Technology is always moving forward, of course, but I never thought that fabric and clothing technology had much further to go. Fashion, yes; technology, no. GoreTex® was the miracle fabric technology of my lifetime, in my mind, and I thought we were actually going backwards to natural fabrics like wool that had been displaced by synthetics for so long. Also, take the problem of insulation and heat retention. I thought that the final word on the subject was that insulation was simply a function of trapped air, that a given amount of loft provided a given amount of insulation, and that was that. If you wanted to be warmer, you had to trap more air next to your skin, either by eliminating drafts or increasing loft. Turns out I was wrong about that.
Under Armour has been pushing fabric technology for some time now, and the UA innovations have implications for law enforcement like they do for any other outdoors activity. Here let’s take a look at three problems that Under Armour has solved for us, one through design and two with innovative fabric technologies.
ColdGear® Let’s start with the problem of heat retention. The conventional wisdom is as I outlined above. But if you recall from high school, heat is transferred in one of three ways: convection, conduction, and radiation. When you eliminate drafts, you are cutting down on convective heat loss. When you add trapped air around your body (loft), you are reducing conducted heat loss. But UA’s ColdGear infrared technology traps radiated heat, without adding weight or bulk. It works on the same principle as the ceramic coatings on military planes that absorb infrared emissions. On the inside of a ColdGear garment you’ll see a pattern of lines that’s really the ceramic ColdGear material which absorbs and stores your body heat.
Under Armor has incorporated GoldGear technology into a number of products. I was intrigued by the UA Tac ¼ zip, which is basically a light weight shell that’s wind and water resistant. I wanted to find out if this shell, which is lighter and thinner than a heavy flannel shirt, could really keep me warm. Winter in New England obliged, and we were blessed with a snowstorm and days in the 20s shortly after it arrived. I wore the ¼ zip out during the storm instead of a 300-weight fleece-lined nylon jacket, both while shoveling and while just walking. I was genuinely surprised at how warm it kept me – I’d guess it came it at about 70% of the warmth of the much thicker jacket. I would have really liked to have had this pullover to wear under my parka when I was doing those long, cold, bone-chilling, night-time surveillances with my local drug task force. Seriously – those sucked!
Under Armour has incorporated ColdGear technology into a number of their products, providing you with a choice of styles, materials, and fit options that will keep you warmer than you would think they could.
Charged Cotton This may seem like a nit-picky little problem, but I guarantee you that every cop (and civilian) who needs to carry a concealed gun on a hot summer day has tried to figure out a solution. Yes, you can go to a small gun carried in a pocket, and you can carry a gun IWB under a un-tucked shirt or jersey. Both of these methods are less familiar and less desirable for most people than carrying the gun on your hip where you are used to having it, but then you have to figure out how to conceal it. A vest screams “gun”, and wearing an unbuttoned shirt over a regular t-shirt is usually too hot. A solution is to wear a sleeveless t-shirt under an unbuttoned short-sleeve summer shirt. However, a synthetic sleeveless T looks weird under a shirt, while an all-cotton sleeveless T will quickly become saturated with sweat.
Enter UA’s Charged Cotton®, a cotton blend that feels and looks like cotton, but that wicks moisture like a synthetic. It won’t look strange under an open shirt, but it will wick away your sweat and not get saturated. A sleeveless version will also be reasonably cool under a light open shirt. I’ve used UA’s Charged Cotton t-shirts as my gym shirts for some time – they don’t get full of static in the winter like a synthetic T does, yet they stay dry. Using a Charged Cotton sleeveless T under a light-weight open shirt to conceal and carry a regular gun on those hot summer days is one more way that life is better with (fabric) technology.
SOAS Storm Hoody The problem solved here is that of having a gun in your hand without displaying it. We’ve all been required to put ourselves into dicey situations in which we know that we wouldn’t have time to access and draw our gun if things suddenly went sour. You can’t avoid these if you do narcotics or undercover work. I wound up carrying a small .32 in my front pocket that I could keep my hand on after I once got way too uncomfortable in one of those situations. The SOAS Hoody is a high-quality 80/20 composition brushed fleece-lined sweatshirt hoody with a zipper in the back (hidden) side of the kangaroo pocket. With your hands in the pocket and the zipper open, you can covertly access a gun carried appendix style. Thus you can appear to be totally casual while actually having your hand on the gun, making for an astonishingly fast presentation. With the zipper closed, you can stow items in the pocket, as normal. It’s also water resistant, so it’s a versatile outer garment. This is a trick item that you need when you do!