Pricey 'performance' clothes do their job


"I simply can't believe that the world needs a $50 T-shirt," said my editor, forever banning reviews of "high-tech" clothing in this column. Well, in the eight years since that conversation, high-tech's gone higher and attitudes have mellowed. "Performance" clothes for sports and fitness are everywhere, and a few of them actually work. A few examples are below — including a $99.95 T-shirt.

Stand up straight

AlignMed Posture Shirt: Polyester-spandex compression shirt designed to improve your posture and reduce muscle fatigue by pulling and tilting kyphotic (rounded-forward) shoulders back into a natural upright position. The design uses fabric panels along the spine and from the upper pectorals to the bottom of the scapula (the shoulder blade) to effect the change. Use over time theoretically retrains muscles to hold that position.

Likes: The shirt puts a noticeable rearward tug on the shoulders that seems to flatten down your shoulder blades, forcing you to stand taller. But though I definitely felt the pressure, it's very comfortable, probably because my torso was now in a more natural position. Since good posture is a key to good health, this shirt, a lower-end version of the company's Velcro-strapped S3 Brace ($350), is a good idea. It can be worn alone during workouts or underneath street clothing, and paired with paneled "posture" tights ($190), is designed to relieve weight on the injury-prone medial side of the knee.

Dislikes: My shirt was a bit tight under my armpits.

Price: $99.95. (800) 916-2544;

Commuter suiter

Outlier 4Season OG pants and Blazed Cotton Pivot Sleeve Shirt: Commuter bike clothing designed to allow a wide range of motion that looks good enough to wear all day. The pants use stretchable, breathable, dirt- and water-resistant Schoeller Dryskin Extreme fabric, a mix of natural fibers. The shirt's 100% cotton fibers have a "NanoSphere" treatment designed to reduce wrinkles and keep moisture away.

Likes: The pants work great, are quite comfortable and look good enough for informal work environments. The expensive Schoeller material has a flexibility that does not impede pedaling motion and positioning, a breathability that minimizes sweating and superb durability. The shirt is stylish and comfy, with a hooded pocket that prevents small objects from spilling out and extra volume in the shoulder blades to allow unencumbered riding in the standard lean-forward cycling position. As advertised, it does not wrinkle easily and seems to soak up less sweat than cotton would.

Dislikes: At these prices, you don't want to spill coffee on them.

Price: $180 (pants), $165 (shirt). (347) 688-5435;

Quicker zipper-offer

REI Sahara Convertible Pants with No-Sit Zips: The only hiking pant you can change from long-leg to short-leg without having to remove your shoes first.

Likes: Due to an amazing, never-before-used technology — a vertical zipper — the zip-off lower legs zip off much faster. No need to sit down on a rock and take your shoes off. It saves a lot of time, especially if you have high-top boots and are carrying a pack.

Dislikes: None.

Price: $59.50. (800) 426-4840;

Light supertight

CW-X Revolution Tight: Full-leg athletic tight with variable-stretch muscle support panels that use a secret new process to cut 14% off the weight of the normal support tight by CW-X, which pioneered this type of product.

Likes: The lighter weight makes it more comfortable than the standard CW-X, which is made of a three-layer sandwich of Coolmax and polyurethane. The proprietary process uses a laser to burn off portions of the top layer where it is not needed.

Dislikes: You may have to be a sponsored Olympic-caliber athlete to justify spending an extra $100 over the regular CW-X tight to reduce its weight by 14%.

Price: $195. (212) 743-9673;

Wallack is the co-author of "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100."

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