In order to look, perform, and feel your best
when participating in any sports activity, it is important
to choose your clothing wisely. Always look for
fabrics that will keep your body cool and dry. Whenever
you participate in outdoor activities and it is dark, or
when you will be near motor vehicles, cyclists, or
other individuals, it is smart to wear brightly colored
or reflective clothing which will make you more
visible. Proper sizing on all athletic garments is
essential. Clothing that is too tight can restrict your body's
range of motion and interfere with performance. It is
also important to wear clothes that will keep your
muscles warm and ready to perform.
Common Fabrics Found In Athletic Apparel
- Cotton:A very comfortable, soft fabric
that breathes fairly well and does a good job of drawing moisture away from the body. It
is commonly found in sports apparel of all kinds.
- Nylon:Also known as Antron®, nylon is
a synthetic, durable fiber that has a shiny appearance. Nylon holds colors longer than most
other fabrics. Combined with Lycra®, it is an
extremely popular fiber.
- Spandex®:Also known as Lycra®. An
elastic fiber that can stretch greatly without tearing
and return to its original shape. It is often mixed
with other fibers to make a very resilient and
- Supplex®:Very lightweight, strong and
durable fabric which feels and looks a lot like cotton.
It also dries quickly and distributes moisture throughout the garment. This prevents
the "spotting" caused by heavy perspiration
which occurs in cotton fabrics.
- Gore-Tex®:A waterproof, windproof fabric
that is very breathable. A layer of Gore-Tex®
is normally placed over other types of material to create a garment.
- Coolmax®: This was designed to keep the
user dry and cool. It is soft, yet retains 14 times
less moisture than cotton. It will not stick or cling
to the skin.
- Tactel®:Soft, durable fabric that is breathable
and holds colors extremely well.
- Aquator®:A mixture of cotton and Tactel®.
It does an excellent job of keeping the body dry.
Types of Athletic Apparel
- Athletic supporters: Commonly referred
to as jock straps, they provide support to the male
private parts. Some athletes always wear them during
competition, while others feel that a cotton brief is
sufficient. Some athletic supporters have a pouch sewn in them
in which to place a rigid groin protector cup.
- Bicycling jerseys: If you are a serious
cyclist, a cycling jersey is recommended. Jerseys that stretch
in more than one direction will give the best fit. On
hot days pick a lighter colored jersey, and on cool days
pick a darker one. The best jerseys are made from
Nylon/Lycra®, Supplex/Lycra®, Coolmax®, and ESP®.
These materials are best at keeping the body cool and
dry. The fit of the jersey should be snug as you sit in
your riding position on your bike.
- Bicycle shorts: These shorts are
mandatory for anyone who spends a lot of time cycling. They
offer cushioning, prevent chafing, and offer protection
from the sun's harmful rays. True cycling shorts have a
liner in the crotch. Shorts for men are made differently
than shorts for womenespecially the linersso be sure
to check the tag. Shorts made from nylon and Lycra®
are most common. Make sure the fabric is breathable.
Look for shorts that have flat drawstrings that won't cut
into your body like round ones and that don't have a
seam running down the middle of the liner.
- Briefs: Briefs are close fitting, lightweight,
high-cut underpants. For both sexes, briefs should be
made of fabric that is breathable, comfortable, and
non-binding. Cotton briefs are ideal for most
individuals. High-cut briefs allow the maximum amount of
movement. Briefs offer much better support for men than
do boxer shorts.
- Compression shorts: Compression shorts
are snug fitting shorts normally made from Lycra®.
They are designed to help warm the muscles quickly
and keep them warm longer. They may help prevent
muscle injuries. Compression shorts are often worn
beneath other shorts.
- Foul-weather athletic
suits: Should be lightweight, breathable, waterproof (or at least
water resistant), and should not restrict your
movement. Look for garments made with materials like
Gore-Tex®, Thintech®, or Isofilm®. These materials
are waterproof, breathable, and wind resistant.
- Golf gloves: Most golfers wear a golf glove
on their non-dominant hand while they are playing.
A golf glove can provide a better grip and prevent
blisters from forming on the hands. Golf gloves are
commonly made of leather or synthetic leather. They
normally have an adjustable velcro® closure. Make
sure that your golf glove fits properly. It should not
bunch and there should not be too much extra room at the
finger tips. It also should not be extremely tight.
After using a golf glove, lay it out flat so it can dry this
way. This will make your glove keep its shape better,
stay softer longer, and prolong its life.
- Golf shirts: Golf shirts should be
comfortable and allow lots of freedom of movement. Many
golf clubs have dress codes for golfers. The normal
golf shirt that will pass muster at nearly every course is
a short sleeve, pullover collared shirt. The sleeves on
a golf shirt should be a little longer than on a normal
polo shirt. This gives the golfer more protection from
the sun and added comfort. If your shirt has ribbing on
the bottom of the sleeves, make sure that it is not so
tight that it could restrict your swing. Pick fabrics that
tend to draw perspiration away from the body. Cotton is
a favorite fabric among golfers.
- Golf slacks: Golf slacks are worn by many
male golfers at golf clubs around the country. Slacks must
be comfortable and non-restricting. Make sure your
pants are not too tight or your swing may be restricted. It
is often necessary to have golf pants tailored so they
fit properly. Proper tailoring of your pants will not
only make you look better, but will also allow you to
perform your best.
- Hats: Hats offer protection from the sun's
harmful rays. Hats with long bills on them like baseball
caps shield the eyes and face from the sun. Hats can
also keep the body cool on hot days. Lightly colored
hats are best for hot days. Dark hats are better for
cooler days. On hot days, choose hats that have nylon
mesh panels, or are made of materials which breathe
easily like Supplex®, to keep the head dry and cool.
Adjustable hats are usually best because they can be
adjusted so they won't fall off during movement.
- Headbands and
wristbands: Many athletes like to use headbands to keep perspiration from
rolling down their forehead and into their eyes.
Wristbands keep the hands dry by absorbing perspiration
which rolls down the arms. Both are commonly made out
of soft cotton which does a good job of absorbing
perspiration. Many athletes who play racquet sports
use wristbands to keep their hands and the grips on
their racquets dry. It may be necessary to change
headbands or wristbands if they become saturated with
perspiration during an activity.
- Leotards: Various materials are used to
make leotards including Spandex®, nylon, cotton,
Tactel®, Supplex®, Coolmax®, and Dryline®. Proper fit is
important for maximum performance and appearance. Sizes from different manufacturers often vary, so
try on several different leotards before buying one
to decide which one fits and looks the best. A
properly sized leotard will not ride up in the front or the rear and
will not droop or sag anywhere. The shoulder
straps should be loose enough to place your thumbs
beneath. If you can't do this, then you need a larger size. If
the leotard has a bra built in, make sure that you fill it
out properly. Look for leotards that have flat neat seams
in them and that have good recovery
propertiesmeaning that they maintain their shape even after
Choosing a leotard that will make
you look your best: Dark colors seem to recede. So black, burgundy, blue, and other dark colors will
make the body look thinner. Outfits of all one color will
also have a slimming effect. To minimize the hips,
thighs, and waist, avoid tight belts or other elastics that
can create bulges. Also, a leotard with high-cut legs
will make the legs look longer and the thighs look
thinner. A high leg and a high waist on a leotard can have
a slimming effect on the waist. To make a large chest
look smaller, choose tops that have higher necks and
that cover the chest. Also, detail at or below the waist
will focus attention at other areas. To make a smaller
chest appear larger, choose a top with bright colors, or
even a bustier.
- Running shorts: Should be made from
lightweight, non-chafing, breathable fabrics. Some
examples include: Spandex®, nylon, Supplex®, and
Coolmax®. Cotton is not suggested because it traps moisture in
the fabric next to the skin. Some running shorts come
with briefs already sewn into them. In this case,
many people find that other briefs and athletic supporters
are not necessary. Shorts should be relatively short
in length, to prevent restriction of leg movement and
to prevent chafing of the inner thighs. It is also a
good idea to buy brightly colored shorts which will
make you more visible to motorists. Wearing brightly
colored, or even reflective, shorts and other clothing
is especially important when running at night, dawn,
- Running pants: If there is foul weather you
will probably want to wear some waterproof or
water resistant running pants. Choose light, breathable
fabrics like Gore-Tex®, Tactel®, and Thintech®.
Pants with a drawstring and elastic at the waist normally
fit the best. Also, look for pants that have at least a ten
inch zipper on the pants legs so you can put them on
and take them off without removing your shoes.
- Running tights: Tights are close fitting
garments worn on the legs. They keep the leg
muscles warm and may help to prevent injuries.
Common materials found in tights are cotton, nylon,
polypropylene, Supplex®, and Coolmax®. Tights made
with polypropylene and Thermax® are best for very
cold conditions. For added comfort, some tights have liners
in the crotch to draw moisture away from the
body. Running tights are available in a wide variety of
colors and patterns to suit any taste. For optimum
comfort and fit make sure the tights have elastic and a
flat drawstring at the waist so they will not dig into
your skin. Tights that have stirrups or elastic on the
bottoms are best since they will prevent the legs of the
tights from continually rising up on your legs while you
- Socks: Socks are very important pieces of
sports apparel which are often overlooked. Some
athletes prefer thick socks and others prefer thin ones;
sock thickness is a matter of personal preference.
Some athletes like the reduced weight of a thinner
sock; while others prefer the added cushioning and
durability of a thicker sock. All socks should keep the feet
dry and cool by drawing moisture away from the
foot. They should also provide some cushioning effect
and prevent chafing between the foot and the shoe. If
you are prone to getting blisters on your feet, try
wearing two pairs of socks. This may help prevent
blisters. Socks made from cotton, Coolmax®, and Tactel®
are best. They will keep your feet dry and cool.
- Sports bras: All women should wear a
sports bra when participating in physically demanding
activities. They provide extra support and prevent
the breasts from losing their elasticity and sagging.
Avoid bras with plastic or metal snaps that can dig into
your body during a workout. Also, look for bras that
have wider shoulder straps that won't cut into your
shoulders and back. Ventilated panels are a nice
feature since they prevent perspiration from being trapped
in the clothing. A sports bra with an athletic,
y-back design will allow the maximum amount of
movement in the upper body.
- Sweats: These garments are commonly made
of cotton or polyester. They are typically very soft
and fairly warm, although somewhat heavy. Cotton
sweats do a decent job of drawing moisture away from
the body, but they tend to trap it in the garment.
During intense exercise this can result in a heavy, wet
sweatshirt or sweatpants.
- Swimcaps: Swimcaps are normally made
from rubber. They can protect your hair from chlorine
and keep it dry and out of your eyes. They also
improve performance by reducing drag. Some pools
- Swimsuits: Performance swimsuits should
be sleek and well-fitted. They should be made of
materials such as nylon or spandex® that stretch and do
not absorb water. Normally, competitive female
swimmers will wear a one piece suit and male
swimmers will wear a brief. When selecting a new performance
suit, make sure it is not too tight or it will restrict
your movement. If the suit rides up in the front or rear, or
is too tight across the chest, switch to a larger size, or
to a different style or brand of suit.
Non-competitive (recreational) swimsuits
should also be comfortable and fit well. They are available
in an endless array of styles and colors. It is smart to
pick swimsuits that do not absorb water and thus dry
more quickly. Suits which contain nylon will keep
their shape and color longer than suits made from
many other materials.
Picking a suit to flatter your
body: Choosing the right suit can minimize any features
you do not particularly like and emphasize the
features which you consider to be your strong points. To
minimize hips and thighs, avoid suits with belts or
elastics in these areas which can create bulges. High-cut
sides will cause thighs to appear longer and thinner.
To minimize your waistline, once again, avoid belts
and elastics that can create bulges. Diagonal stripes
and shirring (fabric gathered at the sides of the suit)
will cause attention to shift away from the waistline.
To divert attention from a large chest, choose suits
with ruffles or draping at the bustline or that cover the
chest entirely. To enhance a smaller chest, pick suits
that focus attention on the bust with things like
shirring, bright colors, and patterns. To make legs appear
longer, choose high-cut suits.
- T-shirts: Many recreational athletes wear
T-shirts when they are exercising or participating
in different types of sports and activities. These shirts
are usually made mostly from cotton. T-shirts are
very comfortable, affordable, and durable garments.
The cotton in most T-shirts draws moisture away from
the skin quite effectively. When participating in
intense activity, don't wear T-shirts that have large, painted
or embroidered designs on them. These logos can
trap perspiration on the skin instead of drawing it into
the shirt and allowing it to evaporate.
- Tennis shirts: The typical tennis shirt is
short sleeve and collared. Tennis shirts should not
restrict the mobility of the upper body. They should keep
the body cool and dry. White or lightly colored shirts
are best on hot days. Remember, some clubs require
that tennis shirts and outfits be predominantly white
- Tennis shorts: These garments are
normally short to allow maximum leg mobility. They are
often made from cotton and polyester. Tennis shorts
should have a pocket that can hold an extra tennis ball.