When is compression wear not compression wear?
That is the question that Jamie Hunt, co-founder of Australian brand 2XU, wants people to ask. As a company they have invested heavily in the science behind their compression wear and Jamie feels that a lot of customers don’t know the difference between that and what are basically base layers.
And with customers not using the best compression wear they can find they often don’t feel the benefits and become disillusioned with the category.
2XU was founded in 2005 by Jamie, Aidan Clarke and Clyde Davenport, in Melbourne, and now has official alliances with Rowing Australia, the Australian Paralympic Committee, United States Ski and Snowboard Association, the Australian Institute of Sport, Saracens and British Hockey, to name a few.
Jamie said: “When we first started 2XU we went in to it basically saying we just want to use the best fabrics and the world’s best knowledge and we are going to be a high end, high performance sportswear company.
“When we first started we looked at triathlon, cycle and run, basically our foundation collection in 2005.
But halfway through the year we came across this thing called compression, we never started out to be a compression company. I kind of thought – compression what a whole load of BS – but my business partner had worn it and and he goes ‘I think this actually works’.
“I then spent the next year researching it, buying the brands that were out in those days, looking into it, looking at the science of it and the science based around it. We looked into the fabrics they were using and discovered that the products they were using probably weren’t the best.
They were using more like swimwear fabric and making it into what they called compression.
“So I did a lot of work with a bunch of medical companies and developed whole new fabrics that were compression fabrics but designed for sport.
“It came to market and immediately gained traction, our customers could definitely feel the difference between our compression and our competitors’ compression, plus we were more flexible, more breathable, and it clearly was made for sport.”
But it hasn’t been an easy journey for 2XU to get their message across and make compression wear universally accepted.
Jamie added: “It’s been a difficult road with regards to the way people view compression. Unfortunately it probably took us, and some other brands, a few years to make compression be universally accepted that it actually does work. Then so many brands came out with what they called compression but it really wasn’t.
“The consumer thinks it’s compression and they might wear it from another company and it doesn’t actually help them and they then dismiss the entire category. That’s probably been the hardest thing for us being the category leader, the amount of research that we do and our technology is so much more advanced then what most other competitors have that they bring the whole category down.
“Some of the stuff out there is basically a base layer. For true compression there’s only a couple of companies that actually genuinely do it properly. Fighting that has been our hardest thing over the last 12 years.”
Jamie believes that creating an industry standard would go a long way to help people understand what true compression wear is all about.
He added: “We tried to establish some kind of certification procedure, with things like having certified mmHg levels but other companies just don’t want to know about it. We genuinely want to establish some kind of credible measurement system that you have to pass to physically use the word compression. But it is so hard to get it done and other brands don’t seem to be keen on doing it.
“You’ve even got compression coming out of these mass fashion brands now. We spent a million dollars on research and technology last year and it just makes a mockery of what we have spent.
“They’re not fit for purpose, the pressure they are getting is not at a level that you can really get positive affects out of it.
“We are trying to get an industry standard but we have to be seen as doing it as unbiased towards our company. Ultimately we don’t care who heads it up we just essentially want it put in place. We know in our lab in Australia we have all the measuring devices. We know we measure up to the standards, even the medical hosiery standards, and I would say that right now less than ten per cent probably would out there.”
Looking to the future 2XU want to keep their products moving forwards and advance the science of their brand.
Jame said: “As a company in general, obviously compression is a very important part and we feel we definitely have a product which is the industry leader. Our compression is the strongest as well as being the lightest and that’s one thing we are really proud of.
“Anyone can make a heavyweight powerful fabric but to make it light and powerful is where we actually lead the market. We are always advancing our patents.
“The problem you have with light and run wear is that every company are saying their garments have moisture management. Technically every synthetic fabric will offer moisture management of some kind. So we are currently in the middle of a two-year study looking at the affect between fabric and the body.
“The old moisture management of a fabric is as one measurement. We have been looking at four different dynamics between the atmosphere, the fabric and the skin.
We actually want to create a new index of core fabrics, whether it be for compression, run tops, whatever, that basically classifies them into a particular category.
“This study is going to be ground-breaking research and we have already found out so much information. It’s even changed the way we have thought about fabrics and in some instances some things that we thought were common knowledge have turned things on their heads.
“So we’re basically looking at fabrics in general and how that applies to any sport.
“So in about 12 months we will publish our first paper on that and we would love to make that into an industry standard way of measuring performance fabrics because just a normal mmHg measurement isn’t enough and doesn’t tell enough about a fabric.
“If we want to become a global powerhouse in the sporting apparel industry we are not going to do it by offering products like everybody else, we have got to be unique and be different.”