Dressing for Hot: How a Warming Planet Is Changing What We Wear
Some cultures in historically hot climates, such as in North Africa and South Asia, have instructive traditions for dressing in heat, like loose fitting clothes or covering much of the body. Though recently, designers around the world have been trying to solve the heat problem with technology.
Among the most affordable examples is Uniqlo’s AIRism T-shirt ($15), which comes in a polyester-and-spandex version, and another made of 71 percent cotton, mixed with 25 percent polyester and 4 percent spandex.
The polyester-spandex version is clingy, creating a sensation uncomfortably close to wrapping one’s upper body in Saran wrap. (Uniqlo describes the texture as “sleek.”) The cotton version, by contrast, feels pleasant at first, creating an initial cooling effect. But when worn in the heat, it sticks to the skin, producing a sensation akin to cold sweats. A spokesman for Uniqlo said the shirt had been positively received by customers.
Slightly higher up the cost curve, Dickies’ Cooling Temp-iQ T-shirt ($20), a 50-50 blend of cotton and polyester, promises “INSTANT COOLING SENSATION.” A spokesman for the company said it employed “an advanced body temperature technology that is designed to either cool or warm in response to your body’s signals.” But the garment, though comfortable against the skin, created no perceptible cooling sensation, instant or otherwise.
One shirt that had a noticeably cooling effect was made by LifeLabs, a company that emerged from a research lab at Stanford University. Its $49 CoolLife Tee is made from polyethylene, the same polymer used in plastic bags. It produced a cool feeling, not unlike walking barefoot on a tile floor.
Computerized Knitting and Spacesuits
For a similar price, Ministry of Supply, a company in Boston founded by former Massachusetts Institute of Technology students, sells the Atlas Tee ($48). The shirt is constructed using computerized knitting, a technology similar to 3-D printing that makes it possible to create additional space between the strands of material, according to Gihan Amarasiriwardena, the company’s co-founder and president.