The research breakthrough of functional fabrics has promoted the development of functional sports wear. Functional fabrics can usually obtain certain functions by improving fiber performance, changing weaving methods, and adopting special finishing processes. Athletes have many requirements for sportswear apparel during exercise. This article only selects three functional fabric functions with more research: moisture wicking, UV resistance, and waterproof and breathable, for analysis.
Moisture wicking refers to changing the properties of fabric's absorption, movement, and release of moisture by using fabric structure design or fiber modification, while ensuring that the fabric has water-absorbing and quick-drying performance. During exercise, the large amount of sweat and heat generated by athletes put their bodies in a state of high temperature and humidity. Therefore, the moisture-wicking function of sports wear is particularly important. Improving moisture-wicking functionality can generally start from three aspects: fiber materials, fabric structure, and finishing.
Currently, the widely used fiber in the functional sportswear industry is the irregular-shaped cross-section fiber. The principle of this type of fiber is to irregularize the fiber section, so that the surface of the fiber forms longitudinal grooves. The capillary absorption effect of the grooves is used to quickly absorb sweat and transfer it to the surface of the fabric for evaporation, thus keeping the skin dry. In addition to this, common moisture-wicking fibers also include hollow fibers and ultra-fine denier fibers. The hollow fiber has a fine tubular cavity in the axial direction. After the sweat is absorbed through the holes on the surface, it passes through the cavity and is converted into steam and dissipates. Ultra-fine denier fibers use capillary action to absorb sweat and keep the body surface dry.
The structure of fabric also has an impact on moisture-wicking functionality to a certain extent. Existing research indicates that increasing the continuous floating length of the fabric organization can improve the fabric's moisture-wicking properties. For example, the moisture-wicking property of satin weave fabric is better than that of the general organization. Increasing the gaps in the fabric organization can improve the fabric's breathability. For example, the breathability of pore structure organization is better than that of the general organization. However, the influence of organizational structure on fabric moisture-wicking functionality is relatively small compared with fiber materials and finishing.
Moisture wicking finishing of fabrics is usually to use moisture-wicking finishing agents, hydrophilic finishing agents, etc. after fabric weaving to make them have good moisture wicking functionality. Compared with improving fiber performance and organizational structure, the effect of finishing processing is not long-lasting. The moisture-wicking functionality of the fabric usually weakens or even disappears after multiple washings.
The harm of ultraviolet rays to the human body should not be underestimated. Some developed countries have conducted research on UV-resistant textiles earlier. In fact, there are many factors that affect the UV resistance of fabrics, such as fiber raw materials, fabric organization, color, coverage, finishing, etc. Among them, using fibers with UV-resistant properties and related finishing are two effective methods.
Many outdoor sports inevitably encounter rainy and snowy weather, such as mountaineering, cycling, rock climbing, etc. Therefore, the waterproof function of sports wear is very important. To ensure wearing comfort, the waterproof function of sports wear must be based on not blocking the release of body surface moisture. At present, there are mainly three waterproof and breathable fabrics: high-density fabric, coating fabric, and laminated composite fabric. Among them, laminated composite fabric is the most technologically advanced and promising.
Laminated composite fabric is a type of fabric that uses laminating technology to combine ordinary fabrics and breathable waterproof layers into one. The most popular waterproof and breathable fabric currently is film composite. The most common way is to use polyurethane (PU) film and fabric composite.