The dressing room is an unforgiving cauldron of banter, with remorseless ribbing just a dodgy haircut or a pair of rascal boots away.
That’s why taking to the pitch sporting a pair of spray-on cycling shorts was considered suicide, for your status in the team at least.
But the emergence of base layer gear has left amateur footballers rethinking their attitude towards figure-hugging kit. Does an improvement in game outweigh the verbal onslaught and free ride to A&E for being ‘all the gear, no idea’?
According to the technology bods at Nike, their Pro Combat (NPC) line is more than just a fashion accessory.
“It helps aid compression and heightens the flow of blood to the muscles, aiding recovery,” says Jeff Hawkes, NPC product director, before explaining how it can prevent bumps and bruises, too.
“Our Nike Pro Combat Impact shorts have a layer of padded foam called Vis-Deflex on the vulnerable outer thigh and hip area, so you have actual padded protection against impact injuries.”
What’s more, says Hawkes, their Hyperwarm range keeps you toasty thanks to a brushed inner surface that reflects heat back to the body without trapping moisture. Clever.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic swears by it. “I feel strong, fast, comfortable; I’m much quicker than the opponent while I’m using it,” says Milan’s Swedish frontman. “It makes you complete.”
Still not convinced? Well, Adidas TechFit compression has been shown to significantly increase bloodflow – by up to 2.2 per cent, in fact.
“This increases energy delivery to a player’s muscles and decreases the accumulation of lactic acid (the cause of your sore legs the next day) during the game,” says Maarten Hupperets, Adidas Apparel Sports researcher. In layman’s terms this means your muscles create energy faster, lowering the risk of injury.
Adidas’ research also found that their gear reduced fatigue by three per cent. “TechFit decreases soft tissue vibrations and focuses muscle energy to increase endurance,” adds Hupperets.
“This allows players to be at their best in the 90th minute of the game, meaning a reduced risk of injury.”
So there you have it: base layer gear might just be worth the backlash. Science says so. Read on for our verdict...
David Hall, FFT editor
Nike Pro Combat, Dri-FIT, £40
"After seeing the likes of Wayne Rooney and Wesley Sneijder sport these tops lately, I felt confident that my quest for the ultimate football hard body was a mere Nike garment away. Once I’d wrestled the gear on I felt weird – kind of how I imagine one would feel if they’d been swallowed by a snake – but I soldiered on to Thursday lunchtime football. The feeling of restriction passed as the game got going. I took a ball in the chest, which still smarted, but my man boobs felt better protected when standing in the way of an opponent’s long-range thunderbolt. As I heated up, the Pro Combat and I made like a fridge and stayed cool.”
Charlie Ghagan, FFT production editor
Adidas TechFit PowerWeb T-shirt, £50
“Having worn the same ‘lucky’ top under my club shirt for years, I was reluctant to trade it in for a tight-gripping garment that looked ridiculous on my bony frame. But once concealed and with the game in full flow, any self-consciousness was forgotten. Comfy and extremely lightweight, it soaked up sweat staggeringly well, while leaving me warm, but – crucially – never hot. I actually questioned my own work rate at the final whistle, such was my lack of perspiration – where are those Opta stats when you need them, eh? I’ll stick with the short sleeves: unless it’s biting cold, it’s well up to the job.”
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