Thesis Details


Thesis Title: Integrated Measures of Comfort for Athletic Performance Apparel Using A Sweating Manikin and Other Advanced Systems
Thesis Author: Matthew Clark
Abstract: Comfort in athletic apparel has gotten increased attention from the apparel market. The tagline of 'performance' has taken on a more ubiquitous status within the athletic apparel market as an alternative term to comfort. Comfort must be defined properly for this product and measured in order to properly assess the products in this category. This research seeks to determine what is considered comfortable in athletic performance apparel, and to utilize the most appropriate and most advanced methods available to measure comfort in a way which includes human input alongside test results. The first step toward testing the comfort in this category was to determine what aspects of comfort to test for as well as which test methods to use in the testing phase. This began with a consumer market survey which asked the opinion on comfort issues in athletic t-shirts of over 38,000 consumers in and outside of the United States. Four comfort aspects were identified for measurement; in increasing order of consumer-identified importance they were: Moisture Management, Cooling, and (Soft Hand and Breathable). Fit was identified as the most important aspect by a wide margin; however the measurement of fit is not included in the scope of this research. The primary measurement emphasis for this research on the garment level was the NCSU Sweating Thermal Manikin (Coppelius). Additional test methods used on the fabric level were the Kawabata Evaluation System for the measurement of fabric hand (KES), the Kawabata thermal sweating hot plate (Thermolabo), and the Gravimetric Absorbency Testing System (GATS) with a coupled fabric drying test. These test measures were used to compare fabric level results to garment level results as well as to provide information as to how the fabric performed in the identified comfort aspect without regard to garment construction. The garments used in this research were all performance athletic apparel short sleeved t-shirts for the purpose of running, with the exception of a 100% cotton t-shirt. This exception was included for comparison from cotton to polyester shirts in this category. The shirts were from various sources; specialty retailers, mass retailers, with varying price ranges. The final sample set included seven shirts from seven different manufacturers, made in seven different countries. The results of this study provided information on target consumer groups within the consumer survey based on purchase history data. The comfort preferences for these groups were tracked and used in order to identify which samples from the sample set performed to the highest level in the testing phase in light of the comfort preferences of these groups. Moisture management was identified as a comfort aspect which was extremely important in the review of literature to the overall comfort complex, however was quite undervalued by the consumers, which points to a possible need for an increase in marketing emphasis on this point. The manikin results had few correlations stronger than .7500, which is due to garment construction, namely the presence of air in the manikin test which is not a factor in fabric testing.