For months, millions of ahtletes worldwide have wrestled with the challenges of working out under social-distancing rules, and wondering why they should wear a face mask if training outside. Debates are raging about when one should use a mask while working out. Now, Under Armour is solving one part of the puzzle: a face mask that that is designed specifically for working out in public while also protecting those that the athlete encounters.
The seeds for the UA Sportsmask were planted in mid-March, when Under Armour began manufacturing face masks designed by its innovation team and distributing millions of units of personal protective equipment (PPE) to health care and community organisations to help fight the spread of COVID-19. During this process, Under Armour founder Kevin Plank recognised a need for performance solutions that would support athletes navigating the pandemic climate. He called on the innovation team in Baltimore, equipped with their recent mask-making experience, to join him in finding a way forward, and fast.
“As soon as we finalised the design of our face mask for PPE, we dove straight into the innovation process of optimising a mask for performance,” says Kyle Blakely, VP of Materials Innovation at Under Armour. “We knew our athletes would need us to come through quickly with a solve to aid their return to training, one that would put health and safety first and adhere to current CDC guidelines.”
Because of social distancing restrictions, the company went back to its roots during the mask construction phase. Plank’s design and Blakely’s materials were sent to Ella Mae Holmes, an Under Armour seamstress and the company’s third employee, who helped develop the brand’s original compression shirt. Holmes got to work sewing mask prototypes out of her Baltimore home. With input and testing from teammates across product development, Under Armour found success in the 13th iteration of the mask.
“Experience told us that fabric and performance had to be our first focus, so we set out to find a fabric combination that created structure to ensure the mask would stand off the face and offer maximum breathability,” says Blakely. “We applied learnings in fit, feel, and ease and speed of manufacturing from the face mask we created for PPE purposes. Throughout it all, the speed of the design process and a meticulous eye to quality and details were paramount.”
Says CEO Patrik Frisk: “At Under Armour, we always want to be part of the solution, especially during this extremely challenging time. We specifically designed this mask for athletes and for all of us who want to exercise and train while also keeping ourselves, and those around us, safe.”
South African distributor of Under Armour gear Apollo Brands provided the following information on product specs:
The UA Sportsmask is a reusable, water-resistant performance face mask designed for maximum breathability by Under Armour’s innovation team in record time. This first-of-its-kind mask functions to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets by the wearer. The top of the mask features a mouldable nose-bridge to help secure it in place and mitigate airflow to the eyes, helping to prevent glasses from fogging. It can also be washed and dried, making it more eco-friendly than many single-use, disposable options.
The UA Sportsmask features a three-layer model engineered for athletes during performance:
- Layer 1: Spacer fabric – It is light but has air pockets for structure, so it stays off the mouth and nose for better airflow.
- Layer 2: Open-cell foam – The breathable middle layer lets air through but makes it hard for moisture and sweat to pass.
- Layer 3: UA ISO-Chill – This fabric feels cool against the skin, stretches, and is treated with PROTX2, a non-metal anti-microbial technology which inhibits growth of bacteria on the mask.
* Apollo Brands will bring the UA Sportsmask to this country in September 2020. Retailing for around R699, subject to market related fluctuations at the time, the Sportsmask will be available at Under Armour Brand House Stores nationwide.