When Adidas crafted its new line of cold-weather performance gear, the German apparel giant looked to the polar bears. Mimicking the fibers of a polar bear’s coat, Adidas created a completely new, hollow yarn.
Josh Gordon, Adidas’ innovation director, says adding warmth usually meant adding fabric weight, but nature provided a solution. The hollow hairs of the bear—just like in the new Climawarm+ fleece—help trap air in and around fur to retain warmth. These arctic animals actually face overheating more than extreme cold, since their God-given coats perform so well.
“Being hollow means more dead air space to help hold in body heat,” Gordon says. “Air is a poor conductor of heat, especially when it is not moving, so the dead air spaces hold the heat generated by the body and really slow down heat loss.” Plus, hollow fiber sure weighs less than solid fiber.
Adidas also used C-shaped fibers, something polar bears can’t boast. These extra fibers exist to wick sweat from the skin to the outer surface of the garment, allowing it to evaporate.
“Polar bears sweat like a dog by panting and breathing, so they don’t need 'C fibers,'” Gordon says. “Since humans do sweat, we balanced the need for hollow fiber and wicking fiber.”
Of course, the manmade fibers differ in one other crucial way from the bear's fur--they're softer. That way, you can enjoy the benefit of the polar bear's coat without feeling like you're wearing one. Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and technology for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.