By Tom Demerly for TriSports.com.
The compression category is a crowded one. It takes unique designs and valid performance to differentiate one brand from the selection of seemingly similar apparel pieces. SKINS compression apparel is differentiated by unique styles, their “Warp Knit” construction and development of Engineered Gradient Construction for athletes in motion using their Dynamic Gradient Compression. It’s more than a lot of buzz words.
“SKINS is athletic specific compression by athletes. It isn’t rebranded medical or geriatric compression in neon colors.”
When you delve into the origins of some compression brands you find they started with “rehabilitative compression” garments. These are often the old, white compression stockings relegated to the geriatric crowd and born in the medical industry. Those companies didn’t start with compression by athletes for athletes. SKINS is, first and foremost, an athlete’s compression company. As a result their designs are built for movement. While they enhance recovery they are also designed to augment performance with better aerodynamics and hydrodynamics, improved veinous return, muscle stabilization, moisture management and improved proprioception that helps you remain attentive to good form even when fatigued.
SKINS A200 Compression Half Tight.
Unique patterns help differentiate compression brands. SKINS’ A200 Compression Half Tight is an example that sets SKINS apart. The A200 Compression Half Tight is somewhere between knicker and shorts length. Inseam length from the center seam on a size “Medium” is 10″ . The longer inseam, hence the “half tight” moniker instead of “shorts”, completely covers the key muscles in the quadricep and hamstring/semimembranosus area while leaving the knee open for full mobility.
Variable compression is achieved through several technologies including a non-stretch warp-knit fiber that is joined using varying expansion levels of Spandex. The difference in expansion levels accounts for the difference in compression. Through precision knitting the level of compression can be woven differently.
At the side panels a set of heat-embossed squares are oriented to provide specific stretch in the most critical areas. Where the fibers have been laminated together under heat and pressure they expand less. The degree and location of compression can be arranged by the orientation and frequency of the heat-embossed squares.
Details on the SKINS Half Tights include a wide, textile waist band that lies flat and won’t roll. There is no need for a drawstring with this waist band design. The leg openings are friendly for shaved and unshaved legs since there are no silicone grippers to pull hair or give you “sausage leg”.
The fabric on the Half Tights is also 50+ ultra-violet protective so no sunburn through these. The Half Tights are sold with a unique size chart that cross references height and weight for a precise fit.
SKINS Men’s A200 Compression Short Sleeve Top.
SKINS continues the detailed design approach in their Men’s A200 Compression Short Sleeve Top. The top features sleek, non-binding arm openings on the 14 inch sleeve measured from the neck. The sleeve length covers the entire bicep and tricep group of the upper arm for additional stabilization of these major muscles.
The underarm is vented with stretch mesh panels for moisture management and temperature control. This is a raglan shoulder that can be worn as a compressive base layer under a cycling jersey, as a recovery piece or by itself for running or any motion sport. The fabric panels across the top of the sleeves are “Motion Tech” fabric, an easier stretch fabric for comfort, fit and range of motion in the shoulders.
Construction and textile details include the variable compression matrix heat laminated onto the front of the top just below the shoulder seams for optimal stabilization of the large pectoralis muscles, especially for running. At the hem there is a silicone gripper designed to lay over your bottom layer and keep the top in place. The crew neck is open and unobtrusive.
SKINS Tri 400 Men’s Compression Tri Suit.
Given SKINS origin in performance compression their Tri 400 Compression Sleeveless Trisuit is a natural race day piece for the brand. The suit combines race features with compression benefits.
The variable compression story continues on the trisuit with compression where muscle stabilization is needed and freedom of movement in areas where active range of motion is key, such as at the hips for cycling and running . Practical race day features include two rear “swimmable” pockets of stretch fabric for gels and race supplements. The leg opening is built with no gripper elastic to pull hair. a front zipper allows ventilation and easy removal to the waist during a long event for bathroom stops.
SKINS commitment to functional compression in motion sports is apparent in their trisuit with attention to detail in the saddle pad. This laminated, molded pad is large enough for long distance events and dries rapidly out of the water. Once dry it is unobtrusive and non-chafing on the run.
The inner surfaces of the legs that contact the saddle are seam-free and use a friction reducing fabric panel to reduce heat and improve comfort on the bike and run. A close look at the merging of the different fabric panels provides an insight into how truly technical this race day piece is.
SKINS did a nice job of differentiating themselves as a performance leader in the crowded compression category. The few pieces we focused on here reveal just some of the many details that calibrate this brand to the performance end of the compression category. As with all performance compression apparel its difficult to appreciate the benefits until you put it on and use it. Then you become a believer. With the unique, performance tuned features built into SKINS apparel its easy to believe in this brand as a true performance compression go-to.