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Nike’s Data-Driven Design for Team USA’s Ultra-Thin Jerseys

Nike s Data Driven Design for Team USA s Ultra Thin Jerseys Design WIRED


Nike’s designers began by studying exactly where players sweat the most. Lotti and his team tested the jerseys in a simulated climate chamber, making a sweat map of the human body. They found that players tend to sweat the most on their back near the spine. “It’s like an inverted triangle, he says. This led him to design a similarly shaped triangle of burnout mesh. “We’re basically taking away material in the places they sweat the most,” he explains.

He also found that to increase breeziness, there needed to be a way for air to flow through the jersey more efficiently. The jersey worn in South Africa did a fine job, but Lotti wanted to make the Brazil version even lighter. Laser-cut ventilation holes line the left and right sides of the jersey, just to the edge of the ribcage and a new weave of cotton and polyester (made from recycled plastic bottles) give the tops an added breathability.

The jerseys are 16 percent lighter and have 66 percent more ventilation than the previous versions. They’re also a helluva lot slimmer. “If the game is faster you don’t want resistance and you also don’t want anyone grabbing the jerseys,” says Lotti.

The key, he says, is to make players feel like they’re almost wearing nothing at all. “It becomes more like a second skin than a jersey.”

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