Explore the rebirth of New Orleans.
JEFFREY MACMILLAN FOR USN&WR (5)
Posted Sunday, June 25, 2006
After a week of workouts, any spot within sniffing distance of my laundry basket is a dangerous place to be. When I run, I do not glow; I sweat, and that sweat is fertile ground for stinky bacteria. Some of the synthetic fabrics that have replaced cotton in recent years wick away sweat for a more pleasant run but also hang on to odor. Athletic clothing makers are now using other fabrics and materials to beat the reek. While the promise of sweeter-smelling clothes is not driving sales, it's a nice extra, says Jerry Macari, owner of Urban Athletics, which has two stores in Manhattan.
Head: Patagonia's Airius running hat ($25, patagonia.com) was so light that subsequent running hats felt they were weighing me down. After three straight wearings, no odors wafted down to my nose; the fabric on the billed cap includes ceramic particles, which help resist bacteria. But I found the floppy brim awkward-looking, and while my head isn't particularly small, a light wind blew the cap off my head.
Body: Brooks HVAC Pulse Seamless long-sleeved shirt($98, brooksrunning.com) is designed to keep heat in or let it out as needed and is infused with silver particles, which, like most metals, help resist odor. (Silver can be toxic in large quantities, but clothing contains tiny amounts--the concern is more about the metal leaching into the water supply during manufacturing, says Natalia Allen, whose firm, Design Perfect Futures, specializes in high-tech textiles.) The jersey keeps a body warm in winter and doesn't need to be washed after each outing. Brooks says the shirt will nicely regulate body temp in warm weather. I'd prefer a breeze, however wan, on my arms but love the garment for a bike ride or a summer run in a cooler clime.
Wool does the trick, too--it naturally repels water, which is where stinky bacteria lodge. (That's the reason it was used to make the first bathing suits, Allen says.) And merino wool, regarded as the finest, softest wool of all, is now being woven into odor-resistant exercise garb. My Smartwool T-shirt ($57.50, smartwool.com) didn't turn transparent and heavy with sweat as my cotton T's do. It didn't smell afterward and was cute enough to pass as streetwear.
A male colleague did his part with wool as well. In different tests, a sweaty morning run dampened his Smartwool and Ibex T's (though not to the point of clamminess). Then he sat in his air-conditioned office and waited. Within 90 minutes, his body heat dried each T to perfection. When he sniffed the shirt pits (the things we do for science), they smelled not of BO but of lanolin--the oil in wool responsible for the homey aroma of damp wool rugs (and of moist sheep). The silky Ibex Qu T ($79, ibexwear.com) is fitted enough for casual Friday (he wore it all day after a 7-mile run, and nobody suspected a thing). Smartwool's Swoop T($67.50) is a tad less tailored. Ibex also sells a merino polo and a short-sleeved "BBQ" shirt that buttons down the front ($89 and $95, respectively). The best thing, next to the nonsmelliness, is the wow factor--when he told folks he was wearing wool, skeptics touched his shirt as if he were a demigod.
Bottoms: Adidas adiStar shorts ($45, shopadidas.com) were, in a word, amazing. In my regular running shorts, I hesitate to go straight to the deli after a long run lest I clear the joint; after five runs, these smelled fine. They, too, rely on silver to fight odor.
Feet: I wore Brooks HVAC Glycerin socks ($18) five times in a row--including the biking and running legs of a triathlon (and the ride home in my luggage). The brightly hued socks smelled, if not like a rose, at least neutral. But I preferred the subtle cream of the Smartwool socks ($14), which kept the stink at bay while matching my outfit. How sweet for my feet.
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