While testing Ministry of Supply’s Performance Professional Apparel for Men, my approach was no different. I wore the same dress socks for two weeks and wore the same shirt to numerous social functions to review the products.
I am happy to report that the experiments were successful in all senses of the word. The socks began emitting a foul odor only after repeated use and the dress shirt withstood numerous Yoga contortions and constant use. This is no small achievement for I am a person who sweats easily and profusely.
Because technology is such a critical aspect of the apparel, let me start this review with a discussion of the technology behind Ministry of Supply’s clothes.
Gihan Amarasiriwardena, MIT graduate and cofounder at the Ministry of Supply, is an entrepreneur athlete who started his first company at the age of 14. Ministry of Supply is an evolution of his previous startup, which was also a sportswear company. According to Amarasiriwardena, the manufacturing process for Atlas Socks is similar to the one for making chocolate chip cookies. The ground coffee is run through a pharmaceutical process to strip it of smell. After this, the deracinated coffee grounds are baked into the manufacturing process with fabrics. In the past, other materials, such as silver, were used to achieve the effect of masking foul odor. But, Amarasiriwardena says silver requires coating, which is prone to wearing off.
Atlas socks were designed using scientific principles of strain analysis, pressure mapping and thermal imaging. The first principle converts your socks into a second skin that coordinates fabric movement along with that of your feet. The second principle enables Atlas to map pressure areas in your feet with your sock. This means that the sock is especially designed to handle extra pressure on your foot.
The Archive dress shirt uses similar technology. The shirt is made using moisture-wicking technology, which is increasingly used to make professional apparel and sportswear. According to Amarasiriwardena, the Archive shirt has an external and internal pore. The internal pore is smaller than the external one to enable evaporation of sweat molecules, which are collected and coagulated inside the shirt, to travel upwards towards the surface.
Technology also plays a role in the company’s manufacturing processes. The company uses Kanban – a Japanese system for scheduling that is used to manage inventory to schedule inventory. Before releasing their product out into the wider market, the startup also conducts lean customer feedback exercises. Their website offers free samples of clothing to consumers for feedback. Feedback from early adopters helps the company successively improve their products.
Thermal imaging enables ATLAS to redistribute heat. Amarasiriwardena informs me that these principles are regularly used at NASA to design fabrics for astronauts. In its non-technical avatar, the term translates into an approach to clothing that is designed to withstand the rigors of a field as well as an office. As an example, Amarasiriwardena refers to the use case of a man rushing from a subway to a Manhattan office. The temperature and humidity changes, in this case, are sudden and automatic. However, the combination of moisture-wicking technology as well as special stretchable fits ensures that the professional enters their workplace in fit shape.
I can certainly attest to that last part.
Over a period of the two weeks that I wore the pair of socks and the dress shirt, I exposed them to various activities. I went for several runs in the socks, wore them over multiple shoes, and, in general, performed several sweat-intensive physical activities (such as walking great distances etc). Midway through my experiments, I threw the sock at my roommate – a gentle jazz pianist and self-appointed hygiene master in our apartment.
He did not faint.
I also wore the dress shirt to multiple events. For example, I attended three meetups in the dress shirt. I wore it the night I got sloshed at a bar and, also, to an opera event at the closest bar. And, I wore it while cooking a spicy Indian meal.
The shirt, which is a slim and snug fit, performed admirably on all occasions. There was no hint of sweat or creases. This was even despite the fact that I performed Yoga wearing the shirt in the relative privacy of my bedroom. According to Amarasiriwardena, the shirt is made using aerospace and automotive analysis to understand and map pressure points within a body. Quite simply, this means that they understand the directions in which skins stretches and orient their fibers accordingly. For example, if you reach over at the table to grab something, the shirt stretches along with you.
Midway through my experiments with the shirt, I made my gentle jazz pianist roommate inhale the shirt’s armpits. Before you get ideas, dear reader, I am not into kinky foreplay. My roommate was a willing accomplice and co-conspirator in my tests with MoS’ products. Oh, and he did not faint.
Based on the fact that my roommate survived the ordeal and I did not raise a stink (well, not a terrible one) even after wearing their clothes repeatedly, I would say the Ministry of Supply’s products are winners. However, there is one thing that the product cannot withstand: water.
Based on his account of things, Amarasiriwardena got the idea for the sock based on his experiences as an athlete and professional. Water puddles are fairly common in cities, such as New York. They are also common occurrences for trail runners.
But, the sock takes its own sweet time to dry off from a water puddle (as I discovered during a particularly wet spell here in Berkeley). What’s the onset of bad odor from the sock corresponded to the timing of that wet spell. It might be an idea for the folks behind this innovative line of products to provide safeguards against water in their product. Otherwise, I think their products are definitely worth a try.
Technology also plays a role in the company’s manufacturing processes. The company uses Kanban – a Japanese system for scheduling that is used to schedule Just-In-Time orders and enables them to cut costs. Before releasing their product out into the wider market, the startup has adopted the lean approach by testing the garment on their website. Feedback from early adopters helps the company successively iterate their products.
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