There’s a lot of hype around graphic sweatpants, the high-tech versions of the usual cheap stuff that don’t actually sweat.
Is this stuff really sweatproof?
And if so, how do you keep them cool?
And what are the best sweatpants?
These are the questions I’m trying to answer as I spend a few days in London, in the capital’s plush, well-lit, and cosy Central Park.
I arrive at Central Park by train and get on a lift with my friend, Paul, a designer and designer-in-residence.
“I think you need to make a choice of what kind of clothes to wear,” he tells me as we walk into the park.
“There are lots of different kinds of clothes.”
We start with a pair of casual shorts, the sort that will be used for casual or afternoon wear.
Paul is keen to explain that this is a much more expensive option than the standard cotton-blend shorts.
“You can buy a pair for $15.
But what you’re buying is a sweatpants,” he explains.
“They’re actually made of synthetic fabrics and they’re super durable.”
“And they’re not really that sweatproof,” I add.
Paul says that it’s because there’s no air-tight fabric inside.
“The sweat that is trapped in the fabric is actually a gel,” he says.
“It is a gel that is really soft and it’s not really sweat.”
Paul’s explanation sounds pretty straightforward.
“But,” I point out, “why do you need that gel?
Why would you need it?”
“You need to be able to breathe through the fabric,” he replies.
“So if you have a good breathing through the mesh, it’s going to be much easier to breathe.”
A couple of seconds later, we are walking through a series of gardens, with lots of flowers.
One of the most memorable things about Central Park is the fact that it seems to have been designed by a human mind.
It’s a huge, beautiful park that seems to float by in space.
But, if you’re a designer, this park is not for you.
The park is for human designers, who have to create their own versions of it, and these designer versions are expensive.
Paul says that if you can afford a pair, it would be worth it to spend more time there.
So, we head into a series for a group of designer friends.
Paul shows me a pair that he says is made of cotton-bale cloth.
He has made some other versions of this cloth in the past.
I say, “What are those?”
Paul explains that these are the ones he has worn to the park and to work.
“We’re not going to wear them in public because they’re too hard to breathe,” he laughs.
“These are the things that are really comfortable.”
So what are these sweatpants made of?
“We have a cotton-knit mesh fabric that we sew on to the outside,” Paul says.
It’s made of wool and cotton, which are both great fabrics for sweating.
“I love wool, it gives me a lot more warmth,” he adds.
The fabric is then dyed white, and then it’s sewn onto the inside.
Paul explains that it has the ability to trap air.
When I ask him about the air trapped in this fabric, he says, “It’s a gel, it really absorbs air.”
He continues, “We don’t want it to absorb too much.
It has a low air-volume and then you can breathe through it.”
I tell him that I think I’ve seen a lot about how the gel inside of a sweatband is made, but I don’t think I really understand what it is.
This is what I find so interesting about the fabric: it has a gel inside, which is then able to absorb air.
“Well, we have a lot to do with it,” Paul explains.
He explains that the gel is actually just a kind of water that is embedded in the material, which allows it to become flexible.
And, in fact, the gel does have some properties that make it really good at trapping air.
When you put it on, you get a pressure effect.
“Basically, the pressure is created by the fabric rubbing against the air,” he continues.
“And that pressure is then released through the inside of the fabric.”
The pressure is the result of the gel’s ability to absorb the air, and so, as Paul says, it is able to trap more air than a traditional cotton-wool pair.
There are two main ways that a sweatshirt can trap air, Paul explains: by creating a cushion inside it, or by creating some sort of air-gap. We have