The shirt that claims to keep commuters on bikes dry on the way to work
By Matt McFarland
WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) — I wanted to make a good impression at my new job, so I showed up to work wearing a shirt with 12 holes in it.
OK, let me explain. The shirt’s holes — about the size of a pencil point — are by design, laser-cut and strategically placed in the armpits to provide ventilation. The button-down shirt is the flagship item of Ministry of Supply, a clothing company that MIT grads started in 2012 to provide work clothes to people with active lifestyles.
As someone who bikes to work, the promise of Ministry of Supply’s breathable fabrics was appealing. My new bike commute is slightly longer, providing more time to sweat through a shirt before I’ve even sat down at my desk.
So one day last week, I tested out a shirt, pants and socks from Ministry of Supply. Here’s how it went:
7:30 a.m.: I walk downstairs wearing the new get-up.
“Your pants look funny,” my wife blurts out with a chuckle.
There is some thing unique about them. They have a certain gleam. The waist isn’t elastic, but if you tug on the fabric you can feel it stretch. Cofounder Gihan Amarasiriwardena once set a world record for the fastest half-marathon in a suit while wearing the company’s gear.
8:30 a.m.: I wheel my bike outside and hop on. I’m three miles from the CNN newsroom. For now, I’m as dry as can be. But it’s 74 degrees, humid and late June in D.C., so this could get ugly.
8:35 a.m.: Almost immediately, I’m struck by the refreshing sensation of wearing fabrics that are built to breathe. It’s a different and more enjoyable feeling than my usual cotton shirts.
As modern lifestyles have changed, Ministry of Supply sees a niche for selling better work clothes.
“Whatever is on your schedule, you’re dressing for your entire day in the morning,” explained cofounder Aman Advani in an earlier interview. “Our lifestyle is very different than what our fathers and mothers had. It’s not 9 to 5 in an office. It’s much more punctuated with different moments, but our clothing today doesn’t transcend that.”
8:42 a.m.: At a red light I take off my backpack and do a sweat check. I’m largely dry, but a small wet patch is emerging on my back. Wearing a heavy backpack loaded with books and gym gear isn’t helping.
8:50 a.m.: I pull into CNN’s garage and lock up my bike. I find I’m mostly dry, aside from my back, which has become even wetter.
9:00 a.m.: After settling into my desk, I’m pleased to notice the wet spot on my shirt isn’t sticking to me or my chair. It dries quickly, before I need to go to any meetings.
10:30 a.m.: Here’s something I didn’t expect. I’m actually a bit cold. I undo my rolled-up sleeves to warm me up.
The wrinkle-free shirts are made with NASA-developed fibers that absorb heat when you’re too warm, and release it back in cool temperatures. I’m not getting much of the heat though.
2:30 p.m.: Now the shirt is actually too good at keeping me from sweating. I’m so chilly that I’m struggling to focus on a story I need to write. My fingers are craving the warmth radiating from my laptop keyboard.
I dressed without my usual cotton undershirt. The Ministry of Supply cofounders and I agreed it would be a better way to experience the shirt’s cutting-edge fabric. But now I duck into the bathroom to add a cotton undershirt. Before long, I’m warm and typing furiously to finish my story.
6:00 p.m.: My ride home is as pleasant as my morning commute, and I arrive with less sweat than if I’d been wearing one of my usual shirts.
Ministry of Supply uses a polyester fiber infused with reclaimed coffee grounds to absorb and fight body odor. And a coating on the shirts causes water to bead up on contact.
For me, it still feels the best way to thwart summer bike sweat is to ride in wearing one set of clothes, and change upon arriving. But if that isn’t an option for you, Ministry of Supply’s shirts are an appealing alternative, provided you’re OK with spending around $100. Just be prepared to don another layer once in air conditioning.