Base layers couple performance, style

Next season�s base layers are moving in all directions in fabrics and style � from synthetic lacy underwear to merino wool ninja suits � all designed to keep people warm and dry. Plus, technical next-to-skin performance is coupled with style ready for outerwear.
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Throughout the month of February, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 19-22. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Next season’s base layers are moving in all directions in fabrics and style — from synthetic lacy underwear to merino wool ninja suits — all designed to keep people warm and dry. And these traditional bottom layers are rising to the top, doubling as fashionable silhouettes that can be worn as stand-alone pieces when out on the town, too.

ExOfficioshowed off its new women’s Performance Lace collection (photo, right) that uses its proprietary Give-N-Go fabric (a blend of nylon and lycra treated with aegis fresh guard) in a more feminine silhouette that gives the product “some sex appeal with every day performance,” said Steve Bendzak, ExOfficio general manager.

On the technical side, 180sintroduced its QuantumHeat technology in some of its base layers, including the Radiate Mock long sleeve (MSRP $50, photo, left). QuantumHeat converts body heat, moisture and the body’s infrared rays to provide warmth, said 180s Head of Marketing and Product Amy Tankersley. The company claims superior moisture wicking that doesn’t allow the user to get chilled during wear. “What we found through a lot of our consumers is once they start to heat up and start to sweat, they get cold,” Tankersley said. Terramar is also exploring new technology with its new Hottotties, a line of women’s base layers that feature the company’s new SmartSilk, a blend of silk-based performance fabric that is quick drying, lightweight, odor fighting and thermal.

Brands like Sherpa Adventure Gear are sticking with merino wool for base layers, including its quarter-zip Khushi hoodie (MSRP $100, photo, right) and pants (MSRP $90) for both men and women. The hoodie includes a balaclava within the hood with the technical end user in mind. The AirblasterNinja Suits are also field ready. Airblaster is offering new styles for fall 2012 — the Women’s Expedition Weight (MSRP $160) and the Women’s Merino Ninja Suit (MSRP $190). The suits are designed to keep users warm and dry even if snow finds its way into waist or neck lines. Also, SmartWool introduces its 100 percent merino PhD Lightweight Windshirt designed for high aerobic activities in cold weather and additional protection from the elements and abrasion. The piece also has SmartWools “body enhancing fit” that includes contoured sleeve cuffs and side panels.

While some of the companies remain true to 100 percent merino wool for baselayers, brands like Mammut are focusing on how to improve the natural fiber’s mix with polyester, whether intertwined or separated by panels. Mammut’s polyester Symbitech fabric for base layers is used in areas where the body sweats more, said Joanna Tomasino, and merino wool is used where the body needs more warmth. Mammut introduces two weights in its Alpine Base layer collection — All Year and Warm.

Fall 2012 will see a new partnership between Duofold and Champion bringing its affordable First Layer collection (MSRP $20), 100 percent polyester, lightweight, moisture-wicking next-to-skin layer. The bottoms of the base layer set are said to have enough support that one can forego underwear altogether.

Even cotton remains as a base layer fabric. Polarmax introduces the its new proprietary performance cotton called Xtradry, promising a soft breathable, anti-microbial performance option used in its Men’s Xtrdry Zip Mock (MSRP $60, photo, left).

Technicality aside, base layers are jumping on the fashion bandwagon as consumers are increasingly looking for products that serve dual purposes. Nau will launch its M2 Hoody (MSRP $150) and M2 Tight (MSRP $98), both 100 percent merino wool pieces that can be worn alone. “We chose to create a silhouette that’s really versatile in your wardrobe,” said Peter Kallan, Nau’s creative director.

The V-Waist Legging (MSRP $50-$60) by women’s specific Snow Angel can be used as a legging on its own or as a base layer under ski pants or jeans. The low-rise waist doesn’t peek out over a woman’s jeans. The leggings come in the company’s doeskin and cybersilk fabrics.

--Ana Trujillo

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