5 Best Performance Menswear Brands in 2020: Go From Work to Workout
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You’ve been hearing all about performance menswear, but how’s that different from what you’re already wearing?
How exactly can a shirt “perform?”
Trust me, I had these same questions a few years ago. But when all the cool-looking clothes I wanted kept mentioning they were made with performance fabrics, I figured I had to learn more about exactly what made the look and feel of these clothes so special.
In this article, I’ll break down what performance fabric is, why it’s a great choice for more than just the gym, and the top five brands giving performance fabric a good name.
What Is Performance Fabric?
Let’s start by answering a couple of questions. What do you wear to the office? And what do you wear to the gym?
Chances are, cotton is the dominant fabric in most of your clothes.
Maybe you wear something similar to me—chinos and an oxford shirt to the office, jersey shorts and a t-shirt to the gym.
Standard chinos and oxford shirts are made with cotton—so is my gym tee.
So if cotton is king, what’s with all these companies cropping up offering great, modern looking clothes touting their “performance fabrics?”
Performance Fabric vs Cotton
Performance fabrics are synthetic fibers that offer a few more perks than cotton for everyday wear.
Cotton is comfortable, but there are three main issues that keep it from being the best fabric for work and the gym:
1. Cotton Absorbs Moisture
If you’re wearing a cotton shirt and you sweat heavily, it’ll be clear. Cotton is a great absorber, but that means the moisture will be boldly displayed under your arms.
Performance fabrics wick moisture away from your skin just like cotton, but it releases the moisture rather than absorbing it. So you don’t have to worry as much about sweat stains as you go about your day.
And if you’re hitting the gym, a cotton shirt can soak up every bit of sweat and have you looking like a mess. Now, there’s a benefit to cotton’s absorbency, and that’s its cooling effect. So for summer days when you want a little extra help keeping the heat away, a soaked cotton shirt works wonders.
But for regular days at the office or in the gym, wearing a pre-soaked cotton shirt isn’t really an option.
2. Synthetic Fabrics Have More Stretch
Cotton has a decent amount of stretch, but it doesn’t come close to matching synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon.
It’s common to see cotton blends with Spandex and elastane for that extra bit of mobility. But even still, most performance menswear brands blend a super-stretch material like spandex into their synthetic fabrics, and the result is hard to beat.
Even though it’s less flexible, cotton was still the fabric of choice just because of its comfort. Synthetic fabrics have come a long way in the past twenty years, and now can match the softness of cotton.
3. Performance Fabric is More Colorfast
Cotton fades with every wash. Even high-quality fabric has a limited time where it holds on to that fresh, new look.
With synthetic fabrics like polyester or nylon, pigment sticks with the fabric for much longer. That means that awesome “new clothes” look extends far beyond what you’d get with cotton.
Also, the fabrics you’ll find in performance menswear don’t lose their shape and they don’t shrink. So if it fits well in the store of when you first try it on, it’ll fit well throughout its lifetime.
The 5 Best Performance Menswear Brands in 2020
TRUWEAR is an up-and-coming performance workwear company. Their clothes have a modern look perfect for the office but breathable and flexible enough for anything an active life might throw at you.
Our Favorite Items From TRUWEAR
The Phenom Performance Dress Shirt
The Phenom is one of the most flattering dress shirts we’ve ever tried. It’s slim through the chest and arms, and with the flexible material, it makes you look like you’ve been doing pushups all morning.
Peak Lifestyle Joggers
TRUWEAR’s joggers can withstand any workout, and they’re stylish enough to look great running Saturday afternoon errands.
Public Rec, growing masters of performance casual wear, have outfitted thousands of guys with some of the most comfortable clothes they’ve ever tried. Their unique take on performance fabrics give them a look of their own.
We’ve had a few chances to try out their clothes, and we were happy every time.
Our Favorite Items From Public Rec
The Crosstown Bomber is made with Public Rec’s unique breathable and super-stretchy material. The brand has a certain style, with hidden zippers and clean, straight blocks of hardy fabric. This bomber jacket is one of our favorites because it works in most wardrobes—from workout to Saturday night. We’re hard pressed to find anything with that versatility.
All Day Every Day Jogger
Compared to TRUWEAR’s jogger, this one has a little less security. The only zipper is in a side pocket, so if you’re carrying around a wallet, steer more toward TRUWEAR.
But the ADED joggers have a sleek, slim look that’s one of a kind. They use the same fabric as they do in their Crosstown Bomber. It’s rich and textured, while still offering all the breathability and flexibility.
Mizzen + Main got their start with dress shirts. They’ve gradually expanded and now they offer comfortable performance-fabric staples like chinos, vests, and pullovers that fit perfectly into a business-casual wardrobe.
Our Favorite Items From Mizzen + Main
The Leeward is 100% polyester. But it isn’t the same stuff your grandma wore back in the 60s. It’s hard to tell the difference between this stuff and cotton. The Leeward is so soft and flexible, it’s hard to believe it’s made with performance fabric.
The only way you can tell is with time—this shirt still looks brand new after several months and multiple washes.
We’ve been working hard to spread the word about vests.
And Mizzen + Main offers one of the best vests we’ve ever tried. It’s the perfect middle layer in winter, and a great way to fight the minor chill in spring. Plus, if you’ve got a bit of a belly, this vest has an excellent slimming effect.
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Rhone’s mission is to change the way guys dress in the gym. With fitted performance shorts and shirts, they’ve created a line of clothes that work as hard as you do when you’re getting your sweat on.
Our Favorite Items From Rhone
The Mako is an excellent all-around training short. You can pick it up lined or unlined—choose unlined if you prefer to wear compression shorts when working out. Rhone offers a 7”, 8”, and 9” version depending on how much leg you like to show.
Rhone also offers running and yoga shorts, too.
Courtside Quarter Zip
The Courtside is the perfect lightweight top to throw on when heading out for exercise. Whether you’re a runner, or you’re on your way to the gym, having something simple and breathable is crucial.
The fitted cut adds style points, and in a pinch, this quarter zip could step into a business-casual wardrobe.
Bluffworks specializes in business-casual clothes built for the modern-day jetsetter. They capitalize on the wrinkle and odor resistant nature of performance fabrics to deliver stylish and professional clothes that can fold and unpack looking like they just returned from the dry cleaner.
Our Favorite Items From Bluffworks
Gramercy Pants and Blazer
Bluffworks sells their Gramercy pants and blazer as separates. But their true power comes when you combine them.
Paired together, you have a phenomenal travel suit that rarely needs cleaning, doesn’t wrinkle, and is light and breathable.
Even better, it’s entirely made with performance fabric so you let those dance moves really fly at the next wedding you go to.
How Do You Perform?
Whether you’re looking for high-performance clothing for your morning commute, your workday, your workout, or your Sunday stroll, these brands have put their unique spins on the classics.
TRUWEAR redefines how comfortable your white-collar uniform can be. Other brands like Public Rec, Mizzen + Main, and Bluffworks all offer trim modern masterpieces that don’t follow strict divisions like work and play. Rhone just helps you look as good as possible in the gym.
With how far performance menswear has come, there’s hardly any reason to go back to cotton—not when these five brands are out there.