New materials are constantly being developed for tactical apparel. Much of what has come to the tactical community recently was first developed for athletics or extreme sport uses. The popularity of fast-wicking Lycra® or other synthetic material undergarments in law enforcement is the primary example of this trend.
A new name to the law enforcement market is XGO, part of the well-known Polarmax company. Polarmax long has produced fleece and other outer garments for the military and developed the XGO line to address other garment needs. XGO
divides its products into phases, for layering purposes. Phase 1 is thin silk weight garments while Phase 4 clothing is more of a stand-alone outer layer. XGO has also developed a new line of flame resistant (FR) clothing. XGO sent us the Phase 1 T-shirt, Phase 2 long-sleeve crew shirt and the FR long-sleeve crew shirt for evaluation.Phase 1 T-shirt
The Phase 1 T-shirt is a 100% polyester shirt that is silk weight with a form-fitting cut. The material is Acclimate DryTM and has been through a propriety process called Scent PreventTM. This prevents bacterial buildup on the shirt over time, thus removing odors. Synthetics can keep odors over time even when washed, so anything that prevents bacterial buildup is an advantage.
The cut of the shirt isn’t ultra tight like other under shirts, but it does contour to the body for keeping the shirt from bunching and help with wicking away moisture. The T-shirt uses flat-seam stitching to prevent a seam from becoming a “hot spot” under tactical gear; the seams seem to do well. The raglan sleeve is cut short on the arms, which will keep it under the uniform sleeve. This is a subtle change from many of the athletic shirts on the market with longer sleeves that poke out from under a duty uniform.
The armpit is a triangle-cut, one-piece design with a looser mesh weave material. This avoids an irritating seam in the armpit and allows more air flow. The collar of the shirt fits snugly to the neck and has not loosened or sagged during use. The shirt is cut long so it will stay tucked in during activity.
The T-shirt was worn under tactical gear and was very comfortable. The shirt was also worn as a single layer during several physical training sessions and worked well. In one of the grueling tests, the shirt was worn in multiple grappling sessions where it was grabbed, pulled, and rubbed against the mat.
After the washes and exposure to this type of environment, the shirt has stood up very well. The only wear spot on the shirt is where it got snagged on some exposed hook-side Velcro and piled up slightly, but this was the user’s fault.Phase 2 Long-Sleeve Crew
The Phase 2 Long-Sleeve Crew is also cut from 100% Acclimate Dry polyester and has the same Scent Prevent feature. The Phase 2 is a heavier weight material, but the weave is a looser, more open weave that still makes the shirt very breathable.
The long-sleeve shirt has a looser fit than the T-shirt. It is cut so it is comfortable to wear a Phase 1 T-shirt underneath but not be excessively baggy without it. The shirt is also cut long to say tucked in during activity. The shirt uses flat-seam construction, as well, and has raglan sleeves for comfort when not wearing the Phase 1 under the shirt.
The underarms have a triangle-cut, one-piece design with looser mesh weave material, as well. The cuffs of the sleeves cut to fit snugly to the waist without the use of elastic; avoiding elastic that will wear out and look sloppy over time is a good design feature. Also, by using the Acclimate all the way to the cuff XGO avoids excessive sweat gathering at the cuff.
In wearing the long-sleeve crew during both training and PT sessions, it held up well. It was worn in conjunction with the Phase 1 during a couple of cool night runs, and the combo did very well. Wearing it without the Phase 1 shirt, it was comfortable, and none of the seams irritated or chafed the wearer. It was cool enough to wear in summer during activities that required you have long-sleeve coverage, on the range or shoot house training, for instance.FR Long-Sleeve Crew
The use of synthetic material undergarments has definitely increased the comfort level of users in the military and law enforcement community. Unfortunately, in the case of the military, that has also lead to serious burn issues during IED attacks to vehicles. Some have had their burn injuries complicated or made worse by the fact that polyesters essentially melt to the skin during flashover incidents. This has spurred the industry to develop lightweight undergarments with fire resistance.
This is an issue in law enforcement, as well. While many units use Nomex® suits for call-out gear, they question what to wear under them. Lycra, and to a lesser degree cotton, can still catch fire from a severe flashover under the Nomex. If you are using flash-bangs on operation and wearing Lycra, this is something to think about. To address this, XGO developed the Flame Resistant line. The first item released was the FR long-sleeve crew.
The FR shirt is constructed from 80% Modacrylic® and 20% FR Rayon®. When exposed to flame, Modacrylic releases a small amount of inert gasses, thus excluding oxygen from the ignition area. This prevents the material from maintaining a burn by smothering the fire before it starts.
The material maintains its flame resistance with standard washing and drying and does not requiring dry cleaning. The weight and weave of the material is subjectively similar to Phase 2 shirt material. If the FR and Phase 2 shirts were held side by side, you could tell little difference between the two without the tags.
The FR shirt has most of the design features of the Phase 2 crew shirt. It has the flat seams and same cuff cut. The sleeves are a standard sleeve, not raglan cut, and the armpits a standard seam. The FR shirt is cut slightly looser in the underarms to prevent seam irritation. The flat seams help with this, too.
Wearing the FR shirt feels similar to Phase 2, i.e., it is light and breathable. Informal flame and flash exposure produced no damage to the shirt. Of course, the FR shirts are not flame proof and are not designed as primary fire protection, but to minimize burn injuries through flash protection. They seem to meet the goal of a lightweight, breathable garment while enhancing flash protection. By the 2007 SHOT Show, XGO will have the FR line expanded to short sleeve-shirts, shorts, and pants.
XGO is working with end users to develop products that address needs through unique design features and materials. Another fact about XGO, at least in the garment industry, is that everything is designed, tested and made in the USA. Those wanting clothing to meet operational needs in a variety of climates and environments should check out XGO.Mick Williams is a patrol officer, SWAT team member and defensive tactics instructor with the Bloomington, IN, Police. He can be reached at williamm @city.bloomington.in.us.