Outdoor Retailer Winter Market '06 Trends: Base layers

It's the first thing you put on, but the last thing you think of when it comes to hot, new gear. Yeah, base layers don't usually get the gloss, but they received plenty of attention at this year's trade show. Not only were there brand-new collections from market leaders, but many companies also touted new manufacturing methods.
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The SNEWS® team of editors powered by imported dark chocolate and numerous espresso shots (not necessarily in that order), zigged and zagged around the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market floor to ensure we could bring you the most comprehensive take on trends, directions, colors, styles and innovations in stories that will run until we pass out. No, each report is not complete and we apologize in advance if a company feels its product was not mentioned when it should have been. We're only covering product that stood out to us, so if you're not mentioned, our brains were either too frozen from our early morning runs to see you, we didn't think your product stood out sufficiently, or we started drinking espresso shots too early in the afternoon -- you pick one. With that in mind, here's our take on trends and new products for base layers:

It's the first thing you put on, but the last thing you think of when it comes to hot, new gear. Yeah, base layers don't usually get the gloss, but they received plenty of attention at this year's trade show. Not only were there brand-new collections from market leaders, but many companies also touted new manufacturing methods.

Eco-friendly
While the white stuff piled up in the Wasatch Range, Winter Market was covered in green. No, we didn't see a lot of green-colored underwear, but eco-friendly manufacturing was the hot topic, and Patagonia's recyclable base layers exemplified the trend toward sustainable practices.

Patagonia introduced a new Capilene line (renamed Capilene 1, 2, 3 and 4) that includes products that are at least 50-percent recyclable, and some 100-percent recyclable. With another nod to protecting Mother Nature, the underwear uses an amino-based antimicrobial rather than silver. Patagonia's new base layers generated plenty of buzz at the show, but even more interesting was the fact that the topic of "sustainability" was echoed by so many other manufacturers that it became the show's unofficial theme. The folks at Marmot told us that they're working under a new mandate that in the future, 80 percent of all underwear will be recyclable while maintaining the same high-performance standards. Like Patagonia, it will also utilize a silver-free antimicrobial.

Fighting odors
Other brands, such as Mountain Hardwear, are still embracing silver technology. The company introduced a new Extend midweight zip T ($55) that uses Milliken's Visa Endurance technology featuring silver ions to prevent bacteria from growing.

Hot Chillys showed us new base layer pieces made of fabric that's 74-percent Bio-Silver nylon, 18-percent MTF nylon and 18-percent spandex. The line not only underscores the continued popularity of antimicrobial systems, but also the influx of new "intimate" garments. Among the new Hot Chillys products is a Contour String Camisole, available in seven colors including glacier, iris and pink.

InSport announced the launch of its new Xodus fall line that includes a broad range of athletic apparel made with antimicrobial X-Static Fabric. Insport's new base layer line with X-Static is called DynamiX, which just goes to show that our industry will never tire of using the letter "X" in product lines whenever possible. DynamiX will include T-shirts ($35), long-sleeved shirts ($45), long johns and long janes ($45), briefs ($20-$24), boxers ($28), thongs ($20) and a skullcap ($15). Just one look at the line got us pretty Xcited.

Getting intimate
The trend toward intimate base layers really shows that the category for the outdoor industry is becoming more sophisticated and diverse. Snow Angel has been as fashion-forward as any brand in the category, and this year it continued to impress with lots of great colors like dusty pink, pale aqua, spice reds and fern green -- even a new espresso color. And many retailers like Snow Angel pieces that have a paisley print with lace overlay. Pamela Moyce, the owner of Snow Angel, told us that retailers responded well to new products that have an added silver antimicrobial finish. She told us that when it comes to antimicrobials, "Buyers consider this almost a prerequisite in the base layer category today."

Fashion forward
Brands known for their functional apparel, such as Ex Officio, are also greatly broadening their base layer lines, and the Ex Officio Give-N-Go underwear collection now includes 10 SKUs for women, including the popular shelf bra camisole ($34). To its credit, the company has also increased the men's collection to seven SKUs, including a Below the Belt brief.

While Swix has traditionally been associated with Nordic skiing, the company tells SNEWS® that it is trying to be more appealing to the general outdoor specialty market. This year, it broadened the color palette of its women's Tempo base layers to include Mandarin, fuchsia and "jeans," while also adding floral designs to these pieces.

For the most part, men's base layers haven't been too fashionable, and the color choices have been black, black or black. But some color has begun to sneak its way in.
Duofold's Varitherm collection includes a men's long-sleeve crew in red and men's zip mock in "plantation." A popular item has been the mock turtleneck in burnt orange.

Things get woolly
As with synthetic base layers, there was plenty of news at the show concerning wool products. Patagonia launched its new line of merino wool base layers (available in three weights), which could present serious competition for companies such as SmartWool, Icebreaker and Ibex. As with its new Capilene, Patagonia's wool line has an environmental story. Instead of using chlorine to remove the "scales" from the wool and pre-shrink it, Patagonia uses a slow washing process.

Another new entry in the U.S. wool market is Macpac. While the New Zealand company's merino products have been sold internationally for about four years, it is just now bringing the line to the United States.

Keeping our focus down under, as it were, intimate apparel has become a focal point nto only for synthetics, but wool clothing as well. There are two new Skin Nature pieces from Icebreaker, a long sleeve scoop neck crew ($54.99) and Singlet, or camisole, ($29.99). Each is available in five colors (such as blush and cocoa), and each is made in a variety of nature prints. Of course, these days, women are wearing baselayers as outerwear, and the Skin Nature tops are designed to help a woman reduce the number of pieces she packs for travel.

Market veteran SmartWool freshened up its Versawear line with new details, like squared neck lines on women's pieces and the elimination of seams in certain areas to prevent chaffing. We liked the attention to detail we saw in the new women's Spectrum hoodie ($95). For example, there is a collar separate from the hoodie so that the back of the neck remains protected from cold when the hoodie is down. There's also an all-new Threshold collection, which includes men's and women's crew shirts and zip mocks made with some of the lightest wool fabric on the market.

Ibex is another company expanding its colors for men's garments (as well as women's). Especially notable is the Zip T-Neck (in long and short sleeve) that's colored "orange root." Retailing for $65, it's also available in heather grey, blue water and, of course, black. Beyond the improved colors, Ibex spiffed up this piece with sleeve cuffs, flatlock seams and a heat-transfer label (good riddance to scratchy, annoying labels). We also dig the Norgie crew shirts for men and women ($85) in great new colors combinations. There are combinations of pumice/persimmon or pumice/plum for women, and men can get pumice combined with red maple, graphite, ultramarine or green tea.

Wool garments are also getting a boost from Malden Mills. Traditionally known for its development of synthetic fibers and fabrics, Malden introduced its first commercial use of wool in the form of a Timberland base layer, and the company says it will expand its wool products to include everything from thin base layers to thicker pieces.

Waffles you don't want to eat
Cotton waffle underwear doesn't function well or dry if it gets wet, but the stuff still has its many fans. This year, Hot Chillys introduced a synthetic version of this American classic. Its Pepper Waffle tops and bottoms for men and women are 100-percent polyester, and have a relaxed fit and flat-seam construction.

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