It seems like performance fabrics are taking over business casual office wear. More and more often, I spot new brands hawking office-friendly business casual dress clothes made with performance fabrics.
Dressing comfortably for work has never been easier (or as stylish). But how good are these clothes made from “performance fabric”? Is it better than traditional fabrics for office wear, like cotton and wool?
Today, we’re taking a close look at how performance fabrics will revolutionize what you wear to the office and the level of comfort you experience every day.
But before we get into it, let’s talk about what performance fabric isn’t.
A note from Barron: My first experience with dress shirts made from stretchy performance cloth was from a brand called Mizzen + Main back in 2013. Since then, we’ve covered the brand a few times on this site, and I still think they’re a great option for any guy looking for a bit of comfort in their work clothes. I’d venture to say the performance fabric office wear trend got its start partially thanks to Mizzen + Main. But before I get too far into it here, I’ll let William continue…
Common Misconceptions about Polyester and Other Synthetic Fabrics
I don’t blame you for thinking, “You want me to wear polyester pants? No way!”
I remember those bright, weirdly-textured pants my grandma wore, too.
Polyester fabrics have come a long way in the last twenty years. Technicians have engineered the fabric to look and feel almost identical to cotton, but with stain-fighting, wrinkle-resistant properties.
For instance, take a look at this outfit from Mizzen + Main:
Care to take a guess how much polyester is in those pants?
(If you guessed 100%, you’re right.)
And the shirt? 85% poly, 15% Spandex.
So yeah, it’s safe to say polyester fabrics ain’t what they used to be. They’re way better.
Why Performance Fabric Makes More Sense for Office Attire than Cotton
Ok, so maybe companies like Mizzen + Main can convince you that performance fabrics like polyester can look great. But cotton chinos and oxfords look great, too. Why switch?
Here are four YUUUGE reasons performance fabrics are taking over the white collar uniform.
1.Performance fabric doesn’t shrink
Unlike cotton, you don’t have to worry about having your shirt fit perfectly out of the box, only to find out it’s a full half-size smaller after you wash and dry it.
Now, it’s always important to follow what the care label says, but if you hang dry your performance fabric shirts, they won’t shrink at all.
And unlike cotton, your shirts should nearly be dry straight out of the wash. Most performance fabrics are quick-dry, so there’s no need to send them through a mechanical dryer anyway.
A ten-minute hang is usually all they need until they’re ready to wear.
2. Performance fabric doesn’t stink
Because performance fabrics don’t absorb sweat and moisture like cotton, they don’t build colonies of bacteria, which can lead to major stank.
Polyester and nylon have been used for gym clothes for a long time for this reason, but now that brands are making comfortable, professional, stylish clothes with the same properties, why put your colleagues through that?
3. It doesn’t turn pink
Have you ever accidentally mixed your colors in with your whites when doing laundry? And that pristine white dress shirt takes on a faint pink hue because you washed it with your red boxers?
It happens to the best of us.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Performance fabrics hold color much better than cotton. So not only will the colors not run as much, you don’t have to worry about washing whites and colors together (though, to be honest, it’s still best practice to separate them).
Even better, the dyes in cotton tend to begin losing their vibrance after about ten washes.
Well-made polyester clothing, like Mizzen + Main’s Baron chino, will continue looking brand new even after 30-40 washes.
4. It doesn’t wrink…le. It doesn’t wrinkle.
Ahh, we were so close to a great ongoing subheading rhyme!
I saved my personal top reason for making the switch to performance fabrics for last.
They’re wrinkle resistant.
That means no more ironing or steaming your work clothes during laundry day. Or, if you’re the type of guy to wear un-ironed 100% cotton shirts and chinos… welcome to a whole new pressed and polished look (with no effort!).
A Closer Look: Mizzen+Main’s Performance Dress Shirts and Chinos
Mizzen + Main got their start crafting dress shirts that work perfectly in the office or in a business casual wardrobe.
While all of their shirts make use of performance fabrics, they have a few different fabric blends for any situation you might come up against.
Their Leeward line is their most straight-forward: made with 85% polyester and 15% spandex, this four-way stretch, spread-collar badboy is the perfect alternative to your standard cotton dress shirt.
I’ve had the chance to try the Halyard, which is a poly-cotton blend, and the texture is amazing. It’s much thicker than a standard dress shirt, and has a rich look and finish.
They’ve also expanded their collection to feature layers, and now, chinos.
Their Baron chinos are 100% polyester, so they have those stain-fighting, wrinkle-resistant, no-shrink, no-fade properties.
And the cut is fantastic.
They’re slim through the thigh and tapered below the knee. Mizzen has cut out as much excess fabric to create a modern silhouette that will truly have you looking like the best dressed guy in the office.
Performance fabric vs regular cotton
Let’s take a closer look at how these fabrics compare to cotton.
First up is the Leeward shirt (white, right side) vs. a standard cotton shirt (striped, left side).
The biggest difference right away is the wrinkle-factor.
Just look at that purple striped shirt. That’s gonna need some serious ironing. The white Leeward shirt came straight out of the wash like that — no iron, no steam.
The fabric is tightly knit, but not completely solid, so it’s very soft, but still breathable.
Next, let’s do a little chino comparison.
On the left is the blue Mizzen + Main Baron, and on the right is a standard cotton chino. The closer knit the fabric, the softer it is.
Cotton, a fabric hailed for its softness, isn’t as smooth and silky as the polyester on the left.
So if cotton’s not necessarily softer, what’s the point?
And as you can see again, the performance fabric comes out much neater and less wrinkled than standard cotton. For the pants, it’s not a massive difference, but it’s the details that count.
Who Should Wear Clothes that Use Performance Fabrics?
Really, performance fabric clothing is for everyone. But if any of these describe you, you’ll definitely want to check out performance menswear now.
Guys who sweat… a lot
Sweat much? No more dark circles under your arms thanks to the fact that performance fabrics don’t absorb moisture. It’ll wick sweat away from your body and release it.
Slim Fit can be too snug, Regular Fit is too loose
Are you athletic and normally feel restricted in “slim fit” cotton dress shirts? You know, like you’re afraid you’ll bust out of your shirt if you sneeze?
Mizzen + Main’s shirts offer four-way stretch, so you can sneeze all you want. Heck, you can even throw in a round-house kick if you’re so inclined.
You’re a bigger guy in general
Bigger gentleman? One of the toughest issues larger guys face is a lack of mobility when it comes to their clothing.
With the amount of stretch possible in performance fabrics, you’ll keep full range of motion, plus your pants won’t stretch out nearly as much at the knee as regular 100% cotton does.
Why does performance clothing work so well in the office?
Performance clothing is perfect for the office because it stays crisp throughout the day, but also throughout the months and years you own them.
The wrinkle-resistance ensures that you don’t get that weird, accordion-patterned back wrinkle situation you sometimes get with cotton shirts when you sit for too long.
The colorfast nature keeps your clothes looking new even after thirty to forty washes. And the durability means you’ll have them for years.
And unlike cotton, they won’t bacon-out or stretch in strange places. Performance fabrics fit like new every time you wear them.
Ready to Revolutionize your Wardrobe?
If you ever feel restricted in your work clothes, or if you’re just tired of smoothing out the wrinkles in your dressier outfits, definitely give performance fabrics a try.
And definitely start with Mizzen + Main; they can outfit your office-friendly wardrobe with performance dress shirts, midlayers, and now, chinos.
You’ll love their sleek, modern silhouettes, and you’ll be hard pressed to find any other professional and business casual items that are as comfortable.
The Baron chinos have become the most comfortable pair of chinos I own, and I love the tapered look. While they’re excellent pants for the office, don’t forget that chinos look great in your casual wardrobe, too.
You can wear them as-is with a pair of minimalist white sneakers or cuff them at the bottom for a super-relaxed look.
A note from Barron: Thanks to Mizzen + Main for partnering with us on this article about performance fabrics in office-friendly clothing. I’ve worked with M+M a few times over the years and they continue to be a great option for guys who want an alternative for their business casual clothing. Check out more at Mizzen + Main.