Unstainable shirts are the latest example of wearable tech. But do they work?

Elizabeth & Clarke’s Unstainable Shirt

An American clothing company claims to have invented a completely unstainable shirt. Does it work? We tried it out

The quest for the perfect white shirt is, for some of us, never-ending: the right fit, fabric, crispness and collar. Not me. I hate white shirts because I no longer work in catering. My never-ending quest is for clothes that hide my clumsiness, and that aren’t simply black. I eat like a toddler; half my wardrobe betrays my lunch like a fruity moodboard (last weekend I ruined a pink vest with unforced rhubarb stains). This is where wearable tech comes in. Not the rings that alert you to a WhatsApp message or a Fitbit wristband, which scolds you for sitting down, but something that repels coffee or E Mono’s kebab sauce, something that guards you from your sweat. Witchcraft, essentially, is what I’m after.

Elizabeth & Clarke make shirts and tops with humorous names like “Liz Lemon” (a plain white T-shirt) and “The Olsen” (an off-the-shoulder long-sleeve and homage to the Row designers). Now they’ve branched into affordable wearable tech with a new line of unstainable tops, which they plan to launch next week after being pledged about 10 times their goal on Kickstarter. A stack engineer called Juan (“Hola!” he writes on the site) is behind the technology, which is pretty self-explanatory: the unstainable shirt is made from crepe de chine, so it looks normal enough, but it’s actually covered in a series of tiny fibres. These fibres use nanotechnology to repel virtually any water-based or oil-based liquid – beetroot, coffee, gob or sweat – making it evaporate before even touching the fabric. Still with me? Because each fibre is 100,000 times smaller than a grain of sand, you can’t see or feel them, but they’re there, suspending the spilled liquid above the fabric and stopping it from ever reaching the shirt.

The majority of wearable tech speaks to me on very few levels. So how wearable is this? A shirt is a shirt, but it’s nicely fitted and colours are pretty enough, if pastel or white is your bag. It feels hot and synthetic, but entirely wearable without making its wearer feel like a matchstick. More important, though, is whether it works. Does it actually repel liquid? We tested it out with a glass of beetroot juice in the Guardian kitchen ...

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Morwenna Ferrier, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 6th May 2015 14.51 Europe/London

Testing the unstainable shirt

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