New Under Armour athletic wear made from cotton

Published 9:46 am Wednesday, March 16, 2011

RICHMOND—Synthetic fabrics are the reason Under Armour Inc. is a successful brand of athletic wear.

Under Armour this month will begin selling a new line of mostly cotton athletic shirts called “Charged Cotton.” The new fabric is 95 percent cotton and uses a special weaving technique to better distribute moisture and help it evaporate quickly.

“It’s great news that after years of calling cotton the enemy of athletes, Under Armour has flipped its opinion,” said Spencer Neale, senior assistant director of commodity marketing for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

“Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank has come to realize there’s a strong consumer demand for cotton products, and he’s worked with Cotton Inc., the research arm of the cotton industry, to come up with this product,” Neale said. “Cotton farmers are excited because this will open up the high-end athletic apparel market, one that reaches from pre-teens to adults.”

The release of Charged Cotton shirts comes at a good time for Virginia cotton growers. After years of low prices and declining acreage, cotton plantings could increase by 27 percent this year, to nearly 105,000 acres. The last time cotton acreage was more than 100,000 acres in Virginia was 2006, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

VDACS Commissioner Matt Lohr noted that cotton prices have increased this winter, lending hope to growers that even with higher fuel and fertilizer prices they could have a profitable year if the weather cooperates.

“Market analysts are saying Under Armour could grow by 24 percent this year from its $1 billion dollar revenue stream last year, and it is tying that back to the introduction of cotton products,” Neale said. “The new shirts will cost about $25 each, about $5 more than a comparable (non-cotton) Under Armour shirt. But there are customers and consumers demanding to have the feel of a cotton T-shirt, and the company feels the demand warrants people paying a few extra dollars.”