Unraveling the Secrets of Sportswear - Fibre2Fashion

Sportswear, also referred to as activewear or sports textiles, is a special category of clothing designed specifically for sporting events and physical workouts. It is distinguished by the use of cutting-edge textiles and modern technology, which provide advantages such as light weight and increased safety. These qualities have been instrumental in the replacement of traditional materials in the sportswear industry.

Highly active sports, such as tennis, soccer, running, and jumping, demand a lot of physical exertion but are typically played over a short duration. In these activities, the comfort of sportswear can significantly influence an athlete’s performance, making it a critical quality benchmark. Moisture Absorbing Fabrics

Unraveling the Secrets of Sportswear - Fibre2Fashion

Ever wondered how your sports leggings manage to be so stretchy? Or why certain sports bras feel comfortable and breathable while others are irritating or chafe the skin? This article delves into the crucial question: “What material is sportswear made from, and why is that material used?” It also examines the sustainability and performance characteristics of common sportswear materials to provide a comprehensive understanding.

Commonly Used Fabrics in Sportswear

Polyester has long been a popular choice for sportswear due to its flexibility, strength, and cost-effectiveness. However, as it is essentially plastic derived from fossil fuels, it poses certain environmental concerns.

Another common material used in sportswear is the synthetic polyamide fabric, nylon. Polyamides can be either natural (like silk and wool) or synthetic, but the term ‘polyamide’ refers to the molecular structure of the fibre regardless of its origin. For sportswear, synthetic polyamides such as nylon, kevlar, and nomex are frequently used. Like polyester, these materials are derived from fossil fuels and are prized for their durability and strength.

Recently, alternative materials have been gaining popularity. These include natural substances like bamboo and organic cotton, as well as recycled versions of synthetic fabrics. Innovative choices, such as Tencel fibre, are also being embraced by many.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the fabrics commonly used in sportswear:

Tricot fabric is created using flatbed knitting machines. This type of fabric is known for its smooth drape and exceptional resistance to running and wrinkling. Tricot fabric features a unique, uneven zigzag weave, presenting both smooth and rough sides. Consequently, this fabric manages to be simultaneously soft and extremely durable, making it an ideal choice for sportswear.

Entrant Dermizax EV is a lightweight fabric with a feather-soft texture, remarkable waterproof and moisture permeable capabilities, and enduring water repellent properties. It boasts a moisture permeability of 30,000 g/m2/24 hours and a water pressure resistance of 20,000 mm, setting it apart as a superior, globally recognised fabric for active sportswear. This material is not only water-resistant and breathable but also extremely durable, making it an excellent choice for high-performance athletic wear.

Spandex is a synthetic fibre known for its exceptional stretchability, a crucial quality for sportswear. Often blended with other materials, spandex contributes flexibility to the final product.

This material is widely favoured in the production of sportswear due to its high elasticity, which allows for comfortable and unrestricted movement. Remarkably, spandex can stretch up to 100 times its original size, making it a top choice for both workout and sports attire. In addition, spandex is known for its superior sweat absorption, breathability, and quick-drying properties.

Mesh fabric is particularly beneficial for sportswear due to its blend of comfort and stretchability. Its open-weave structure permits air circulation, facilitating contact with the skin and providing excellent ventilation. This makes it an ideal material for parts of a garment that require increased breathability, particularly in areas prone to rapid heat accumulation, such as the back.

Microfiber fabrics, at their core, are made from exceptionally fine synthetic materials, most often polyester, polyamide, or polypropylene. These fibres are finer than what can be achieved with natural materials, lending to their unique properties. Microfiber textiles serve as excellent luxury sports fabrics due to their impressive attributes: they are lightweight, have a silky drape, and are breathable, while also providing resistance against wind and rain.

The term ‘softshell’ essentially refers to a category of technical materials designed to offer maximum comfort under diverse weather conditions. Key characteristics of a softshell fabric include breathability, wind resistance, and water resistance. The three-layer softshell fabric, in particular, was developed for winter outdoor sports attire, such as skiing and hiking gear, providing optimal protection and comfort in colder climates.

In recent years, bamboo has gained recognition as an eco-friendly material used in an array of products, ranging from single-use cutlery and home decor to toilet paper and cutting boards. Because of its light, natural fabric, bamboo pulp has also found its way into athletic wear. Much like Merino wool, bamboo is often blended with other fabrics.

Bamboo clothing tends to be priced higher than other standard options, as it is considered a premium fabric. However, it offers numerous benefits that are highly valued by fitness enthusiasts. Bamboo is incredibly soft, odour-resistant, moisture wicking, and thermoregulating, making it well worth the investment for many.

Seamless tops are ideal for all-round sports activities, especially intense workouts. However, for activities that require specialised attire, seamless bras and bottoms are more suitable. Typically, this fabric is delicate and susceptible to snagging, sheerness, and pilling. For instance, running in seamless yoga pants may sometimes cause damage to them.

However, the upside is that seamless fabrics are remarkably soft, comfortable, and lightweight. They also provide considerable stretch. Even though garments made from seamless fabric may appear small on the hanger, they tend to stretch out more than you would expect. This makes them perfect for yoga, Pilates, barre, low-impact workouts, and leisure activities.

Polyester is one of the most commonly used fabrics in sportswear. This material is favoured for its cost-effectiveness, strength, wrinkle resistance, and quick drying properties, making it a popular choice for sports like swimming and athletics, as well as gym attire.

Being water-resistant, polyester does not absorb sweat. Instead, it allows your perspiration to dry naturally. With its insulating properties, polyester makes for a suitable material in both warm and cold climates.

As a synthetic polyamide material, nylon offers excellent strength and durability, making it highly resistant to wear and tear. These qualities make it well-suited for rigorous physical activities and sports that involve frequent movement and stretching. Nylon is known for its ability to retain its shape and elasticity, providing a comfortable and flexible fit for athletes.

Additionally, nylon fabric is lightweight and breathable, allowing for efficient moisture management and promoting enhanced comfort during intense workouts. While nylon is derived from fossil fuels, it continues to be valued in sportswear for its performance characteristics. However, as sustainability becomes an increasing concern, alternative materials such as recycled nylons and eco friendly options are gaining traction in the sportswear industry.

The jersey fabric gets its name from Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, situated in the La Manche Strait between Great Britain and France. Jersey fabric emerged when people in this region began knitting with weft-knit fabrics.

Originally, jersey was a soft, flexible knit fabric made from wool. Today, it is also made from cotton or a blend of synthetic and cotton fibres. The right side of the jersey knit typically features a light single ribbed knit, while the back is composed of numerous loops.

This fabric varies in weight from light to medium and is used in a variety of sportswear. Jersey fabric offers excellent moisture absorption and breathability. For those who tend to sweat a lot, a non-sticky and comfortable jersey T-shirt is an excellent choice. Furthermore, jersey fabric retains colour for a prolonged period and is easy to dye.

Toray’s Field Sensor is a well-known high-performance fabric that employs a multi-layer structure to quickly absorb sweat and transport it to the fabric’s outer layer using the principle of capillary action. This fabric comprises a fine denier, hydrophobic polyester yarn in an outer mesh construction, and a coarser denier yarn on the inside that directly contacts the skin. This structure facilitates rapid evaporation of perspiration, contributing to the wearer’s comfort during physical activities.

CoolMax, a high-performance fabric developed by DuPont and now managed by The Lycra Company, can enhance athletic performance. This fabric functions by transporting perspiration away from the body to the fabric’s outer layer, where it can evaporate more quickly than on other fabrics.

By 2025, The Lycra Company plans to convert more than 80 per cent of its CoolMax technologies to EcoMade versions, which utilise recycled components. The remarkable aspect is that these sustainable fibres perform just as well as the virgin fibres they are replacing, ensuring both environmental responsibility and performance quality.

Functional Requirements of High-Activity Sportswear

Heat stress is a significant issue in high-intensity sports like tennis and football, where the metabolic heat output can range from 800 to 1300W. This level of heat can cause the body’s core temperature to rise by 1.5-2o C. To provide a cooling effect and regulate body temperature, the body employs sweat production and water vaporisation. Given that sweat generation can reach 2.5L/h, the primary functional requirements of high-activity sportswear are sweat absorption, quick drying, and cooling.

High-activity sportswear should also possess a high degree of elastic recovery and stretch to comfortably fit the wearer and accommodate their full range of motion. Stretchable fabric creates compression in many dynamic sports such as jumping, running, and power lifting, which can enhance an athlete’s performance. Compression Athletic Wear (CAW) provides athletes with the compression and anatomical fit they need. These garments are often referred to as ‘skin suits’ because they conform to the body’s natural curves like a second skin.

Additional attributes sought in athletic wear include easy maintenance, lightweight, UV resistance, smoothness, and softness.

Comfort Characteristics Required for Sportswear

Sportswear designed for active performance should possess four key types of comfort: skin sensory comfort, thermo physiological comfort, ergonomic wear comfort, and psychological comfort. Let’s delve deeper into these categories:

• Thermo physiological comfort : This type of comfort is achieved when the body maintains thermal equilibrium, meaning the rate at which heat is generated by various physiological processes equals the rate at which heat is lost from the body. It determines the fabric’s ability to manage moisture and breathe, or how effectively heat and moisture can pass through the fabric.

• Sensorial/Tactile comfort : This comfort pertains more to the sensation of the clothing against the body rather than temperature regulation. The surface of the fabric, its structure, and to some extent, its ability to transport moisture—all contribute to this comfort. It is associated with the sensation of touch on the skin, often manifesting as feelings of smoothness and softness.

• Mobility/Dexterity : Numerous significant body movements occur while performing various physical activities in active sports. Therefore, to allow for unrestricted movement, active wear needs to possess elastic properties.

• Psychological comfort : Psychological comfort is influenced by the wearer’s personal experience. Aesthetic qualities from a style or fashion perspective determine this type of comfort.

Use of Latest Smart Technology and Hi-Tech in Sportswear

High-tech textiles have long been employed in sports. In recent years, we have seen materials and designs that can efficiently wick away moisture from the body, absorbing sweat faster and drying the skin. Specialised patches on jerseys help athletes dry their hands more quickly for improved grip.

Moreover, smart technologies are being incorporated so that clothing can monitor the athlete’s body temperature, heart rate, and other physiological data. Technical textiles have produced materials that are more robust than wood, as waterproof as rubber, and extremely efficient in keeping the skin dry. The quality of sports textiles and the capacity to produce high-performance sportswear are continually improving due to the extensive use of advanced technology in today’s sports textiles.

Given that the comfort and fit of the attire are tied to performance, athletes engaging in various sports prefer specific garments that directly influence their performance. Thus, ensuring that sportswear possesses specific characteristics is extremely beneficial. Breathable materials track the rate at which moisture or vapour penetrates the fabric, measuring the moisture or vapour transmission rate.

Breathable sportswear must provide optimal heat and humidity regulation, excellent air and water vapour permeability, quick moisture absorption, and ease of movement. It should be flexible, fit closely to the skin, dry quickly, absorb minimal water, be easy to care for, and have a light and delicate feel. To enhance a fabric’s ability to wick sweat away from the body, advanced finishing techniques can be applied to increase the difference in surface tension between the front and back of the fabric.

Sportswear fabrics are technological materials designed to provide comfort to the wearer while engaging in physical activity. Different sports call for various types of athletic clothing, but for enhanced performance, sportswear typically needs certain unique features, functions, and characteristics. Therefore, maintaining the right quality is crucial when manufacturing sportswear.

Technology has undeniably played a significant role in improving sportswear performance. The extensive application of advanced technology in today’s sports textiles has led to daily improvements in both the ability to produce high-performance sports gear and the quality of sports textiles.

Through ongoing research and development, numerous other characteristics, such as moisture-wicking resistance and odourless garments, are being incorporated into sports textiles. This is leading to some remarkable technological advancements. As more breathable garments are produced in a variety of combinations, the level of comfort in sportswear is sure to increase. To keep athletes cool and confident, these attributes must be present. does not warrant or assume any legal liability or responsibility for the excellence, accurateness, completeness, legitimacy, reliability or value of any information, product or service represented on The information provided on this website is for educational or information purposes only. Anyone using the information on, does so at his or her own risk, and by using such information agrees to indemnify, and its content contributors from any and all responsibility, loss, damage, costs and expenses (including legal fees and expenses), resulting from such use. does not endorse or recommend any article on this site or any product, service or information found within said articles. The views and opinions of the authors who have submitted articles to belong to them alone and do not reflect the views of

Unraveling the Secrets of Sportswear - Fibre2Fashion

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