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Performance Wear Finally Goes to Work

Ever since the NikeFit system debuted in 1991, athletic wear has boasted a seemingly endless number of innovations—wicking, stabilizing, healing, disinfecting, deodorizing—and probably performing dozens of other quiet operations properly understood only by the engineers and kinesiologists who dream them up. But with the exception of wrinkle-free button-downs, the high-tech benefits of workout gear haven’t spread to clothing you would actually wear to work or on a date. Good news: All of that is now changing.

One significant transformation in American behavior has helped precipitate the trend: We’re biking to work more. Maybe it’s the spike in gas prices, or greater environmental awareness, or just the desire to integrate exercise into daily life (rather than tacking it on like a time-sapping chore), but bike commuting in the US has doubled since 2005. All of a sudden, we need clothing that’s appropriate for the office but cut for biking comfort and capable of resisting grease, mud, sweat, and chain and pedal snags.

In response, suits now stretch, vents are everywhere, classic chinos tout odor-repelling properties, and dress shirts maximize quick cooling and drying. There’s even a certain caché to these clothes, an insider wink that comes from a hidden reflective swatch revealed by a cuffed pant leg.

A few of our favorites brands and pieces the epitomize the trend: Outlier’s slim-silhouetted performance wear, the Levi’s Commuter Series, The Madison Bike Blazer from Canvas Lands’ End, and the Atmos Base Layer from Ministry of Supply.

Darren Reidy

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