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Technical underwear: Base layers

February 2007

Wearing technology

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Technical undergarments that can be worn under any team uniform or sportswear for all sporting codes (ie base layers), has become best sellers for many retailers. Base layers provide heat, cool down athletes, moisture manage, as needed, and in some cases even improve muscle function through strategic compression.

While these features have been available in top-end teamwear for many years, the benefit of applying the technology to base layers is that one garment can be used for many sports. It is therefore within the reach of all athletes and fitness enthusiasts … not only elite athletes.

Nike recently introduced their Nike Pro compression-fit under-layer performance garments with, as can be expected, several technological innovations. The Nike Pro vent tight has engineered contrast stretch panels in Dri-Fit material that wicks sweat through the material away from the skin, keeping the athlete cool. Ultra-sheer, engineered, stretch mesh ventilation panels across the back, spine and beneath the arms further help reduce core temperature. It is made from soft-handle polyester fabric with a tubular construction and flat seams to aid comfort and avoid chafing.

They are available in sleeveless, T-shirt and long sleeve styles, depending on athlete requirements. There are also a range of colours for each garment style and are specially made for both men and women.

Nike has also introduced a range of Performance Underwear (5 performance bra styles with three bottoms). There are no seams — therefore no chafing — they wick moisture away from the skin and can be customised to fit with adjustable chest and shoulder straps.

Compression garments

Elite athletes sponsored by adidas now have a new weapon: TechFit with Powerweb performance apparel. It consists of tight-fitting Lycra Power fabric that wraps around muscles and provides compression in areas that will improve athletic performance, says adidas. Mesh inserts and designs allow for maximum movement, breathability and comfort.

Powerweb is a series of TPU (Thermoplastic Urethane) bands that are pressed onto a base layer of TechFit apparel at key areas that focus on important muscle groups, for instance, upper legs or shoulders. Working with the muscles, they function like springs.

This compression technology was first used by adidas in the full body swimsuit developed for swimmers like Ian Thorpe, but has now been adapted for use in other sporting codes.

June 2007

Base layers — giving new meaning to performance

Technical underwear (ie base layers) with all kinds of performance enhancing abilities can be a bestseller for all retailers as the applications are endless

An experienced marketing manager once remarked that you have one season to take advantage of a new product development — by the following season the market will be inundated by variations on the theme. The truth of this is, once again, proved by the great demand for technical base layers that developed during the past season or two. Suddenly the buyer focus has shifted: its not what the athlete wears on top — its what goes underneath that sells!

Yes, yes, we are well aware that the compression and moisture and temperature management technology that makes underwear so desirable has been on the international market for several years.

After all, Helly Hansen’s LIFA Stay Dry baselayer technology was developed 30 years ago and has since been worn by more than 25-m athletes and adventurers all over the world. And we realise that Under Armour launched the technical baselayer movement globally in 1996 when the company was founded by ex-professional American footballer, Kevin Plank.

As a matter of fact, at the turn of the century SA Sports Trader wrote about a study conducted at Penn State University in the early 1990s that showed a direct link between wearing performance compression undergarments and an athlete’s performance — this study formed the base of the compression panels developed by LineBreak base layers.

But, the SA retailer interest WAS only peaked in 2005 with Canterbury’s marketing campaign that resulted in their CCC BaseLayers being sold in about 6 000 stores worldwide. The market was ready and able to embrace the product and even Canterbury was surprised by the reception, with initial sales 350% above target and new outlets and retailers asking for the multi-sport product.

When Under Armour introduced compression base layers to the world in 1996, athletes had to be convinced of the benefits as many found the idea of wearing tight fitting tops or shorts under team uniforms a wee bit funny. But soon, many realised the benefits.

"We have seen it with athletes all over the world: one tries on a compression top, and the first day, his team mates are laughing, the second day they are snickering and the third or fourth day, they are asking to try one," says Anna Stark, of the local Under Armour distributor Just Fun Sports. "Word of mouth really worked.

"Twelve years ago there really wasn’t a category for base layers — now there are about 30-40 brands competing globally in the space that didn’t exist before," says Stark.

Why the sudden scramble for base layers?

Reasons for popularity

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Consumers eagerly buy technical base layers because they can be worn for any sport or activity, from athletics, baseball, cricket to rugby, rowing, running, or skiing, soccer, sailing and every other possible activity in between — which makes it very cost effective.

"An hour on the bike, a quick afternoon run, a week on an ocean racer, a month on an Arctic expedition … baselayer technology keeps sportsmen and -women dry, comfortable and warm," says Rebecca Laird of Texas Peak SA, local distributor of Helly Hansen.

Baselayers also enables any athlete, even at school level, to enjoy the same benefits as the elite teams who receive highly technical teamwear from top brand sponsors.

"The stereotype of a sportsperson has changed: it is no longer just the fit 20-year old, sport is for all people of all ages," says Paul Zacks, MD Canterbury International SA. "A baselayer means that people of all ages and capabilities can get the most out of their training session."

"As sporting codes become more competitive, individuals are looking for ways to perform better without transgressing the law," adds Tony Barker, SA distributor of the Optimum Thinskins range.

"In addition to providing significant physical performance benefits, under-garments like Nike PRO also gives a psychological advantage, with the light weight and compression fit helping players and athletes feel empowered for enhanced athletic performance," says Nike SA PR Lauren Collier.

What’s more, the base layers can be worn under casual clothes, especially when travelling, without raising eyebrows.

The significant number of people entering the market has lent momentum to the popularity of this category, because the amount of advertising money spent is massive, says Stark. "The fact that people are always looking for something to keep them at, or help them get to, the top has driven this to a new level. Cotton is no longer acceptable."

Super heroes

As we mentioned about two years ago (Sports Trader October 2005), Superman clearly wanted to tell us something when he nipped into telephone booths to emerge in his underwear in order to perform heroic deeds. Since then, many a super hero on the sporting field have followed suit and donned underwear with special qualities.

"These stars are adding credibility to the category as a whole and people are realising that a baselayer is becoming an essential item of equipment and not just a fashion garment," says Wayne Schonegevel of OBO SA, distributors of LineBreak.

They found this to be the case with the exposure LineBreak gained in SA from AB de Villiers in the World Cup, and top athletes like Glen Gore (multiple SA triathlon and Ironman champion) and Lindsey Parry (renowned Comrades Marathon coach).

All the brands have top athletes eager to endorse the products in exchange for enjoying the benefits. Canterbury, for instance, can probably fill a book with the names of the national teams and star athletes that wear their CCC BaseLayer, locally and internationally for just about all imagineable sporting codes from rugby (including the Springboks) to hockey, cricket, rowing , golf and many others.

The benefits

1: There is no longer a clear distinction between winter and summer sport — and that’s not only the fault of global warming. Sporting seasons have become longer. As competition hots up, practice starts well before there’s a bite in the air that keeps rugby players from overheating or the of the balmy summer days appreciated by cricketers arrive.

Moisture management and temperature regulating garments therefore became important and welcome additions to athletes’ kit bags.

A laboratory test commissioned by Canterbury to compare infra-red temperature changes during an exercise activity showed that their baselayer designed to be worn during hot weather resulted in lower skin temperatures than a cotton garment, while the baselayer designed for cold weather successfully maintains a relatively high skin temperature.

"For the competitive sportsperson it is all about getting the most out of their training, they need efficiency and base layers work with the body to achieve its optimum in terms of training, competing and recovery," says Zacks.

2: Apart from the benefit of temperature regulation, many base layer manufacturers can cite examples of how athlete performance improves through the compression of certain muscles.

In a nutshell, they say that the pressure increases blood flow, which delivers more oxygen to working muscles, improving circulation, which in turn helps the body to eliminate the build up of lactic acid and metabolic wastes.

As a result, the muscles take longer to become tired and the individual is able to train harder, play longer and recover faster.

Some ranges, like LineBreak, have targeted compression panels aimed at relevant muscle groups, which means that each muscle group is independently supported.

"Compression garments also aids blood circulation around the body, which improves heart efficiency and is also particularly beneficial during longer periods of inactivity, such as long haul travel," says Zacks.

After action, compression garments can also give the satisfaction of a faster recovery.

"Not all weekend warriors have access to massages, ice baths or high end nutrition, but anyone can put on a pair of compression tights after exercise and not feel stiff and sore the next day," says Schonegevel. "Research has shown that compression tights are one of the most effective recovery regimes."

Compression also enhances the body’s own spatial awareness of where limbs are in relation to each other and surrounding environment during exercise or activity.

"There is, however, a difference between a tight fitting garment (more readily available) and a compression garment," cautions Schonegevel. Too much compression from a tight-fitting garment can restrict movement, rather than enhance movement.

Compression is also not needed for all activities — many athletes are more in need of the cooling properties of base layers than the muscle strengthening compression technology.

3: Apart from temperature regulation and compression, the whole locker room can benefit from the anti-microbial features in most ranges — in plain language, they kill the germs that cause the sweaty after-action smell.

June/ July 2009

Everybody needs this underwear

Whether your customers are anglers, bikers, canoeists or the rest of the alphabet of sporting codes, they’ll want to buy technical undergarments once they understand how much they contribute to the enjoyment of all activities, explains CLAYTON TRUSCOTT

Not so long ago it was considered rather shabby if your underwear showed. Now, technical undergarments peeking from under team wear have become so acceptable that cricket and rugby teams even get them in the team colours as part of their kit.

The advantages of these undergarments are well-documented and punted by high profile sportspersons — but today they are a piece of identifiable equipment to the everyman and -woman interested in staying in shape or enjoying recreational activities.

This is exactly why the modern base layer technology offers such an interesting new product option for a wide range of retailers, explains Wayne Schonegevel of OBO Sports, local distributor of Linebreak.

It’s not necessarily the top athletes who will appreciate the benefits and WOW factors of wearing technical undergarments as much as the weekend warriors, he says.

“Professional athletes, who have access to all the nutrients, don’t take the same strain after exercising as someone who only rides over the weekend, or jogs with the mates twice a month. It’s the people who are used to stiffness and sore joints after casual exercise who will really appreciate and notice the difference these garments make.”

Today’s base layers are being fine tuned down to the smallest detail, to maximize their affect — for example, with flat-lock stitching to reduce friction during exercise, and an SP Factor 50 to protect the skin.

Performance and endurance

When specific muscles are compressed, oxygen in the blood increases, which brings more energy to the muscles, which in turn increases the average power output, improving speed and strength, and thus overall performance, explains Canterbury SA sales manager, Francois Theron.

There is, however, a difference between a tight fitting undergarment (more readily available) and a compression undergarment, cautions Schonegevel. Too much compression from a tight-fitting garment can restrict, rather than enhance, movement.

Some ranges, like Linebreak, have compression panels aimed at relevant muscle groups, which means that each muscle group is independently supported, he says.

“Canterbury BaseLayer Ionx delivers ionic energy to the body and therefore aids performance in sports that require high explosive actions, or where muscles need to respond quickly and effectively, like rugby, soccer, cricket, racket sports, basketball and gymnastics,” says Theron.

Canterbury has also introduced a third generation BaseLayer Ionx Compression range.“It enhances performance during training, competition and recovery, as it is designed to reduce the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles and allows for a quicker return to normal levels after competition or activity.”

Compression fit is to be worn as tightly as possible, moulded to hug the body, preventing movement of muscles to prevent energy sapping muscle oscillation, he says. It is suitable for high impact and fast twitch sports like rugby, soccer, sprinting and basketball. This garment also improves body awareness, thereby enhancing skills and coordination needed for sports like basketball, netball, racket sports, and baseball/ softball.

While it is popular amongst professionals for pre- and post-sports activities, it is not available in the market. “It is on offer to retailers, but due to production minimums and the fact that this specialised product is a new concept for most athletes, it is still in its infancy,” says Theron.

Faster recovery

It’s not only their support during sport that make technical undergarments so important for all degrees of athletes, but also the role they play when the game is over.

The recovery aspect of Linebreak is a focal point for the brand — and a feature especially appreciated by an athlete like Ryk Neetling, who often has to compete after multiple long hours strapped in an aircraft.

Long-haul economy class travellers know how important compression socks are to prevent thrombosis: think what it could to the rest of your body!

Runner Norrie Williams, wrote in an article that compression has been a key component of the immediate self treatment for injuries. The Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE) protocol has been shown to speed injury recovery and the Linebreak range are an instantly available source of compression for virtually every part of the body.

This is especially beneficial for the non-elite athlete. “Not all weekend warriors have access to massages, ice baths or high-end nutrition, but anyone can put on a pair of compression tights after exercise and not feel stiff and sore the next day,” says Schonegevel.

Canterbury BaseLayer Ionx accelerates recovery by improving blood flow efficiency through flushing out residual waste products, such as lactic acids left in the muscles after high intensity activity, says Theron. “Therefore training or competition can begin again more quickly.”

BaseLayer Ionx Compression helps prevent muscle oscillation, which leads to muscle fatigue; it minimises muscle soreness and helps muscle to recover faster than normal. It improves blood circulation which improves heart efficiency, particularly beneficial during periods of inactivity, he says.

Temperature control

You don’t, however, need the muscle-strengthening compression features for all activities, says Schonegevel — in many activities the cooling or heating properties are more important.

Nowadays, there is hardly a distinction between winter and summer sport — sporting seasons have become longer and as competition hots up, practice starts well before the traditional season starts.

Most active people would therefore welcome the temperature regulating features of performance undergarments.

“An hour on the bike, a quick afternoon run, a week on an ocean racer, a month on an Arctic expedition… technical baselayer technology keeps you dry, comfortable and warm,” says Rebecca Laird of Texas Peak SA, local distributor of Helly Hansen.

This Norwegian outdoors company developed the first LIFA Stay Dry baselayer technology 30 years ago and is still one of the biggest manufacturers of technical undergarments in the world. Their products are worn by more than 25-m athletes and adventurers . Tried and tested in some of the most outrageous temperatures, they are endorsed by the top skiing, snowboarding and sailing athletes in the world.

“LIFA is one of the most used and trusted baselayer technologies in the world,” says Laird. “It hates water and retains 40 times less moisture than polyester, a fabric often used for base layers. You therefore stay drier.”

HH WARM is worn for activities involving a lot of stop and go, normally resulting in you freezing due to excessive moisture being built up and then cooled down, she explains. “It consists of two different layers. The inner layer, inspired by the fur of the polar bear, features the unique hollow LIFA® T3 (thermic tube technology) that insulates and allows for superior evacuation of moisture. The outer one features super fine merino wool that doesn’t itch for added warmth.“

Athletes performing high intensity activities that require maximum removal of moisture prefer HH Dry. “LIFA Stay Dry Technology acts like a second skin that promotes the transport of moisture off the body onto the next layer, resulting in you feeling dry and able to perform better for longer.”

HH COOL is the ultimate technical layer for high-energy sports. “It has a bi-component knit to provide rapid moisture transport in one layer. HH COOL has a looser fit, which allows increased venting and comfort for high intensity activities in warmer weather, says Laird.

The bi-component knit of LIFA Versa, for example, offers LIFA on the inside with absorbent polyester on the outside. Its endless fibre structure does not trap moisture or residues, which also gives it superb natural resistance to bacteria.

According to Laird, paddling, cycling, athletics and watersports are the activities where Helly Hansen is most often worn.

The initial Canterbury Baselayer was based on the simple concept of keeping athletes dry through wicking moisture away from the body, says Theron. “Innovations have taken place over the years and we have seen the development of Hot and Cold body temperature controlling Baselayers. It conserves vital energy that would otherwise be used to maintain a consistent body temperature.”

He believes there is much confusion in the market around Hot and Cold BaseLayers: Hot is to be worn when it’s hot to keep you cool and Cold is to be worn when it’s cold to keep you warm.

Standard fit BaseLayer Essentials is worn skintight, encasing the body to allow for the control of body temperature, as it promotes efficient wicking away of sweat. It is suitable for endurance and fast and slow twitch sports such as cricket, cycling, running, golf, aerobic sports and angling. “All sports where body temperature matters,” says Theron.

“The Canterbury BaseLayer fabric also includes anti-bacterial agents to keep gear smelling fresh and is thus suitable for sports such as angling and indoor activities such as aerobics and spinning where you maybe in contact with more moisture than other sports activities.”

Sports where compression undergarments will be beneficial

  • Aerobics/gym: technical undergarments help gym goers that need that little bit of extra leg power during spinning and aerobics classes, or when using fitness equipment.

  • Angling: an angler who spends several hours at sea in the sun will benefit from a long sleeve base layer. Aside from preventing skin cancer, the garment will keep anglers’ forearms and biceps compressed, increasing the blood flow for optimum energy distribution, explains Christian van Zyl of James Gilbert SA, local distributor of the Skins brand. “Serious anglers, who take several hours to reel in a marlin, for example, will appreciate this when fatigue sets in, during and after landing a hefty fish.”

  • Athletics: a study conducted at Penn State University in the early 1990s showed a direct link between wearing performance compression undergarments and an athlete’s performance — this study formed the base of the compression panels developed by Linebreak.

  • Cricket: So many top cricketers wear technical undergarments that it has almost become as acceptable a part of their kit as pads and helmets.

  • Cycling: A cyclists who relies on his leg power during climbs and chases will benefit from wearing ¾ shorts and long johns.

  • Golf: Compression garments enable an athlete to maintain muscle form for a longer period of time. For example: a golfer is able to maintain his swing arc over a longer period before muscles start getting tired.

  • Rock climbing: Muscles that do not tire or falter when you push yourself onto the next ledge can mean the difference between life and death. Tammy Fairfield believes Skins technical undergarments improve her muscle performance.

  • Road running: Again, it’s the legs that have to give you that acceleration boost and last just that extra kilometer or two – and longer compression pants could make the difference.

  • Rugby: Bryan Habana with the explosive speed wears compression undergarments (Canterbury BaseLayer Ionx) – need one say more?

  • Soccer: Could this be what Bafana Bafana needs to reach the World Cup play-offs?

  • June 2008

    It's not on TOP, it's the UNDERWEAR

    Undergarments extending beyond the sleeves and shorts of elite athletes have almost become a sporting fashion statement. But, showing off your underwear on TV is by no means merely a new dress code: they offer athletes considerable performance benefits. So say the suppliers. FANIE HEYNS asked them to explain

    One of the most vivid pictures of the 2007/2008 cricket season was bowler Dale Steyn punching the air while aggressively mimicking a knockoutpunch. He delivered 78 of those in a period of seven months, during which he briefly rose to joint number one on the world rankings of the International Cricket Council.

    Let’s change the scene somewhat, to Ahmedabad, with AB de Villiers on his back in the dirt as the bowler, Anil Kumble watches him. But Kumble’s expression is not that of gleeful celebration. And although De Villiers grimaces momentarily as he is on the ground, he is still pretty upbeat when he gets up again. He has good reason to be optimistic, for he just smashed a ferocious six right out of the ground on his way to a career-best undefeated 217 off 333 balls.

    Now for a change of sport to a scene that has become familiar to many South Africans: Robbie Hunter lifting both hands from the handlebars in a victory salute as he speeds across the finish line in his second Cape Argus race in a row.

    De Villiers and Hunter are two of the many athletes who wear a Linebreak baselayer. Did it benefit their career-defining performances? Did Steyn, and his equally impressive fast bowling colleague, Morné Morkel, benefit from wearing Canterbury BaseLayer products?

    Many benefits

    Recent research shows that there are indeed substantial performance benefits to be had by using compression clothing made to provide pressure and structure to an athlete’s muscles and limbs. Simply slipping into a baselayer garment can boost performance, speed recovery, regulate temperature and minimize swelling during air travel.

    No wonder Superman slipped into phone booths to emerge in his underwear to perform marvellous feats, Sports Trader commented in 2005 when we introduced the “miracle” features of base layers to retailers. After all, have you ever seen Superman with swollen ankles after travelling thousands of kilometres across the skies and continents at bullet speed?

    Wayne Schonegevel of OBO SA, supplier of Linebreak, says there are two components of base layers that help athletes to improve their performance, namely thermo-regulation and compression.

    Keep it cool

    Most baselayer brands offer thermo-regulatory properties. This entails maintaining optimum body temperature so that muscles can operate at the most efficient levels. It is done by utilising the moisture management properties in the fabric.

    Helly Hansen is acknowledged as the developer of base layers more than 30 years ago. The main benefit of their garments is that they assist the body to stay dry during any form of activity, says Rebecca Laird of local distributor Texas Peak. When the skin’s surface is dry, the body can regulate its natural, ideal body temperature. For example, keeping warmer when it is cold outside, staying cooler when it is hot outside.

    The aptly named CCC BaseLayer, supplied by Canterbury, is available in two temperature control ranges, namely Baselayer Hot and Baselayer Cold, says marketing manager Carole Messham. Baselayer Hot is designed to keep you cool in the harshest of conditions, including training in the gymnasium, on or off the field. It allows you to train harder and recover faster.

    Baselayer Cold is in turn designed to keep you warm in the coldest conditions and works like a thermal.

    These garments are designed to be worn close to the skin. They actively control body temperature by wicking sweat away from the body and increasing the evaporation process. Acting like blotting paper, sweat is dispersed along the fibres of the fabric.

    In a nutshell: the greater the area of evaporation, the greater the cooling effect.

    They also feature muscle compression properties that support and promote muscle alignment, significantly preventing muscle fatigue due to lactic acid building up during performances.

    Compression benefits

    The compression benefits of base layers would depend on a specific type of weave and fabric composition that provides optimum pressure across major muscle groups, says Schonegevel. For example:

  • By increasing and improving blood flow, which flushes out lactic acids, faster recovery is ensured;

  • Micro-muscle tears, which occur during any form of exercise, are repaired;

  • The use of the baselayer also creates greater muscle endurance, and reduces delayed onset of muscle soreness;

  • Schonegevel says the baselayer also increases the level of pro-prioception — in layman’s terms it means that the athlete is able to maintain muscle form for a longer period of time. For example: a golfer is able to maintain his swing arc over a longer period before muscles start getting tired.

  • Baselayers offer bio-acceleration, says Rassie Erasmus, marketing manager of JGSA (Gilbert in the olden days), supplier of Skins Technical Compression Garments, developed and designed to provide engineered gradient compression. When compression is engineered to apply a balanced and accurate surface pressure over specific body parts, it triggers an acceleration of blood flow.

  • This increases oxygen delivery to the working muscles to enhance their performance. “The circulation improvements also help the body to eliminate lactic acid and other metabolic wastes,” says Pieterse.

    According to Jodie Louw, supplier of Rockets compression garments, the compression garment basically generates between 8 and 12 mm mercury of pressure on the surface of the skin, which improves athletic performance by speeding up one’s recovery rate. This concept has been scientifically tested and proven, he says.

    Other pertinent advantages for athletes wearing compression ranges or baselayer garments is that of muscle support, enhanced body posture and, of course, the psychological advantage, says Gary Blakey of Rugbytech.

    “Most of the garment manufacturers on the market today have designed specific panels into their garments that give the athlete support in the critical areas like the hamstring, calf and torso areas of the body — this allows for good body posture and support during competition (don’t forget the wicking and thermal advantages as well) and when off the field or bike, helps with recovery.

    “Knowing that his or her muscles are well cared for during your activity definitely gives the athlete a psychological boost,” says Blakey.

    The Rugbytech Compression range has been specially developed using interwoven Sorona and Spandex fabrics. The Sorona fabric is a revolutionary textile produced by DuPont in that it is the first of its kind to be manufactured from naturally occurring starch in the kernels of corn. It is therefore an environmentally friendly product too.

    Sorona has many advantages with incredibly high wicking, excellent heat regulation and cutting edge stain resistance (a must for rugby performance wear) properties.

    For frequent flyers

    The baselayer enhances circulation and helps to prevent cramps and deep vein thrombosis. Many athletes — and also other frequent flyers — are now flying in compression tights and socks.

    Schonegevel quotes the SA Olympic swimmer Ryk Neethling as saying about Linebreak Tights: “The gear has been awesome, especially for travelling. I feel it cuts down on my recovery time after the 18 hour flight to the US.”

    It will be safe to predict that plane loads full of athletes travelling to Beijing will be wearing compression base layers on board.

    Erasmus has high expectations of good sales of the Skins Travel & Recovery long tights before the Beijing Olympics. They are body-moulded, compression tights, with built-in Bio-Acceleration Technology. They also regulate body temperature by wicking perspiration away from the skin and are sanitised.

    Ian Wright, owner of Tanclar Sports Distributors, supplier of McDavid base layers, cautions that these will not necessarily help improve performance in ALL sports.

    “If one requires significant heat management and one is looking for a slight edge through compression of muscles, and if these elements are factors in the performance of a sport, then the garments will offer benefits,” he says. “Otherwise, they are not a necessity for optimal sports performance.”

    Anna Stark of Just Fun Sports, suppliers of Under Armour, disagrees. She believes base layers are ideal for any form of physical activity.

    “I receive many questions with regards to watersports. Baselayer products are not waterproof, but Under Armour, for example, offers UPF 50 sun protection and is very quick drying.”

    Consumer awareness

    Is the increased hype about compression garments and base layers matched by growing awareness amongst athletes and recreational users about the benefits of the garments?

    The demand for base layers is most definitely on the increase, says Messham. She believes that athletes from more sporting disciplines now appreciate the advantages of products like the CCC BaseLayer and realise that undergarments can benefit their performance and comfort on the field, pitch, court and bike.

    Says Schonegevel: “As the elite athlete and weekend warrior are becoming more aware and educated regarding the benefits of base layers — and specifically the compression benefits — we are finding that the demand is increasing at a major rate. I have no doubt that we are only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of the potential for the undergarment/baselayer category.”

    Wright agrees that compression garments are now a trend in SA, and they are also becoming increasingly popular. He says that professional athletes currently make optimal use of base layers and they are then copied by the younger generation.

    “These days they (base layers) have become increasingly popular amongst all levels of athletes, but unfortunately, there remains a major problem,” he says. “Most youngsters or amateurs are typically wearing a baselayer, a protective garment and then their actual team kit. So many layers of different material basically nullifies the effects of the various garments — especially when it comes to moisture management and heat control by the body. This could actually have a negative effect on the athlete’s performance,” says Wright.

    Schonegevel agrees that lack of knowledge from consumers about the benefits of wearing compression garments is a big problem.

    “Even our elite and serious amateur athletes seem to be behind their overseas counterparts in embracing the benefits. However, we are beginning to see that as more of these athletes are wearing base layers, the demand from the weekend warrior is growing.”

    Blakey however has such faith in the power of base layers that he believes “you only have to use the product whilst taking part in your sport to see what awesome advantages it offers,” he says.

    Wright adds that SA unfortunately remains a follower in terms of the sports apparel market. Rugby is a prime example of a sporting code where these garments are often bought on the strength of a brand’s strength, and unfortunately this means that the garments are often sold, or worn, for the wrong purposes, he says.

    Typically, cricket and soccer are also sports where base layers are common, but again, the general public often buy them as more a fashion statement, which are the incorrect reasons.

    Elite or weekend warrior?

    Messham says CCC BaseLayer can be used at all levels of sport, from the professional to the school athlete. This Canterbury product is predominantly used in the rugby fraternity, but it can also be utilised in many other sporting disciplines.

    “You will see the likes of Steyn and Morkel currently wearing our baselayer, while the Western Province ladies golf team, David Frost, Michael Campbell, as well as many other individual golfers, also use the product,” says Messham.

    Linebreak is worn by people who want the true benefits of compression and thermo-regulation in order to improve their performance,” says Schonegevel.

    “Being specialists in compression, we have found that currently our brand is mainly used by the elite athlete (25%), provincial athletes (20%), serious amateur athletes (30%), school first team players (20%), while other users only comprise about 5%.”

    The Helly Hansen user base in SA would be split among club level athletes (65%), provincial (15%), elite (15%) and school level athletes (5%), says Laird.

    According to her, paddling, cycling, athletics and watersports are the most popular users of their base layers.

    Although developed and designed by rugby players, the Rugbytech baselayer range is a multi-port product and can be used by cyclists, paddlers, adventure racers, soccer players, cricket players and athletes alike, says Blakey.

    Skins is the official teammate to the Vodacom Bulls and the Sharks — and also the supplier of compression and therapeutic wear to 49 elite sporting teams and individuals, says Erasmus.

    Under Armour introduced base layers to American football, and then extended the use to baseball, says Stark. “Locally, I would estimate that the sporting codes with the biggest market share will be rugby and cricket, with a growing awareness in football,” she says. “Baselayers have also created a strong awareness in athletics.”

    It is clear that increasing numbers of people in SA engaged in all kinds of activities benefit from using base layers. These include paddling, hiking, water-skiing, snow-skiing, climbing, cycling, running, soccer, rugby, tennis, athletics, kite surfing, sailing, walking, mountain biking, cricket and hockey.

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