do you believe in you? It’s your workout, your body, and your mind that pushes you to become what you will be.  We believe that All You Need Is You. Do you believe in you?

I know that people aren’t supposed to think too long and too hard about the meaning of marketing messages, but if all I need is me, then I don’t need a sweat-activated technology rigged up tee-shirt, do I?

I went over to Viewsports for a view, and you can get one of these sweating shirts – patent pending – for $23.99. Men’s shirts cost a buck more – they apparently need more you.

And I also think the shirts would be more truthful if the message were “All I need is me.”

Just saying.

On the plus side, the shirts were invented and made in Rochester, NY. I’m all for American ingenuity, American made, and any sign of life that comes out of the Rust Belt. But sweat-activated technology?

Maybe there’s a hidden healthcare lining, beyond the obvious that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and that includes working out (and sweating).

Did I say hidden healthcare lining? Apparently those in the hip and happening performance-fiber field are coming up with fabric sensors:

…that can track changes in blood pressure, pulse rates, and other signs of stress, as well as signs that a wearer is falling down.

Which will good for us rapidly aging Boomers entering our pre-geezer years. We may no longer be the competition in general, but we will be the competition for medical resources, and if someone can remotely monitor our vital signs through our clothing, this will be all for the good. As long as we remember to take the damned shirt off when we’re ready to go. And there will definitely be a point where a head-conking trip on the scatter rug while making a mid-night dash to the toilet will be a better alternative to three weeks intubated in an ICU.  Maybe by then we’ll be able to embed sensors in our granny gowns that contain our Do Not Resuscitate instructions, and other end-of-life messages. “The old lady in Unit 2 is down. She wants us to ignore her for now, and come and collect her in a couple of hours.” (Would that I’m so sanguine when the time comes. I sure hope I’m not going to be one of those grasping, clawing hangers-on.)

Then there’s the far more dubious line of “calorie-burning” underwear form Uniqlo.

The Japanese retailer, which launched the line in May, says the tight-fitting garments apply resistance to the wearer's muscles in certain spots, forcing him to put forth more effort to walk. Plastic dots and lines running down the lower back and bottom create slight pressure that is meant to improve the wearer's posture.

I’m sitting up straighter as I type this, because, as a lifelong slumper, I could definitely improve my posture. But couldn’t you get the same “calorie burning” impact from walking faster and/or carrying some weights?

Nah, techno-underwear just doesn’t do it for me, even if I did believe that it would really work.

Maybe the Babir suits work. Bagir, an Israel clothing manufacturer, is making suits that:

…will wick away and evaporate sweat, as well as eliminating odors. On this lining, says the company's U.S. spokesman, Timothy Danser, the sweat "beads up and rolls away." A separate chemical in the lining controls odors.

My question here is: where does the sweat roll away to? Is there a collection vial? Or, if you’re unlucky enough to be sitting next to a Bagir-wearer on a sultry day, do you just end up getting dowsed by some guy’s rolling away sweat?

Performance fibers aren’t new – they’ve been around since the 1980’s, primarily for sports and military apparel.

But some of its applications have been pretty flawed:

…the Hypercolor line of clothing from the 1980s and early 1990s, which changed colors wherever the wearer's body got warm. The problem: Sometimes underarms and private parts got warmer and were highlighted by the clothes. "It was a mess," she [Fashion Institute of Technology professor Ingrid Johnson’ says.

Now, it’s so mainstream that both Jos. A. Bank and Brooks Brothers sell suits the move heat and/or moisture away from the body. (Again, where does it go?)

I’m all for miracle fabrics, by the way.

I like my quasi-wicking work out clothing. My tencel raincoat. My quasi- no iron khakis. That bit o’ stretch in my jeans.

It used to be that clothing was smart when it looked sharp and was fashionable.  Now it’s smart because it’s full of sensors.

I dunno.  Maybe I’m threatened by it. I just don’t want to be wearing something that’s smarter than I am.

No comments: