Sportswear and Underwear Don't Mix

Prepare your self for some science!  Yay!  Only two topics though; Wicking and Chafing, then I'll make my point.

Wicking, aka Capillary Action, is the ability of a liquid to flow in narrow spaces without the assistance of, and in opposition to, external forces like gravity. (Thanks Wikipedia).

In the context of this blog, 'wicking' is the fabric's ability to move water from your skin to the air so it can evaporate.  The goal is to keep your skin dry.  

Why do I want my skin to remain dry?  

There is a LOT of debate around the benefits of wicking fabric for cooling your body.  I'm not talking about that here.  One thing that is not under debate is that holding moisture on your body makes you stink.  It's Science!  Your sweat alone doesn't have much odor.  There are about 1000 different types of bacteria on the skin (1).  They tend to live in 'communities' that give them the nutrition and living conditions they need.  Ther are specific bacteria types under the arms and between the legs, where we sweat the most.  This bacteria uses our sweat as a food source.  The byproduct (kind of like bacteria poop) is the odor we call body odor (2).  So, its not us that stink, it is our bacteria's waste that stinks.  Yep, gross.  

You can't likely change how much you sweat.  However by changing the amount of food (sweat) available to the bacteria, you can control your body odor during a workout.  In other words, keeping your skin dry will make you not smell as bad during & after workouts.

Chafing is the irritation of skin caused by repetitive friction, usually generated through skin to skin contact of multiple body parts. (again, Wikipedia).

To prevent chafing you should try to stay dry and wear clothing with a skin tight fit (3).  Cyclists have known this for years.  Wearing form-fitting garments create a 'second skin'.  Anything that rubs against that second skin will rub the fabric, not your skin.  

The Science is over.  That wasn't so bad....breathe.

So, the point is men need fabric between our legs that wicks away sweat and has a skin tight fit.  This will keep us smelling nice and eliminate chafing.  There are a couple options.  

Option 1 - Cotton Briefs:  Cotton briefs that fit properly will give a tight fit so chafing between the leg and scrotum will not likely be an issue.  However, cotton traps moisture and holds it against your body.  They are going to stink!

Option 2 - 'Tech' Fabric Boxer Briefs:  Tech fabric boxer briefs will wick the sweat away from your body.  although, it is hard to get boxer briefs to fit all of the way around your scrotum to make the wicking as effective as it can be.  Without that perfect fit, you will be chafing.

The truth is when you wear underwear with outerwear (shorts, tights or pants) you create an ecosystem between the underwear and your outerwear.  This is a moist environment that doesn't have a lot of air flow which would allow for moisture to evaporate.  With some outerwear, you may even be making the problem worse by trapping moisture.  Another thing to keep in mind is that wicking only works when the fabric is directly against your skin.  

Option 3 - Wear form fitting shorts or tights without underwear.  That also includes form-fitting against your bulge.  It's Science!

The most effective way to keep your skin dry and reduce chafing is to wear form fitting gear that is against your skin and exposed directly to the air.  

Conclusion

Don't sit in your bacterial mess.  Allow the moisture to wick away during workouts and while out and about.  Science says you will be better off and more comfortable.

 

The topic of my next blog is being comfortable in your scientifically proven functional gear and dealing with the social stigma of a spandex bulge.

Stay safe and be who you are,

Jeffrey Scott
Owner/Designer
Jeffrey Scott Sportswear

---------------References----------------
(1) Human Skin Alive with Bacteria; Daniel J. DeNoon; http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/...
(2) Do bacteria cause body odor; Maria Trimarchi; http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/men/sweat...
(3) Dealing with Chafing - Cause and Prevention; Gavin Doyle;  http://www.time-to-run.com/tips/chafing.htm