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Decoding Basic Activewear Terms And Fabrics

Read up on what works for you and avoid having to find that return receipt.

Read up on what works for you and avoid having to find that return receipt.

Fall is finally here. For most of us growing up, that meant one thing: new back-to-school clothes. The excitement of shopping for new activewear and gear isn’t any different. But before you hit the fitting rooms, read up on which fabrics and construction work for you to save you trouble of having to find that return receipt.

Claire Shearman Joyce, apparel product manager for New Balance, and Kristin Jones, merchandise manager for adidas Running, give us the low-down on what certain apparel terms and fabrics really mean and gives us their picks for fall essentials.


Flat seam construction: Uses a specific “flatlock” machine to join together fabric in a way that creates the least amount of bulk as possible. It helps to prevent chaffing and discomfort in key areas close to body.

Wide waistband: A more flattering waistband construction that creates a slimming effect and flattens out the tummy rather than cutting into it to create a “muffin top.”

Split sides: A short construction where the front and back panel do not meet until the waistband.  This creates a lot of open space for full mobility and least amount of fabric to restrict the runner.  You can have a modified split where the two flaps are tacked together a bit lower than the waistband.

V-notch: A notch that can be used at the outside hem of a longer inseam short to add mobility.

Mesh inserts and construction: Ribbed materials that add breathability to a garment

Ripstop: A lightweight, woven fabric often made out of nylon that uses special reinforcing technique that makes them resistant to tearing and ripping, resulting in long-lasting apparel

Wicking and moisture transfer: The process of moving moisture away from the body to the surface of a fabric so that it dries more quickly. This can be attained through fabric content or through the fabric weaving.

Inseam: Measured from the crotch to the bottom of the short of pant. If you are especially short or long, it is important to pay attention to inseam lengths in order to find the right fit. The right inseam will help to elongate your legs.

Reflective: Materials capable of reflecting light used as a safety feature that helps protect the runner from traffic in low light conditions.

Rise: Measurement from crotch to waist that indicates how high or low a bottom will sit.

Thermo-regulation: Technology that helps regulate body temperature by keeping you warmer in cold weather or cooler in warm weather.


Spandex: A type of stretchy polyurethane fabric that has a matte finish. It feels stretchy and smooth on the skin, and is often used in fitted garments.

Polyester: A synthetic resin that wicks faster than cotton and feels stretchy and smooth.

Polypropylene: A synthetic resin that’s a polymer of propylene and feels smooth.

Elastane: Often used in performance stretch apparel, it’s synthetic fiber known for its exceptional elasticity.

Pique: Also known as Marcella, it refers to a weaving style normally used with cotton yarn that’s characterized by raised parallel cords or fine ribbing. It wicks faster than cotton and is often used in performance polos.

Interlock: This is a variation of rib knit construction. Similar to a Jersey knit except both the front and back of the fabric look identical. It’s often blended with Lycra and has a soft feel.

Jersey: A knit fabric made from cotton or a cotton-synthetic blend that feels soft and light.

Tricot: Tricot fabric has a unique weave that makes it smooth on one side and textured on the other. It’s often used in pocket bags, pants, short liners and key pockets.

Silver: A polyester fabric blended with recycled silver that acts as a natural anti-microbial function to prevent odor. It’s often used as a thermo-regulating element.

Cooling: A polyester fabric that offers cooling properties in which moisture is captured at the end of an activity to cool the body temperature.

Crepe: Has a lightweight property that provides coverage and is often used in liners and briefs.