We are currently living through extraordinary times, with technological advances altering the way we live our day to day lives on an unprecedented scale. If you think about it, over the past thirty years we have seen the birth of the internet, introduction of not just hand held telephones but smart phones, music tapes to CD’s to streaming services and downloads, rise of ecommerce, tablet computers, social media, and wifi. But what about the future of base layers?
You would think that the 21st century would be heralding in a new era of innovative yarns and fabrics to manage our bodies micro environment. Unfortunately reality is not as exciting. Since the introduction of synthetic yarn polymers polyamide, polypropylene, polyester and acrylic in the 1930s through to the 1950s their has been no major breakthrough in new synthetic yarn technology until the recent discovery of Graphene – and this is in it’s infancy stage. In fact a lot of ‘new’ yarns and fabrics are rehashes of existing technologies, just with more flashier images and branding.
Do not be feel downhearted. Even though the core basics of synthetic base layers have not changed in more than sixty years, there are a lot of new developments in their construction and manufacturing that lifts them in to the 21st century.
One area that has drastically changed over the past 10 years is the technology employed in base layer manufacture. Traditional cut and sew methods are still the most popular production technique but this is being chased by semi-seamless and whole garment digital knitting machines. The benefit of these new machines is the electronic selection of needles, allowing you to knit totally different constructions within the same garment (body mapping) without having seams, such as in our Factor 1 Plus base layer range.
Since base layers were first developed there has always been a dividing line between natural yarn purists (such as wool wearers) and synthetic converts. This has now started to blur as natural and synthetic fibres are blended together to give you the benefit of both.
A good example of this is in the Merino wool market where polyamide and/or elastane is mixed with the Merino wool fibres to add extra stability and better handling properties.
Nature has been product developing for billions of years, which is why scientists are now starting to look at the natural world with more vigour as they have realised that nature has often solved problem before them.
VELCRO was invented in 1948 after a Swiss inventor noticed burrs had stuck to his trousers and his dogs fur after walking in a field. More recently,
a sugar found in crab shells called chitosan is being used to produce eco-friendly flame-retardant clothing.
Base Layer Diversification
When base layers were first conceived it was a one style fits all system. Very little choice was available, and the fabrics were based mainly on polyester. Roll forward forty years and the base layer landscape has changed drastically. With more people actually understanding the benefit of wearing them, there has been an explosion of styles and weights of base layers. This is only going to expand as digital knitting technology and sport specific clothing designers latch on to these new ideas and push base layers in to niche markets.
It has always been the holy grail of garment manufacturers and technologists to merge everyday electronic gadgets with clothing. However, the problem has always been with the miniaturisation of the technology and the longevity of it once it has been employed (the stretching and washing of fabrics is very destructive).
Developments in flexible conductive material such as graphene eliminates a lot of these problems, and the improvements in nano-technology is seeing robust wearable modules being tested on base layers for the first time. One recent experiment we have been involved in has been integrating a heart monitor in to base layers for
What Is The Future Of Base Layers?
Even though the basic yarn technology employed in the production of most base layers has not changed since the middle of the twentieth century, there are lots of new advancements in their construction and the application of electronic soft technology to make them more than suited to the 21st century.
The one area that will be a game changer for athletes and adventurers alike has already started with the advancement in digital knitting machines and body shape recognition software. Once these are refined and production costs reduced, it won’t be long until bespoke base layers will be produced for individuals remotely.
The one thing that is for certain is that base layer design does not stand still. All it takes is a bit of ingenuity and the adoption of new technology. So with this in mind, what do you think the future of base layers will be?