What's in your Underwear?
A guide to investing in personal assets.
When it comes to building your portfolio of fundsies ( the technical term is Base Layers ), most people give little thought beyond size and comfort. What about performance?
You want to look for Base Layers with a proven track record of comfort and feel, breathability, moisture management, body temperature regulation, and odor control. Base Layers include tops ( short sleeve and long sleeve ), bottoms ( leggings and capris or 3/4 length ), boxers, briefs, panties, and bras.
Textile manufactures use a variety of fibers such cotton, bamboo, silk, Modal, synthetic (polyester and nylon), and Merino wool. For the scope of this article I will compare synthetic fabrics and Merino wool.
In the 1980's, the stock market and fashion trends experienced extreme highs and lows. Synthetic fabrics felt both polar emotions of love and loathing.
The Ups of synthetics: Polyester is a fiber that is hydrophobic ( repels moisture ), and therefore the ubiquitous option in athletic apparel. Sweat is drawn in to the fabric and "wicked" away from your skin. Nylon is hydrophilic ( attracts moisture ) and is treated with DWR ( Durable Water Repellent ) in outer shell materials. Nylon is used in Base Layers as a re-enforcement ( like rebar is used in cement ). Synthetics are smooth and reduce chaffing during hot and heavy activities ( lifting weights at the gym ).
Synthetics do have some breathability, but when the moisture content saturates the fiber channels and the "wicking" function is diminished then your skin "suffocates" beneath the surface. Remember, synthetic fibers and plastic sheets come from the same petroleum source.
The Downs of synthetics is bacterial odor.
IMPORTANT TIP OF THE DAY: Always wash your synthetics, bamboo, silk, Modal, and Merino wool with a sport "wash". Do Not use regular "detergent". Regular "detergent" leaves a residue on the fibers that will attract moisture and hold on to odor. Use a sport "wash" to remove this residue and return the "wicking" function of the fabric. A sport "wash" will help to get the "funk" out.
I will admit I do have a bias toward Merino wool. For me, Merino wool is where the magic happens.
The Ups of Merino wool: Merino wool is more breathable than synthetics because the fibers allow for sweat vapor to pass through before sweat becomes a liquid, therefore keeping you dryer longer before the material becomes moist. And when the fabric does become wet, your body temperature remains more comfortable and regulated. For my Mount Everest and Seven Summits expeditions in the most extreme conditions in the world, having dry Base Layers next to my skin is critical for survival.
Speaking of next to skin, Merino wool is superfine, so it feels silky smooth and comfortable. And when it comes to the fiber of Merino wool, does micron size really matter ? Absolutely. There is no pulling the fleece over your eyes when you feel the difference between 18.5 micron and 20 micron fibers.
Your fingers feel; and your nose knows: Merino wool is naturally bacteria repellent.
After an intense session of vigorous activity, such as a run, a day hike, or a 30 minute HIIT, when you make a pheromonious entrance at your local establishment to enjoy your favorite post-physical potion, you can be confident your Merino will not curdle your neighbour's latte.
The Downs of Merino wool is cost; but, the Return on Investment evokes a pleasure and passion bordering on emotional elation.
So the next time you want to explore your wild side and go Natural, always bet on "baahh".